Citizens are free to call him ex-President Donald Trump at noon Wednesday, just as they were always at liberty to say "Merry Christmas." In a taped video message released Tuesday, Trump framed his exit in the same false oratory that marked the rest of his term.
"Above all we have reasserted the idea that in America, the government answers to the people," he said in scripted words that didn't sound like his own. "We restored the idea that in America, no one is forgotten because everyone matters …"
On the contrary, Trump's words and actions over the past four years had one theme — a bottomless devotion to personal privileges born of his power and money.
Trump's last full day as commander in chief passed just as the nation's official death toll from COVID-19 clicked above 400,000. That's the disease caused by the same virus he told everyone was nothing to worry about, then caught it himself. The finest medical attention, available to the elite, saved his life.
Trump's final day arrived with him still listening to those lobbying for criminal commutations via his close associates. He clearly relished his unilateral power to get famous white-collar crooks off the hook, based on their connections to his power clique.
The Trumpian logic was clear. After he cut short the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, a corrupt former governor of Illinois who appeared on Trump's "reality" show, why couldn't Sheldon Silver, the corrupt former New York Assembly speaker, get a huge break, too? (Silver, who is serving time in federal prison, wasn't on the pardon or commutation list of 143 names released early Wednesday.)
Long ago, it was easy to see that his empty slogans including "law and order" and "drain the swamp" were never meant to apply to himself or his clique. Trump became his own powerful special interest in Washington.
Even as a young man, he could not be expected to do the same as other citizens, such as deal honestly with the military draft. Later he would not do what other candidates do, such as release his tax records or show minimal respect during a debate.
Self-obsessed Trump could not be made to do what other presidents do, such as comply with congressional subpoenas, or accept the results of a fair election, or lead in a crisis or even look like he was trying to grapple with unpleasant realities.
His immense sense of personal entitlement only grew as he stayed in the White House.
Nobody could get him to sacrifice a dollar to avoid conflicts of interest. The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had this posted on its website as Trump's exit approached: "As president, Donald Trump has flouted all kinds of norms, starting with his decision not to divest from his business interests while in office. That set the stage for an administration marked by self-interest, profiteering at the highest levels, and more than 3,700 conflicts of interest."
He could not be bothered to help Joe Biden's transition for the nation's sake, or let federal executions be delayed, or keep himself from lying to incite violence or shield from deportation anyone brought here illegally as a child. Such actions would have done nothing for him or his spite-driven enthusiasts.
Trump will be gone from the White House on Wednesday. All aspirations to a more perfect union stand a better chance without him.