I suppose we can regard today’s post as political in nature, but I don’t think it is: it’s instead a bewilderment about how one morally reprehensible person has so thoroughly managed to co-opt a political party that used to refer to itself as “Grand.” This is hardly a new wonderment, nor is it mine alone, but I feel we hit a nadir this week, and the anemic response by people who ought to be better than this leaves me disheartened.
[I say “nadir,” which implies nothing worse is going to happen, but we all know I’m going to be wrong.]
The trampling of political norms is nothing new, and the awfulness of policies has resulted in small children being torn from their parents, some of them likely never to be reunited, so I don’t really know how I go about defining any one low point as the bottom of this bottomless administration, but I am disturbed about the portents inherent in what I’m going to call the St. John’s Debacle.
On the off chance you missed it, someone — of course this is one of those things that wasn’t anyone’s actual idea — decided it would be great to send the president across a square to stand in front of a church he never attends, holding a book that ought to have burst into flames as he held it, as someone said, “like a soiled diaper.”
So that was stupid and accomplished nothing productive, but then it came out that to conduct this photo op, the military was summoned to run off Americans exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. They did so with rubber bullets and tear gas or, if it makes you feel better, smoke canisters and pepper balls, dispersing people who had every right to be there, for no worthwhile reason whatsoever.
Unless, of course, you felt comforted seeing the president stand as awkwardly as anyone ever could, holding a holy book like I wasn’t the only one expecting it to catch fire. If this made you feel great about the Grand Old Party, then I suppose it was well worth commanding the military to take up arms against fellow Americans exercising their constitutional rights.
It certainly didn’t seem to cause any consternation among congressional Republicans, and that’s the part I just never get. And not just congress, but people who continue to support this man as he tramples, every day, on every tenet the GOP has said it holds dear.
I started compiling a list, a couple weeks back, long before the latest in an entire presidency of debacle, of prominent Republicans who have been named by the president as his enemies. It’s as absurd a list as that of fictitious Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory), who nurses every grudge he’s ever held and includes anyone who has made the slightest of slights.
The president’s list, which includes former president George Bush and one-time presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, also features Jeff Sessions, excoriated for upholding his duty as attorney general under this president. For whatever inexplicable reason Mr. Sessions, who wants his cushy senate seat back and whose primary opponent has been endorsed by the president, is still kowtowing and pledging obeisance to the man who continues to belittle him.
Every member of the military’s top brass got referred to as “dopes and babies” by a man with no vocabulary, and the only pushback came from Rex Tillerson, once the CEO of one of the globe’s biggest companies, now a point of embarrassment.
The president has stomped all over America’s allies and embraced her enemies. Dislike of Russia used to be a very Republican thing, as was support for free trade.
The list is long, and nothing that hasn’t been covered by many people confused by this “man of the people” who lives in gated communities and towers and makes whatever money he may or may not have by fleecing the very people he claims to champion.
Through it all, his lapdogs have either remained quiet or voiced support for this rupture of the Republican fabric.
Not everyone, of course: I have watched a steady progression of columnists march away from him, reliably conservative pundits who have decided that what this president espouses is hardly conservatism as they cherish it. George Will, once as Republican as they came, recently called (using a vocabulary I can only envy) for something I imagine he would never have thought:
One such measure must be the removal of those in Congress who, unlike the sycophantic mediocrities who cosset him in the White House, will not disappear “magically,” as Eric Trump said the coronavirus would. Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.
Kathleen Parker yesterday conceded she had been wrong, four years ago, when she stated publicly that the Union would survive either presidential candidate.
And it has finally reached the point where General Jim Mattis yesterday released a three-page statement in opposition to the president’s actions this week. This comes a year after General Mattis assured a CBS reporter he would never speak against a sitting president. Of course, this president wasn’t sitting; he was plowing through a sea of parted Americans to get to the world’s most inconsequential photo op.
[This] is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.
This morning CBS reported on a Star Wars actor (not up on the franchise since about 1986, sorry) who appeared prominently at a London rally in honor of George Floyd. The actor worried ahead of time, the report said, about harming his career with his appearance, then decided the statement was more important than his career.
If only Republicans would have that same courage of their convictions, assuming any of them in congress have any conviction left other than their hungry need for re-election.
The Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, a career military man, hasn’t quite decided where he wants to end up. He is having more trouble with this than a young actor. He was part of the photo op, and it was his order that has loosed U.S. troops against their fellow citizens in the District of Columbia.
But after Jim Miller, an adviser, sent a letter of resignation that he also sent to the Washington Post, Secretary Esper appeared to remember that his oath was to the Constitution and not any person, up to and including the president, and he denounced the use of troops against American citizens.
This of course made the late-night Twit in Chief mad, and this morning the secretary, who was going to withdraw troops from D.C., has decided to leave them in place.
Columnist Eugene Robinson, who has never been mistaken for a conservative, awhile back declared that there is no low too low for the Republicans of congress to overlook, but General Mattis gives me some small hope.
This president espouses no values of any sort, Democratic or Republican, and I remain vastly perplexed at the complete co-opting he has achieved in such short time. No job could possibly be worth giving up every belief you once held dear, could it, including the trampling of Constitutional rights that the right claims to hold so close to its chest?
Mr. Miller’s letter appears to have moved Secretary Esper’s compass slightly off, and perhaps it jolted General Mattis into awareness. I am looking, perhaps in vain, for more patriots to regain their moral compass and denounce this experiment in presidency for the con it really is.