Editor’s Note: In the spring of 2016, James Fallows, the senior editor of The Atlantic Monthly magazine, began what he called a series of “time capsules” that could, in the future, provide a key as to what Americans were thinking during the election campaign–as Trump began his march to the presidency. He finished with 152 of the “time capsules” just before the vote. This site will publish one of the capsules every week or so and that should bring us to the doorstep of the 2020 election.
What follows is Fallows’ explanation of what he did–and the first “time capsule.” All the material shown, except my introduction, is copyrighted by The Atlantic Monthly and there is no intention here to claim editorial credit for any of it:
People will wonder about America in our time. It can be engrossing to look back on dramatic, high-stakes periods in which people were not yet sure where things would lead, to see how they assessed the odds before knowing the outcome. The last few months of the 1968 presidential campaign: would it be Humphrey, Nixon, or conceivably even George Wallace? Or 1964: was there a chance that Goldwater might win? The impeachment countdown for Richard Nixon, in 1974? The Bush-Gore recount watch in 2000?
The Trump campaign this year will probably join that list. The odds are still against his becoming president, but no one can be sure what the next five-plus months will bring. Thus for time-capsule purposes, and not with the idea that this would change a single voter’s mind, I kick off what I intend as a regular feature. Its purpose is to catalogue some of the things Donald Trump says and does that no real president would do.
Is this implicitly anti-Trump? No, it’s explicitly so. I’ll vote Democratic this fall, because I disagree with the current Republican party’s stance on tax policy, budget policy, health policy, climate and environmental policy, voting-rights policy, labor policy, educational policy, gun policy, infrastructure policy, foreign and military policy, and judicial appointments too. But if Donald Trump were the Democratic nominee, I would not vote for him.
I believe he should not become president mainly because of his temperament. Presidents make an astonishingly large number of hour-by-hour judgment calls. Nothing about Donald Trump’s judgment is reassuring from my point of view. His tweets are highly entertaining! But so is Tosh.0 Again, I’m not trying to persuade anyone. I am just laying out my logic.
And so, the chronicle begins: things Donald Trump has said or done that would be highly undesirable from an actual president. The running tally is meant to document his outlier status as he moves toward the general election.
Daily Trump #1. May 20, 2016, the EgyptAir disaster.
Trump, a few hours after the news of the missing plane: “What just happened? A plane got blown out of the sky. And if anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you’re 100% wrong, folks, OK? You’re 100% wrong.”
Why this deserves notice: Indications are that terrorism was probably to blame for this crash. But the gap between probability and certainty is what presidents must remain aware of. A president who leapt to conclusions like this would be an active danger. Good example: the care with which the Kennedy Administration dealt with the complications of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bad example: the George W. Bush administration’s rush toward war with Iraq.
The entire series can be found at http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/all/2016/05/the-daily-trump/484064/