Remember last month, when I wrote about my landmark birthday and how I was going to treat myself to something special on the 3rd of each month for a year? Well, it’s past the 3rd of August, and I’m treating myself to a column about the 45th president and his administration.
I did not vote for Donald Trump. I do not think he has the qualifications or the temperament to be president. I do not agree with his politics. Actually, I don’t think he’s a true Republican or that he was ever a Democrat. I don’t even think that he expected to be elected. I do think that running for office was probably some kind of payback to Seth Meyers for skewering him at the 2011 Correspondence Dinner. It doesn’treally matter. Thelis then thelis, here we are.
Shortly after the election, though the point was now moot, I wrote a letter to the family indicating my concerns. I’ve reread that letter a few times over the last 200 days, and its prescience astounds me. Politics and policies aside, my major concern in that letter was the tone and tenor of a Trump administration, demonstrated during the most contentious, acrimonious and, frankly, most vulgar presidential campaign in our history, and continued, with impunity, in the White House. Our House.
The insults became campaign slogans. The xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and sexism became campaign promises. He insulted a Gold Star family, ridiculed John McCain’s five years in the Hanoi Hilton, and accepted a Purple Heart from a supporter, saying he’d always wanted one and that receiving it as a gift was much easier than serving in combat. He had received multiple student deferments and a medical deferment for a bone spur, thus successfully avoiding service. Instead, he equated avoiding STDs to being in Vietnam. “It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
He insulted the pope.
He made fun of a reporter with disabilities. If I ever did that to one of my students, I would be sued, fired, and blackballed. Not elected President of the United States.
When he met Brigitte Macron, the First Lady of France, he remarked, “You’re in such good shape,” he said. “She’s in such good physical shape. On the world stage, no less.
How does one respond to that?
He has dismissed the intelligence community rather than concede to Russian interference in our election. Our democracy. Anything he disagrees with in the media is “fake news,” any inappropriate remark is “a joke.” And, of course, there are always “alternative facts.” He has brought language to a level that is the hallmark of a dystopia. No wonder sales of 1984 skyrocketed to number one the day after the inauguration.
Prefacing his remarks with, “Who the hell wants to talk about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts,” he turned a speech to the Boy Scouts of America into a political rally. He mocked Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and candidate for President of the United States.
He asked if Barack Obama had ever attended a Boy Scout Jamboree and encouraged a booing response. Obama, who was a Boy Scout, may have never attended a Jamboree as president, but in 2010, he delivered a message congratulating the Boys Scouts on their Centennial, thanking them for their exemplary service and behavior, and encouraging another century of Boy Scout principles and ideals.
In front of the Scouts, he threatened to fire Tom Price if the Republican health care bill didn’t pass. This while he was publicly hectoring Jeff Sessions to resign as Attorney General because he did the ethical, constitutional thing and recused himself from the Russia investigation.
He mused on the size of the crowd. “Boy, you have a lot of people here. The press will say it’s about 200 people. It looks like about 45,000 people. You set a record today. You set a record.” In fact, the Charleston Gazette estimated 40,000 people in attendance. Not bad. But would it satisfy his obsession with sizes of crowds and how they are reported?
He brought up the crowd’s size three times.
He considered, aloud, changing his description of Washington from “swamp” to “cesspool” to maybe “sewer.” He paraphrased the Boy Scout oath.
“A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal. . .” and concluded that he could do with more loyalty. Zing at Jeff Sessions again? Those Republican senators who opposed their own health care bill? The leakers? He talked about campaigning in Maine and Wisconsin and winning the Electoral College. And then, as if he’d forgotten the election results, he said, “And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier.” If that were the case, someone else would have been speaking to the Boy Scouts.
And then he went off on the strangest tangent of all – an anecdote about William Levitt, another New York real estate mogul who failed miserably.
“I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party.”
Besides the fact that William Levitt’s fortunes are irrelevant to who the Boy Scouts are and what they represent, what kind of remarks are these to be made by the president of the United States to children too young to vote.
Parents, former scouts, and regular people were appalled that the president had taken an event focused on character-building, values and service and made it a partisan event. Though Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that she had not observed anything untoward at the Jamboree, and cited the size of the crowd several times, the Boy Scouts of America issued an apology. “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh. “That was never our intent”
He announced that transgender individuals cannot serve in the military. This in a tweet. This from a man who promised to uphold LGBTQ rights in his campaign. This from a man who assiduously avoided serving in the military.
In a speech to police in Brentwood, NY, he encouraged officers to “[p]lease don’t be too nice.” This while relations between police and communities are unstable. Police departments across the country responded that his suggestion was “irresponsible, unprofessional, and sends the wrong message to law enforcement and the general public.” His supporters said it was a joke. Who’s laughing?
He announced that legal immigration would be reduced to include only individuals who already speak English and have important skills to contribute to society. The Statue of Liberty wept, Stephen Miller notwithstanding.
Then there’s Anthony Scaramucci. What can I say about the “Mooch” that can be reprinted here. Nothing. But what really bothers me is that he crossed the threshold of the White House in the first place.
People voted for Donald Trump because he tapped into their frustrations. He understood them. He sounded like them. God help us if 62,979,636 Americans sound like that.
During the campaign, we were repeatedly reassured that his inexperience in government was a positive, that he would bring a refreshing energy and candor to Washington. We were told that he was, in fact, presidential. We just needed to be patient. What we have seen, in fact, is a man who may want to be president but does not want to govern. A man who takes all the credit but none of the responsibility. A man who bullies when he does not get his way and thinks that grandstanding is presidential.
What we need is a Role Model-in-Chief.