Reflections from the Executive Mansion

Αssociated Press

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks during a reception for Greek Independence Day, Monday, March 18, 2019, in the East Room of the White House in Washington with Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, March 18, 2019 an annual tradition continued at the White House, a wonderful reception and a presentation of speeches that recognizes the importance of the Greek War of Independence and the impact of Greek-Americans on the United States of America.

Greek-Americans cannot for a minute take this annual happening for granted because our community is one of just two ethnic minorities in the United States that are given such an annual audience with the President of the United States.

This year’s edition of the event felt different, however. There were different people there and more red Make America Great Again hats. It felt, even in the White House, like a campaign rally for President Trump rather than a formal recognition of the bravery and sacrifice of the Greeks who ejected the soldiers and officials of the Ottoman Empire from their historic homelands after being under the yolk of the Sultan for 400 years and their culture and faith teetering on the brink of annihilation.

Even one who does not follow the news cycle on a day-to-day basis could tell that while the Commander-in-Chief of the United States was smiling, cracking small jokes and having light-hearted banter with the crowd, he was really a man under pressure.

Pressure is something that is synonymous with the Presidency. As we have referenced in this newspaper many times lately, Harry Truman famously said, “The buck stops here” in the context of how the final, consequential decisions of America are made by the President in the Oval Office.

The pressure is conspicuous to the casual observer when they see before and after pictures of the physical appearances of presidents when they first enter and leave office, typically eight years later. They are greatly aged, worry lines etched deep in their faces and foreheads, with a noticeable, dramatic increase in grey hairs.

No, this pressure looked and felt very different. The Trump administration is under at least 17 different types of investigation. There are open calls from the House of Representative’s Judiciary and Oversight and Reform Committees to haul the President’s own children in front of a panel to answer questions under oath about their father, their own business affairs, Russia, and matters relating to the Trump Organization.

Increasingly, the walls appear to be closing in on the President. The Mueller investigation, seemingly moving glacially at a slow but steady pace, is continually climbing higher up the totem pole, with the top of that pole being the President. Even if you are inclined to believe, as the President has often repeated, that the plethora of investigations against him amount to a massive, coordinated witch hunt, surely it’s unsettling that with increasing frequency people close to the President who go on television and say everything is a hoax and that there is nothing to investigate, then go to court, plead guilty for crimes they’ve committed and furthermore agree to cooperate with the investigations.

These real people, who really worked at the highest rungs of the Trump 2016 Campaign and in the Trump White House, are serving very real prison sentences.

It was evident that with the 24-hour news cycle coverage of the investigations and the distressing levels of detail that are being given to federal authorities by people like Michael Cohen and the CFO of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, the President, as anybody would, is losing a little bit of his grip mentally.

In the midst of hailing Greece as the birthplace of democracy and highlighting, correctly, that Greek-Americans have contributed greatly to the American experience, the President, for no less than 5 minutes, went completely off-script.

In his spontaneous rant, the President insisted that the economy is the greatest it has ever been since our country was founded and that foreign leaders, with regularity, call him up to congratulate him on the economy and tell him  America is the envy of the world on every front, no questions asked.

As the Mueller investigation continues to strike closer to home, there is a genuine concern about what the President’s state of mind is on a minute-by-minute basis, and how that could impact his decision-making. The country and the world awaits how this latest episode of political reality television will turn out.