I am writing this on a Tuesday, before the sun peeks it’s head over the horizon. I am giving myself time before I actually publish, because the topic I’m about to cover is one that angers me beyond almost anything else imaginable. Before I write something so intemperate it results in my home being firebombed, I’m giving myself time to cool off between writing and publishing. Because friends, I’m about to hold a mirror up to you – and some of you aren’t going to like what you see. You’re going to be angry with me for pointing out your hypocrisy, angry enough to fight. That’s fine. As long as you also realize the reason you’re angry with me is because I’ve been bold enough to force you to recognize your own stupidity, I can live with the epithets and bruised feelings.
See, today I want to discuss not only President Trump’s obvious disdain for the nation he was elected to lead. That is bad enough. What makes it worse – what has me ready to start tearing people’s heads off their necks – are the apologists giving him cover on this. They all claim to be patriotic Americans, yet every single one of them is ready to denigrate their country in defense of party and President. Trump’s megalomania has the potential to be problematic. It is the enablers, the apologists and mindless partisans who make that potential reality.
Are you one of those mindless partisans? Ask yourself this: if Barack Obama had, during an interview with Anderson Cooper during the Super Bowl pregame festivities, compared the United States to the government of Fidel Castro, how would have you reacted? Sounds silly, right? After all, we know how you would have reacted. During his Great Apology Tour to begin his presidency, President Obama made dozens of inflammatory statements apologizing for United States leadership, for defeating communism, for leading in the Global War on Terror and for other perceived sins. He was roundly criticized for those statements, and rightly so.
I’m not going out on a limb here when I say you were part of that chorus of condemnation. I know you were. I spoke with many of you on the subject. Your Facebook and Twitter timelines from the Spring and Summer of 2009 are filled with statements of derision for the egregious positions taken by the President. And you know what? We were justified in our contempt for a President who willingly, eagerly even, held his nation up to international ridicule.
Yet on Sunday, Donald Trump took Barack Obama’s anti-american rhetoric and ratcheted it up to 11. Never before has a president told the world that the United States murders political dissidents, assassinates reporters, invades foreign countries and threatens global peace in order to enrich a few privileged members of the government. Never mind that the veracity of such a statement wouldn’t stand 5 minutes of examination. The very idea that a President would ascribe such a motive to our governance is as noxious to our national soul as chlorine gas would be to your lungs.
But rather than being roundly and strongly condemned for saying it, there was muted concern by some Republicans. There was no reaction at all, other than some faint applause, from many of you Trump train passengers.
Personally, the President’s statement left me incredulous and stunned. But YOUR reactions have made me so upset I actually feel physically ill.
It is now early in the afternoon on Tuesday. I needed to take a break. My blood pressure was rising and my vision narrowing, and my infamous temper was beginning to boil over.
Around lunchtime, the Trump administration decided that anyone critical of them was trafficking in “fake news.” They even took the unusual step of not only releasing a press statement to that effect, but sending a White House spokesman on a TV tour to press home their point. Well, so be it. Sorry, President Trump, but I think this is important enough to intrude upon your dream world. This is one time trying to bend reality to your will won’t work.
Over the past two days, I have found myself in a few heated arguments regarding the president’s embrace of soviet tactics. One person is so convinced of the certitude of Trump’s position they now refuse to talk to me. The other was trying to convince me that the half-hearted reprobations being offered by various Republicans on the Sunday talk shows demonstrated sufficient outrage. I think some feelings got hurt there. too.
Those condemnations were anything but. The statements made by people like Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the like were right to note that the United States does not conduct national or international politics in the same vein as Vladimir Putin. But what each of those mealy-mouthed politicians, those sorry excuses for men, the morally challenged of US politics failed to do is what was required of them. Not a one actually said anything along the lines of, “The President is clearly wrong in his assertion.” None of them could muster the courage to link the President to his outrageousness. From a purely political POV, I understand. None of them are willing to chance losing the Trumper vote. It does absolutely nothing for my esteem of their character (they have none), but I understand.
Indeed, in the 60 hours or so since news of the President’s adoptive tone of soviet style tactics broke, I have only heard two elected Republicans take Trump to task. One is Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. The other is Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. That’s it. Two men with the basic courage to stand up for what is right and to castigate wrong. Folks, we aren’t doing JFK proud here.
Now, as I was saying, I may not be thrilled with the limp-wristed elected officials of the GOP but I understand their stances. It takes real leadership to risk losing your office in defense of the nation’s moral character these days. That it does brings me back to the real problem – the average Trumper reading this right now.
It’s now late in the afternoon. I was interrupted by an internet outage, which I guess can get filed under “stuff happens.” But you know what I can’t put in that “stuff happens” file? Presidents throwing the country under the bus.
