Last night, Donald Trump made two offhand comments that showed more than anything else what his character is. The first was his response to Hillary Clinton’s comment that Trump had welcomed the 2007 Great Recession with the comment that the collapse of the economy would afford him the opportunity to go in and buy a lot of property for a low price and make a great deal of money. His comment was, “That’s called ‘business’, by the way.” the second was his response to Clinton’s suggestion that he was hiding his taxes because it would show that he didn’t pay any taxes. He commented: “That shows I’m smart.”
We use the term “business” to refer to our commercial activities. A mason is in the business of building up structures. A pastor, we say, is in the business of saving souls. Business is what we do for an occupation, a profession, a career, a vocation. In many ways, business, in its most general sense, defines what, and who, we are.
By defining business as the ability to prey upon the ills of others, Donald Trump displayed himself as a predator, and it explained his evident pride at such things as having an annual income of $650,000,000, and at using the bankruptcy laws to his own profit. It made clear that Donald Trump defines his “business”, and ultimately his character, as doing whatever it takes to serve his own interests.
Nothing illustrates that better than his second comment. For him, tax avoidance is a badge of honor, a sign that he has been successful in putting the burden of paying for this country on the shoulders of others, that he has once again feathered his own nest by using what he called “OPM” — other people’s money.
I can’t say how having such a person as the President of the United States would affect us as a nation financially or militarily. I can say this: naked self-interest is not who we are. The very first, founding principle of this nation is a self-evident, i.e., unquestionable, commitment to the inalienable rights of every human being. That principle is what has made us great as a nation. We may be in a debt from which it will take generations to repay. We may still suffer from racial and religious and gender bigotry. We may be slow to respond to national and global crises like the environment and poverty. But if we define ourselves by our success or failure in serving our own interests, we have lost our way altogether.
I frankly don’t know if Donald Trump is smart. I don’t know if he is well-informed. What I do know is that last night he showed us that he is completely about himself, and that alone renders him unfit to represent this nation. The United States defines itself as being about each other, and if we lose that, we have lost everything.