“I left the [State of the Union address] after Trump – a draft dodger who has mocked Sen. John McCain, Gold Star families, and soldiers with traumatic brain injury – started talking about the good he has done for our military.”
A former Marine, Moulton led one of the first infantry platoons into Baghdad at the start of the Iraq War in 2003 – a conflict initiated by another well-known draft dodger and indiscriminate liar: George W. Bush. He left Trump’s Congressional address this past Tuesday when Trump began talking about his “record-breaking” investments and support of the U.S. military.
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!
“It seems clear that [Attorney General William Barr] will do or enable anything to keep Trump in office. And Trump will do anything to stay there. Suspension of the election, negation of the results, declaration of martial law are not simply fanciful, alarmist or crazy things to throw out there or to contemplate. Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, leaders in civil society, lawyers, law enforcement figures and the military need to be thinking now about how they might respond.”
– Norm Orenstein, Chair of American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy Research
Donald Trump has joked recently that he might not leave office after a second term, as mandated by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This particular amendment was ratified in response to the 12-year tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The original authors of the Constitution had never intended for any elected Chief Executive to hold the position as if it were a divinely-inspired monarchy. They certainly didn’t anticipate Roosevelt, but they most likely designed the Constitution with concerns about scandalous characters like Trump. Our 45th Chief Executive made his claim about an extended presidency last month at a conference of the conservative Israeli-American Council in Hollywood, Florida. I’ve always found it oxymoronic – downright hypocritical, actually – that Trump bears such ardor for Israel and the Jewish people, while openly courting White supremacists. But that’s a different subject.
The thought of Trump holding just one term in the White House was frightening enough three years ago. That he could be elected to a second term is deeply unsettling. That he could somehow forcibly remain in the office even one day longer makes the bloodiest horror films look like Hallmark greeting card commercials.
Yet Trump is delusional enough to believe that’s a real possibility, and he has plenty of supporters who would be comfortable with such a scenario. Those of us who live in the real world understand this simply could not be allowed per that pesky 22nd Amendment. Still, even some constitutional experts have surmised Trump might make such an attempt. That would be reality TV at its worst! Richard Nixon quietly left the White House, following an impassioned farewell speech to his staff, in August of 1974. There were no guns blazing or hand grenades exploding. Nixon and his family weren’t spirited out of the White House through a tunnel to avoid angry mobs of detractors. The Nixons simply strolled onto the South Lawn, accompanied by newly-appointed President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to Marine One. The helicopter made the loudest sound of anything. That’s how a peaceful transition of power occurs, even in the most dire and tense of situations.
With Trump, I can almost see him and his wife, Melania, scurrying through that tunnel in a setting reminiscent of Romania’s Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu. I honestly don’t believe it will ever come to that sanguineous of a climax. Yet, I wouldn’t put it past the infantile Trump to grip onto the door frame of the master bedroom.
But, while Trump’s behavior can’t be taken too lightly, another aspect of the current American experience that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed is the effect Trump’s presidency has had on his faithful minions and the sentiments that put someone like him into office. Decades of socially progressive behavior and legislation gave us Barack Obama and others like him; individuals who didn’t meet the traditional standard of those in position of power. In other words, Obama and others weren’t White males. Just a half century ago it was inconceivable that someone like Obama could ascend to the highest elected office in the land. It was unimaginable that Nancy Pelosi would be the one banging the gavel in the House of Representatives. Only a handful of visionaries thought it possible that Hilary Clinton could be a serious contender for the presidency, or that Pete Buttigieg could live openly gay AND serve in the U.S. military AND talk about having a “husband.” People born, say, since 1990 have no idea what a vastly different world it is today than in the few years before their time.
Now, it seems the nation has digressed with Donald Trump. Decades ago, Ronald Reagan aspired for America to return to a time before the 1960s messed up everything. That was a simpler time for him and others just like him. But it meant Blacks sat at the back of the bus; women sought nothing but marriage and motherhood; queers remained in the closet; and Native Americans languished as comical figures on TV screens. The 1960s may have messed up the world for the likes of Reagan and Nixon, but it opened up the universe for everyone else.
As I marched through my junior year in high school, I began receiving phone calls from a man with the local recruiting office of the U.S. Army. I believe I’d spoken to him at least twice, before my father happened to answer the phone one day; whereupon he politely told the man that I had plans for college and that he and my mother were determined to ensure I get there and graduated. Just a few years later I’d openly stated I had considered joining either the Navy or the Marines. And each time my father talked me out of it. In retrospect, I understand why.
