Trump’s scorched earth departure won’t make America great again. It only hurts Americans while making Trump look like a jealous ex-boyfriend.
Just as Trump’s constant refrain of “this will be a rigged election” foreshadowed his scattershot post-election lawsuits and claims (however baseless) of a rigged election, so too did fears of sabotage accurately predict his scorched earth tactics when it comes to the transition of power to the incoming Biden administration. The petulant President seems less interested than ever in governing, yet maliciously intent on leaving his successor with naught but ashes to rebuild a country that grows sicker and more desperate by the day.
Consider this incomplete list of booby traps devilishly designed to hobble the next leader:
Between tearing up documents at the end of meetings, deleting electronic communication, requiring nondisclosure agreements, and failing to keep records of some meetings at all, the Trump administration has not been the most transparent presidency ever. Will this wanton destruction of government records go beyond the expected cover-ups and hobble the next administration’s efforts to pull the country back from the abyss?
Trump’s scorched earth policy extends to the military. The U.S. is pulling 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan, 500 from Iraq, and all 700 from Somalia, drawing criticism from Mitch McConnell and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. A slapdash, poorly coordinated drawdown leaves behind holes that complicate the U.S. mission, especially in Afghanistan, where we’ll have to abandon the effort to train Afghan forces and concentrate on fighting terrorism. Materials that the military won’t have time or ability to move out, such as “computer systems, refrigerators, generators, and even entire military bases,” according to Vox, will simply have to be destroyed.
Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who issued the drawdown orders, is Trump’s newly-appointed replacement for Mark Esper, who he dismissed via tweet on November 9th. Like the drawdown itself, the shakeup at the Pentagon, where Trump installed loyalists en masse earlier this month, seems intended to complicate the Biden transition.
Relations with Iran and Israel will also be complicated by the legacy of Trumpian foreign policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent his last trip to Israel endorsing the annexation of the Golan Heights and reinforcing the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital. With the recent ambush killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, attributed to Israel, Biden has his work cut out for him in the region if he wants to re-enter the Iran treaty.
At home, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to claw back $455 billion in already-allocated yet unspent CARES Act funds, locking them in an account that would require Congressional approval to access, which Biden is unlikely to get from a Republican Senate. Hobbling the Biden administration’s ability to fight the resurgent coronavirus is particularly mean-spirited, especially after the expiration of a ban that could leave nearly 40 million Americans facing imminent eviction and while 1 in 8 Americans don’t have enough to eat.
There’s more, but what it all boils down to is this. Trump rode into Washington as someone who promised to “Make America Great Again.” Not only is he leaving it with a cratered economy and an uncontrolled pandemic, leaving scorched earth behind him will only make it harder to right the ship of state. If President Trump loves America as much as his supporters give him credit for, he’d want to leave us in the best possible shape, instead of trying to “set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.”
Trump is acting, instead, like an abusive, creepy ex. The country chose someone else, and now, thwarted, Trump’s jealous fit and obsessive control issues are manifesting as the scorched earth of the country he promised to make great again. Although Biden seems ready to hit the ground running, it’s easy to imagine a post-presidency Trump lingering just outside, blaming every scorch mark he left on Biden’s leadership, keeping his followers angry and scared, deepening dangerous divisions that could tear the United States apart.
Related: Winning: The Elephant in the Room