Charles Vignola: Trump’s new rules for presidents

Like a politically incorrect hurricane, Donald Trump has decimated the conventional expectations of how a “real” president ought to conduct himself.  Language and behavior from the chief executive that would’ve been shocking and disqualifying just a year ago is now tolerated – and frequently applauded – by millions of Americans. But here’s the twist to Trump taking a wrecking ball to presidential norms: he’s just made things a hell of a lot easier for all politicians in the post-Trump era.  Quite unintentionally, he’s now liberated future candidates from the straightjackets that confined previous politicians, and forced them to be civil and humble and to think before they spoke. Just imagine all the new benefits Democrats running for president will now be able to enjoy, thanks to the bold path Trump has cleared for them… Literally anyone – actors, musicians, athletes – can now run for president, without having to worry about their lack of political experience hobbling them.  Trump proved that’s not a handicap anymore – in fact, it’s a selling point! That useless old tradition of having to release your tax returns to the public before the election?  Forget it!  Trump proved nobody really cares about that, so any Democrat can now follow his lead and keep their tax returns private. If any Democratic presidential candidate is caught on tape bragging about how they’d like to commit sexual assault or infidelity, they can just breezily wave it away as “locker room talk.” Worried there are nude photos of your potential First Lady floating around the Internet?  Big deal: it’s natural and beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of.  And the First Lady is your third wife, a foreigner born in a Communist country – and English is her second language?  Yawn… Still want to keep a hand in your businesses after you’re president?  Trump’s got you covered!  Now you can laugh at the idea of conflicts of interest or violating the Emoluments Clause.  You can even own a hotel right down the block from the White House with your name on it where foreign dignitaries stay and pay you money! That silly old thing where people criticized the President for spending too much time on vacation and not enough time working on the country’s problems?  Good news: thanks to Trump, future presidents can play as much golf as they like without hearing a damn thing about it from Republicans anymore! The next Democratic president can also brush off complaints about the cost of their vacations: after all, Trump’s on track to spend more on vacations in his first year in office than Obama spent in eight years.  And here’s the best part: now presidents can spend every weekend at luxury resorts they personally own, get the taxpayers to pay for their trips, and pocket millions in profit! Concerned about nepotism?  Don’t be!  The next Democratic president is welcome to appoint their own kids or in-laws to major positions of power within their administration, qualified or not, complete with top secret security clearance and pricey taxpayer-funded travel and accommodations. You know how Obama got slammed by Republicans for issuing too many executive orders?  Well, Trump showed you can just ignore all those naysayers and pass as many executive orders as you please, because who’s gonna stop you? If the next Democratic president wants to limit press conferences to only audio, or ban conservative news outlets from the press pool, or even hold no press conferences at all?  No problem!  Trump set the precedent. Feel like firing the FBI Director who’s investigating your presidential campaign for corruption?  Go right ahead: that’s your prerogative. Want to take credit for every bit of good news while blaming everybody else for all the bad news?  Passing the buck is no longer shameful – it’s “modern day presidential!” Remember when flip-flopping on your positions would destroy your credibility?  Please, that’s so 2004.  Now you can change your mind indefinitely without consequences. New presidents are also free to viciously attack previous presidents at their whim, even making baseless accusations about them, like falsely claiming they bugged your offices. Perhaps most liberating, the next Democratic president won’t have to worry about acting unethically or immorally.  The only thing even remotely worth worrying about will be whether or not it’s technically illegal. And even if it’s illegal, no problem: Trump’s already done the groundwork to ask whether it’s permissible for a president to pardon himself.  Spoiler alert: nobody knows, so why not try it! Truth is, being a U.S. president used to be a real drag where you had to have years of political experience and “know stuff” and behave like a responsible adult, mindful of the traditions of your predecessors. But Trump’s proven that presidential behavior isn’t dictated by historical precedent anymore: it’s just whatever the President decides to do.  And if you don’t like it?  Tough. Yes, Trump has “deregulated” the rules for all future presidents.  So when the next president violates long-standing decorum and offends your sense of decency, don’t even bother complaining.  Just thank Trump! Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.    

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