As a naïve high school student in the late 1940s, my father had been convinced NOT to take a drafting course and instead go for something in the blue collar arena. “Most Spanish boys do this,” is how he quoted the female school counselor telling him. My father liked to draw and – much like his own father – had the desire and talent for an architectural profession. But he’d been talked out of it. Because that was what most “Spanish boys do”. College was for White guys. Trade school and the military were for everyone else.
Years of struggle – working twice as hard for half as much – and assertive civil rights action had led America to the early 1980s, when I graduated from high school. And didn’t have to join the military. In the spring of 1983, I was sitting in a government class at a local community college, when the instructor asked, “What do we owe minorities in this country?”
Seated in the row in front of me was a young man who had graduated with me from the same high school. I knew his name, but I didn’t know him personally. Without missing a beat, he muttered, “Nothing.”
Only the few of us nearby heard him. He was White, as was most everyone else seated on either side of him. From my vantage point directly behind him, he looked angry; as if he’d been robbed of something that was rightfully his.
I finally spoke up and informed the class that “this country” owes the same thing to minorities that it does to everyone else: equality and fairness; “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence. I added, “Nothing more, nothing less.”
That one young man and the others nearby nodded their collective heads and looked at me, as if I’d said something unbelievably profound – which, to them, it may have been.
That level of total fairness and freedom hasn’t been easy. But nothing so monumental as dramatic cultural changes are. The Civil War, for example, ended more than 150 years ago. Yet, some people in the Deep South of the United States still can’t let that go. They still insist it was a war over states’ rights, not slavery. They’ve been fighting that conflict all these years and they still haven’t won!
That’s a little of what Donald Trump’s presidency is all about: a bunch of old-guard folks wanting to maintain things as they were way back when. And it’s just not going to work for them any longer. The old White Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate disrespected Barack Obama as much as they could without making it too glaringly obvious. They did everything they could to undermine his presidency and essentially failed at every step. If anything, they only hurt the country and their reputations.
Social and political conservatives can’t return to an America of the 1940s and 50s any more than liberals can return to an America of the 1990s. Memories are forever, but time marches onward. It always has and it always will. Trump’s presidency may be the final battle cry of the angry White male.
“Never let yourself be persuaded that any one great man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
From a political standpoint, this has not been a good week for the United States. On Wednesday, the 18th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump. Trump now holds the dubious distinction of being only the third Chief Executive to be recommended for removal from office. As much as I personally despise our Russian-elected president, I’d rather see him voted out of office next November than be forcibly removed. It would be the single strongest message to Trump and his band of right-wing sycophants that their extremist ideology is of no use to the American populace.
But the impeachment process hints at a failure in our national leadership and puts the institution of voting into question. As the oldest continually-functioning democracy in the world, the U.S. has always been a beacon of freedom; our constitution an enviable guide to how a nation should operate. Our right to vote is a core element of our very national existence. It’s the heart of our democratic soul. The president of the United States is often deemed the leader of the Free World. That other elected officials would seek to oust him from that pinnacle slashes at our democratic heart.
I’m old enough to remember Watergate. Even people who considered themselves staunch conservatives had to concede that President Richard Nixon was as crooked and devious as his detractors made him out to be. On the night Nixon announced his resignation, millions of Americans tuned into the live broadcast. Afterwards there was no sense of real jubilation. As the nation inched closer to its bicentennial, most people – including my parents – felt sad. When Nixon left the White House, the transition of the office occurred at the tip of a pen, instead of the barrel of a gun. After all, we didn’t live in a third-world society. No tanks, no bombs and no bloodshed. Still, Americans asked, how did we get to this point?
I definitely recall the Clinton impeachment fiasco. My brain and body became flush with anger at the self-righteousness of the Republicans Party. They had done everything to undermine Bill Clinton’s presidency – even before he won the Democratic Party’s formal nomination. And they failed. Their bloodthirsty overreach extended shamelessly to the president’s secretary and the mother of the woman who kept that infamous blue dress. They paid the price for their arrogance in the November 1998 midterm elections. They lost their super-majority in both houses of Congress. Conversely, the Democrats gained seats; the first time the same party as the president attained positions in the House and the Senate in a midterm election since 1942.
And now, here we are – for the second time some twenty years – at the threshold of usurping the leader of the Free World. How did we get to this point? As I wrote in an essay two years ago, impeachment should not be taken lightly. Neither politicians nor average citizens should become obsessed with it. A sanguineous mindset traumatizes the national soul.
With the term “impeached” now added to the title of President, Donald Trump’s place in political history has been secured – unpleasantly and distastefully carved into the American psyche. He cannot escape it. Deny it, yes, as his narcissistic persona is already doing. But – like the sky – it’s ubiquitous and unmalleable.
“A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me – you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away! Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”