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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: It's all about him, always

by John Brummett | September 27, 2020 at 8:31 a.m.

The key word in the question was "peaceful."

The astonishing outrage in the answer was that, considering that key word, your president had no instinctive interest beyond his own, meaning to the nation.

Donald Trump's sin was not that he called for violence in the streets if he loses the election. He didn't do that, at least outrightly.

What he did at a press briefing late Wednesday afternoon was fail by colossal proportion when asked to walk with his ego and chew gum with American principle at the same time.

He neglected simply to state support for a peaceful transition of power.

This astonishment reconfirms my considered view that we should worry less about the fleeting nonsense this man routinely says.

We should worry more about his one consistency, which is his personality disorder.

His aides can easily take back what he said moments before. They do it nearly daily. But no one can begin to change this 74-year pre-existing condition, meaning megalomania.

Here is the transcript of the relevant exchange at Trump's press briefing Wednesday:

Reporter: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transfer of power after the election?

Trump: We're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.

Reporter: I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transfer of power?

Trump: We want to have--get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very--we'll have a very peaceful--there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation.

The question was badly flawed in its phrasing. It presumed a transfer of power. A few more words were needed, the main one "if."

But the response was historically and fatally flawed in that a president of the United States was asked even in a bungled question to use the power and moral pulpit of his office to stand up for peacefulness, for law, for order, for constitutional principle ... and he did not do it.

He seemed oblivious to the basic point, which was about violence to retain power, and the broader implication, which was that he might inspire his loonier loyalists to take to the streets.

Let us consider a non-disordered president, a principled and responsible one, if asked the same flawed question. Let's suppose this emotionally healthy president was possessed of the same professed if unfounded worries about errors or corruption in mail balloting that could accrue to his detriment.

Such a non-disordered and principled president surely would have said something along this line:

"First of all, sir, your question seems to assume there will be a transfer of power after this election. Perhaps you give away your wishful thinking. At any rate, you presume an outcome I do not remotely expect.

"But, even so, you raise an important question to which I need to respond clearly.

"I obviously am highly concerned about irregularities in the accelerated mail voting in this election. I believe mail voting can be tampered with and that Democrats are the usual culprits.

"It is possible that high levels of mail voting could lead to certain returns that my campaign would find dubious and wish to challenge.

"If so, let me be clear: Those challenges would be made peacefully and appropriately, while vigorously, in our courts.

"But, in such a circumstance, the final resolution of that vigorous litigation would be an outcome all sides would be constitutionally obliged to respect and honor peacefully.

"Of course, I would respect and honor it peacefully.

"I fully intend and expect to win re-election. At the same time, in answer to your question, I wholly commit to the declared outcome, either immediately or, if legitimately contested, as formally resolved eventually in the courts."

I had a day or so to formulate those thoughts for written composition. Trump was instantly on the spot impromptu.

So, we could have forgiven inarticulation on his part. But we can't possibly forgive his neglecting to stand up for the soaring underlying principle of our semi-democratic republic.

Joe Biden may forget things. But he hasn't yet forgotten to support the soaring principle of America.

I don't think Trump actually forgot. I think either he didn't know the principle in the first place or simply didn't get around to it because it is not his priority.

He, as ever, is his priority.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


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