Confrontational Reality and Donald J. Trump

It was a cold January afternoon in 2009 when USAir flight 1549 departed LaGuardia airport with 150 passengers, three flight attendants and pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and first officer Jeff Skiles at the controls of the Airbus 320. Beginning their climb to 15,000 feet, everything was ordinary and routine, just another milk run to Charlotte, North Carolina, right up to the point where Captain Sullenberger noted: “Birds.” Hardly half a breath later, several dozen Canada geese intersected the flightpath of USAir 1549, impacting the nose, wings and most especially the two CFM turbofan engines, decimating them within seconds. The thrust which was the lifeblood of the aircraft was almost immediately lost, and with a mere 2,800 feet between himself and the ground, Captain Sullenberger was faced with an unprecedented situation, one wherein he would tap into his training and experience in piloting both powered aircraft and gliders to gain a successful resolution. Because of his expertise and that of his copilot and crew, the “Miracle on the Hudson” was far less miracle than the product of their background and history and utter determination not to let the circumstances they faced overpower them.

Flight 1549 was a case of what one might call, “confrontational reality:” an emergent and inescapable situation which requires calm, considered action in a limited timeframe if a successful or at least optimal outcome can be expected. In such a scenario, there is no amount of negotiation or spin which will alter the situation or soften the consequences of ill-considered action. Attempting to do so can and frequently will result in fallout which isn’t just untoward but positively deadly. A pet phrase of mine plays to this: “You can’t argue with reality.”

Or at least you can’t when you’re directly confronted with it, and thus we come to the case of Donald John Trump. Throughout the presidential campaign and now as president-elect, Trump has played Monday-morning quarterback with American politics while being removed and uninvolved with them, at least for the moment. Behind a podium and on his Twitter account, Trump continues to kibitz on matters of national and international import, throwing out all manner of vacuous bon mots to those with their hands still on the controls of our government. As of 21 January, 2017, however, Trump’s role as disconnected observer comes to an end. He ceases to be a bench-warmer and goes from there to arguably a man in the single most responsible position in the world.

Kindly note that I did NOT say that he became a responsible man, but the man in a responsible position. Having listened to Trump’s frequently problematic blathering during the campaign, I still can’t help but wonder if he genuinely has a grasp of task he’s set himself or all the issues and 330-plus million citizens he will then be answerable to. Even now as president-elect, “thoughtful” or “considered” do not seem to be characteristics of his verbal output, and his few attempts at coming across as more presidential have been colossal failures, from where I sit. Calling his policy-making “shoot from the hip” likely insults any gunslinger inclined to use that technique. Frankly, if Donald Trump’s presidency is anything like his candidacy, one might well expect 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to be re-designated as Bedlam West.

Yet at some point during his presidency, it is virtually certain that Trump will be faced with the kind of emergent situation which challenged the crew of USAir 1549. The difference will be that the impact of whatever action he takes will likely go far beyond the 155 passengers and crew which Sully was entrusted with, conceivably beyond the population of our country and several others. To date, we’ve seen nothing in him which reflects the cool, professional attitude Captain Sullenberger evinced during the 208 seconds which challenged him or the determination and resolve which characterized 13 days of the Kennedy presidency during October of 1962 and events occurring 90 miles due south of Key West, Florida. It would be nice to think that when the occasion became piled high with difficulty that Trump would rise with the occasion. After all, at that time, he will be the leader of the free world.

And the buck will stop with Trump.

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Comment by Joan Denoo on January 5, 2017 at 5:06pm

Jeez! bankruptcies, legal claims for waged for work performed from many skilled workers and advisors, divorces, his racism, sexism, believes losses are wins. How many errors of judgment does he have to make before people recognize he acts like a selfish, irresponsible, exploiter and manipulator?

Comment by Loren Miller on January 5, 2017 at 11:04am

Bertold, one of the multiple traits Drumpf exhibits is thinking he is not able to be harmed.  I suspect he may be in for the wake-up call of a lifetime as regards that.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on January 5, 2017 at 7:44am

There's one segment that he (hopefully anyway!) won't be getting buy-in from, and that's the folks most directly responsible for our safety and security - the intelligence services.

Trump intensifies 'insanely dangerous' feud with intel agencies

[MSNBC]

This is truly, without exaggeration, the stuff nightmares are made on.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 5, 2017 at 7:12am

To me, the only thing more frightening than Drumpf himself is the buy-in he's gotten from those who support him so blindly.  The unthinking allegiance, combined with their unwillingness to look outside of the bubble they've created for themselves is entirely too reminiscent of the events which transpired in a western European country perhaps something over 80 years ago and is no less disturbing.

If it falls to us and those like us to point these facts out, then so be it.  It's not the first time I've worked as a gadfly, and it won't be the last.

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 5, 2017 at 5:07am

Your comment, Loren, sends a chill up my spine. Not the first chill I have experienced as I observed this election year's events. Your comparison with Sullenberger and Kennedy makes your point that much more frightening.  

The buck will stop with Trump even as the people of the world and the earth itself will suffer his buffoonery.  

Comment by Michael Penn on January 4, 2017 at 10:29pm

I'm amazed at all the good he has done so far and all the money he has saved us. This man is not even in office yet and the faithful claim "Trump did it" for anything good that happens. They even take some bad things this way and try to turn them into good things. Fundamentalists used to say "isn't this a wonderful day that the lord has made." I think Trump is his own god but his loyal followers are likely to blurt out "isn't this a fine day that Mr. Trump has made."

It's like all the Obama haters have now went the other way and found a new hero. Like you say, Loren, there will come a time that the buck will stop with Trump.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 4, 2017 at 7:56am

Tom, he can attempt to pass the buck all he likes ... but those of us who actually care about the integrity of the US government will scream bloody about that every time he tries.

Drumpf wanted the weight.  He can learn to shoulder it.

Comment by tom sarbeck on January 4, 2017 at 7:13am
For his followers the buck CANNOT stop with him.

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