Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill conceded they didn’t get along personally. O’Neill would go so far as to say Reagan was one of the laziest presidents he’d ever known. It was ironic that two old Irish-Americans would have such disparate viewpoints, as they each reached the apex of their careers. Yet, despite their differences in how government should function and what policies were best for the nation, they did try to work together. Those differences fell into the background in March of 1981, when Reagan almost fell victim to a would-be assassin’s bullet. O’Neill visited Reagan in the hospital and the two even read biblical passages together.
Flash forward nearly four decades and try to imagine such comingling in Washington now. On Tuesday, Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address. As required, he provided copies of his speech to Vice-President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Despite intense animosity between Trump and Pelosi, the latter extended her hand to the president – which he deliberately ignored. After Trump concluded speaking, Pelosi ripped up her copy of the speech, explaining later that Trump had “shredded the truth,” so she saw fit to shred the speech. Then, on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted to acquit Trump of both articles of impeachment the House had brought up at the end of last year. Over these past couple of days, Trump has gloated over his acquittal; proudly displaying various newspapers announcing the trial verdict and – in a live press conference – condemned the entire fiasco; ultimately calling it “bullshit”. Yes, he really did utter that word on live television. Then again, it’s Donald Trump. Nothing he says or does should surprise anyone by now.
I have NEVER seen anything like this in my lifetime. In my own 40-plus years of studying American politics, these past four have been surreal and almost otherworldly. Donald Trump is the stress test of all stress tests. And I thought George W. Bush was disoriented! Trump is one block away from full-fledged derangement! Bush’s actions in office embarrassed me more than once. But Trump has stained the U.S. presidency with a new level of disgrace and shame.
It’s disillusioned me to the point where I’ve begun deleting all incoming emails of a political nature – even from Democratic and Green Party candidates. I disliked Bush, but I absolutely loathe Trump. I don’t like to say I hate someone I don’t know personally. However, Trump has come as close to it for me as have only a few others – animal abusers, neo-Nazis, Caitlyn Jenner. Just to name a few.
And none of that gives me pleasure. It’s easy to hate and demonize. It’s harder to dismiss bad behavior, especially from our political leaders. I’ve been watching this circus and cringe at the thought of foreign opinions. The United States is the self-claimed beacon of democracy and national dignity. We’re supposed to be far above these kinds of third-world antics. Now we’ve dropped into the abyss of antagonism and mockery. People in Somalia must be laughing.
After Bush ascended to the presidency in 2001, some outspoken liberals announced they would actually flee the country. Even with the current political diorama, I’m not ready to update my passport. Well…not yet. I just don’t know when this somnambulistic nightmare will end. But the dénouement can’t arrive soon enough.
Thanks goodness all bad things – like blind dates and ptomaine poisoning – must come to an end!