When I learned that Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago desk looks a lot like my Aunt Maddie’s, I wasn’t surprised. Auntie M, the unfortunate product of a disordered mind, compounded by an instinct to hoard, further complicated by a sweeping disregard for others’ opinions, dumped all her paperwork, from utility bills to MRIs of her brain, in her “junk” drawer. That was the generic term for all of her drawers and closets, which were stuffed tight with papers and folders.
Fortunately, Aunt Maddie wasn’t president of the United States. She didn’t work for the FBI or the CIA. No living human being was threatened by her slipshod record-keeping. She lived alone, and could be as messy as she wanted to be with absolutely no consequences. There are lots of people like her, who don’t much like detail work and abhor filing systems of any kind — virtual, real-time or digital.
Again, live and let live. If your mind is loosey-goosey and you don’t want to protect your private documents, it’s all good — as long as you don’t hold the highest office in the land.
But when you take the oath of office as president, and swear: “I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” you need to follow all the rules for keeping state secrets secure. When you leave office, you don’t get to take classified souvenirs.
When I thought about Aunt Maddie, I realized what makes Trump tick. Nothing. Nothing is ticking. I see him as 100 percent reactive and zero percent contemplative. I believe that he indiscriminately grabbed whatever paperwork looked of possible interest at the White House and later shoved it in the drawers at his golf club.
I don’t think he had a plan. I don’t think there was some nefarious plot in the works. Like you and the rest of America, I have observed Trump moving through his days and weeks and years in a reckless and reactive mode in which he does and says stuff and then sees what sticks, and then does the next thing. He deals with an issue in the moment and deals with any consequences later.
You can see proof of this in his lawyers’ rolling defense of keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. It went from calling the discovery of top-secret papers a hoax, to saying the FBI planted the papers, to claiming he “declassified” them before he snatched them, to insisting he was in the process of giving them back. There wasn’t one moment of concern for the years-long work that might be undone. Not a single gesture of contrition for possibly endangering our assets overseas. I think even Aunt Maddie would have grasped the sobering consequences of such careless handling of top secrets.
Does it seem likely that Trump pored over these documents, achieving a sophisticated level of comprehension? No. Nah. Never. He just grabbed the stuff like a hyped-up teen robber sweeping the money out of the till at a 7-Eleven on his way out. He didn’t stop to count the bills.
He is not a thinker. I don’t believe he ever worried that unfriendly eyes might fall on these protected documents, or that someone in the crowds of Mar-a-Lago guests might be
that nefarious person who looks for breaks in security and seizes the moment to do harm to the United States.
Ignorance, though, is not a defense.
We still don’t know if Trump will be held legally accountable for flouting the laws of the country that apply to every other citizen. We don’t know how this will end, but the entire affair speaks to the man’s fantasy that he is somehow above those laws.
I’m thinking about this as our friends the Brits mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for 72 years and died last week at her summer home at Balmoral. She ascended the throne when she was 25 and stayed for seven decades. She was the living, breathing essence of duty to country and service to her citizens. Propriety was the guiding principle of her reign, and she won the loyalty and love of her people by elevating civility and democracy and stepping back from any personal fanfare or glory.
We, on the other hand, have been blighted in recent years by a showboating president without a moral center, a man who holds nothing sacred aside from his own endless push for power. A jester who never leaves the stage.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.