Donald Trump doesn’t want to be president.
That much is evident.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s clear the egomaniac in the Oval Office loves the pomp and pomposity accompanying this nation’s highest office. He revels in being the center of attention, of having millions of people wait in anticipation or dread to see what he will say, do or tweet next.
But the actual work of being president?
Not at all.
I’m not talking about the security briefings Trump blows off so he can make one of his many tee times. Nor do I focus on the fact that there is no evidence he’s ever read or even glanced at one of the healthcare reform bills he berates Congress to pass.
No, I’m talking about something more basic.
On Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump put one hand on a Bible and the other hand in the air and he pledged an oath. Before God and everyone, Trump vowed:
“I do solemnly swear that 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.”
The last time I checked, the Constitution of the United States still contains a First Amendment. That amendment guarantees, among other things, the right to speak one’s mind and to petition government – that is, to protest – for redress of grievances.
Yet here is the president of the United States – the man who vowed he would defend those rights – saying to an audience in Huntsville, Alabama about the professional athletes who have taken to kneeling in respectful protest during the playing of the national anthem:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for. Everything that we stand for.”
The irony of saying this in a place where the citizens didn’t just take a knee when Old Glory was displayed but instead once picked up arms and opened fire on the Stars and Stripes was lost on the divider-in-chief and his audience.
That’s not surprising.
The things about which this president is unaware, uninformed or uninterested is as vast as the universe itself.
The reaction to the president’s remarks was swift and harsh.
Some people focused on Trump’s hypocrisy – the fact that he could offer forthright condemnation of black athletes who take a knee to show respect for the country they want to see honor its promises of due process and equality, but not for the white supremacists who show up in public squares toting guns.
Others locked in on what they see as a Trump pattern, that of saying something incendiary to distract attention from yet another embarrassing setback or transgression – in this case, the likely failure of another attempt to repeal Obamacare or the reports that the investigation into illegal ties with the Russian government now has moved to the inner circles of the White House.
Still others devoted their attention to the fact that the president was dividing Americans while threatening war with North Korea, hardly a sound leadership strategy.
All this is true, but misses the main point.
This nation’s founders didn’t establish this government and the presidency so we could be entertained. They didn’t envision the nation’s chief executive being a third-rate reality show emanating from the Oval Office, tacky but high-rent resorts and rallies called together whenever the occupant of the White House feels in need of ego strokes.
No, the founders saw this government and the presidency as serious business.
They saw both as means to protect and preserve the rights and interests of free people who wished to govern themselves.
That’s why we require presidents to take oaths. We want – no, we demand – that they understand the depth of the responsibility and commitment they must make.
This latest episode is just one more bit of evidence that Donald Trump didn’t mean it when he took the oath of office eight months ago.
Just a little more proof that he doesn’t want to be president.
That he doesn’t want to do his job.
That he doesn’t want to defend the Constitution.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.