There’s a lot of things this President has done, and I’m certain will do, that can get filed there. His inept speaking style certainly qualifies (even if he does have the biggest words). The botched messaging behind, and terrible rollout of, the visa moratorium does, too. Likewise the really poor Cabinet appointment process. But those are the kinds of things that can be chalked up to political inexperience, bad timing and concerted (and often over-the-top) political resistance.
But in admitting that he respect’s Vladdy Putin’s management style, President Trump created what would for anyone else be an unforced error. Except in Trump’s case, this isn’t an error. Even if he hadn’t spent the campaign praising Putin, watching how incensed he became at Bill O’Reilly’s rightly calling the dictator a “killer” gave away his true feelings. In fact, when you watch that segment (the pertinent part begins at the 2:10 mark) and watch Trump’s facial expression and body language, it’s the same you see right before a bar fight breaks out.
Why, indeed, would the President of the United States of America then launch into a diatribe about how the United States is no better, drawing a moral equivalence between soldiers killed on a battlefield and the summary execution, torture, and murder of political opponents? How can he possibly countenance a man who had some 13,000 Syrian dissidents hung in Aleppo and think the US government commits equally heinous acts???
Had the President said something along the lines of, “Look, we all know Putin is a dictator who used terrible means to get power and does horrible things to stay in power. But I think we might work together to rid the world of islamic terror, kind of like we worked with Joe Stalin to eradicate Nazism” I doubt anyone could take him to task. It’s factual and it’s an opinion of a possible policy approach that does have some upside.
Instead, we have the President defending the world’s worst dictator since the fall of the Soviet Union by saying the United States uses soviet political tactics. Oy gevalt!
It demonstrates one of two things. The less onerous, and sadly less likely, is that President Trump is terribly misinformed about the character of Putin. Given his defiant refusal to accept even the most basic intel, it is a possibility. But far more likely is that Trump does respect Putin and his methods. It fits a pattern that Trump has exhibited for as long as he’s harbored political ambitions (remember, in 1990 he praised Deng Xiaoping for the way the Chinese Communist party put down the pro-democracy movement, exemplified by having tanks run down students in Tiananmen Square). In short, Trump loves him some dictators.
That our President equates strength with authoritarianism shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has given wink and nod deference to the Constitution, while showing he has no idea what comes after, “We the People”. That, in itself, is not troubling. He is not our first President to prefer trying to run the country as an autocrat. Some of our best (Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR) and some of our worst (Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter) presidents pushed the limits of the executive authority given them by the Constitution. What ultimately kept those autocratic tendencies in check was that when they overstepped, even their most die-hard supporters rose up to say, “Wait a minute, Mr. President!”.
Once the election was over, I accepted the decision and said I would support the President when I thought he was right, and would come down on him like a brick wall when he was wrong. He has done some good things already, and I’ve offered my praise and support for those things. I think most of his cabinet choices are excellent (with the exception of the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs nominee). I applaud the idea of implementing an visa moratorium on nations without a functioning government but highly functioning terrorism training camps. I applaud the decision to move forward with the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
I cannot and will not accept that our president is on television, in the lead-up to the most watched event on the planet, telling the world that the United States government sanctions the murder, torture and persecution of it’s political opposition. That is more than a bridge too far. It may even be treasonous. Let’s face it – that clip is likely to wind up in an ISIS or Al Qaeda video at some point. I can just hear Anwar al-Awlaki narrating in the background, “See? Even the American President believes the United States is the Great Satan!”.
Those of you who are sitting on the sidelines, holding neither this president nor the members of his party accountable for such vile sentiments, are even worse. You demonstrated by this election that the real power in this nation still rests with you. During the election, many of you promised that if a President Trump overstepped his bounds you would hit him, hard, despite your unwavering support for his campaign.
I’m still waiting. Much as I worried then, you’ve drunk too deeply of the orange Kool-Aid and left your objectivity behind. Rather than challenging Trump on a patently dangerous and unamerican statement, you’ve opted to ignore it. Or even worse, to actually defend the indefensible. You have, in short, abdicated your citizenship in favor of not being uncomfortable. Because let’s face it, having to admit that you might have something in common with the avowed Trump haters would be uncomfortable, wouldn’t it?
But you know what it would need? It would need you to grow a pair, to have a little moral courage, to believe in something other than a spray tanned narcissist. So far, ALL of you are lacking in the cajones department. Even though you know I’m right, I’m not willing to bet more than 10% of you actually come to your senses. But I am willing to bet most of the remaining 90% will find it easy – fun, even – to adopt the President’s authoritarian attitude.
Because you would rather not be Americans anymore . You would rather be Trumpers.
And that, my friends, is the saddest thing of all.