Thank You, Donald Trump

| November 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

A Texas friend of mine, a distinguished attorney and author of significant books, emailed me a link to an op-ed on Brett Kavanaugh he had written for the Dallas Morning News.

My friend is a confessing Christian and Methodist, as am I. We take Jesus seriously and strive to be faithful to His teachings, but know our strivings often fall short.

In my friend’s opinion piece he praised Judge Kavanaugh for his work on the Court of Appeals in Washington, believed him a qualified nominee for the nation’s highest court, while lamenting that Judge Kavanaugh and his family had been subject to the horrors of the nominating process.

He believed the judge had been unfairly attacked and he was innocent of the charge of attempted rape; that while acknowledging something terrible had happened to Dr. Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh was not the one who sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, so long ago (citing the absence of any corroborating witness).

I thought it was a reasonably argued piece, as written from the perspective of a member of the bar, who supporter Kavanaugh’s nomination.

In responding to my friend’s email, I said essentially what you just read, but I also said his opinion piece was incomplete, because there was no mention of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee; where, in the view of many, the judge lost his composure amid a lengthy defense of his nomination, even going so far as to engage in a partisan attack upon Democrats, the Clinton’s, and left-wing radicals — something no one had witnessed in any previous Supreme Court nominee.

Granted, he was under extreme pressure. Granted, that what his wife and their two daughters were going though was monstrously unfair, an indictment of the system — which no reasonable person would dispute.

But when you, as one citizen in a country of 325 million people are nominated to sit as one of nine members on the Supreme Court, to sit on that court for life, you have a duty to conduct yourself in a manner befitting that court and its history; and to do so in a manner characterized by dignity and restraint.

That was not seen in Judge Kavanaugh’s 55-minute statement before the Committee, however great the provocation and, as a result, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who had earlier signed a letter in behalf of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, withdrew his support; an act unprecedented for a former Justice. In addition, more than 2,400 law school professors issued a statement saying that Kavanaugh, in the hearing, “displayed a lack of judicial restraint.”

Well, that did it. My friend wrote back immediately and told me my position was “absurd.”

That annoyed me, and I told him he was free to disagree but he wasn’t free to label my argument as “absurd”; that I thought it beneath his intellectual integrity.

That response from me occasioned an even longer and stronger response from him; essentially saying that I lacked standing to disagree with him, not having gone to law school, not being an attorney, not having tried cases in court.

At that point I decided I wasn’t taking this any further; that it had escalated into a very serious disagreement between friends, and I wouldn’t respond further, and didn’t.

A couple of days later my cell phone rang. It told me it was my Texas friend. At first, I thought, I’m not answering, but I did. When I picked it up I heard him say he was sorry and he needed to apologize, that we had done some important things together, that he respected me and valued our friendship and didn’t want to lose it.

Of course I accepted his apology. I told him how much it meant to me. I then said I had been thinking about what had happened, that while I guessed he was conservative in his politics, as I am not, it had never before been an issue between us.

So we discussed why this had happened, and wondered where comity had gone in our society? Why there seems so much anger, such sharp and deepening divisions, labeled by some as “tribalism,” and why it had effected even our friendship?

We decided the answer was Donald Trump; that the Trump Effect upon our body politic, culture, social order, upon civility and manners, upon the norms of what we’ve come to expect from people in public life, especially presidents, is unlike any experienced before.

We realize in Trump we have as, as a candidate before and president now, a master manipulator of media, magnified by the dynamics of 24/7 news, Facebook, and Twitter.

If you, as a candidate for public office, introduce a new model of campaigning and win, others running for pubic office will adopt that “model.”

Lawton Childs walked the state of Florida while running for the U.S. Senate and won in ‘70; Dan Walker, running for governor of Illinois, walked his state and won in ’72; Dick Lamm walked Colorado and was elected governor in ’74.

While these break-through examples of smart campaigning are worthy of emulating, the example of Trump running and winning is not simply their antithesis, but one that totally destroys every idea of how you run for public office —whether for the school board or White House.

In Trump’s case he was elected president by never admitting he was wrong, by denigrating his opponents, from Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton, mocking physically challenged individuals, denying he’s serial adulterer or a failed businessman (four bankruptcies, say Forbes), refusing to release his tax returns, (in short, a tax cheat on a massive scale, according to an extensive investigation by The New York Times), by distorting history, of lying with impunity — and labeling media, other than Fox News, as purveyors of “fake news.”

He took his reality television role and made it work on a gullible, politically naïve, and ignorant populace — not all, understand, but too many for the welfare of our democracy.

On his second day as president he had his press secretary tell the White House press corps the crowd at his inauguration was bigger than Obama’s. He then claimed it was the biggest ever, a blatant falsehood.

It wasn’t the most damning lie he ever told, but rather a precursor of what was to come.

But from that second day, 569 days would follow (as of October 15) and more than 5,000 lies or misleading statements would come from this president (as documented by the Washington Post).

But while a majority of Americans find Trump’s behavior in office appalling, as in 65 percent of us, his so-called “base” continue their support; proving that when he said he could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” and his supporters wouldn’t care, he didn’t mean it metaphorically.

However contemptible a majority of Americans find him, it’s important to concede this:

The man knows his audience and plays it as consummately as Jascha Heifetz played his Stradivarius.

But, to bring this to a close, there is a saying, “You get the government you deserve.” It’s a truism that doesn’t apply in this circumstance, because even those who voted for Donald Trump, do not deserve this odious creature, who has violated every norm of decency we were ever taught; who promised several hundred times while campaigning for president he would up “clean up the swamp that’s Washington,” but lied, because, as we now know — he is the swamp.

Oh, as it relates to my Texas friend, he did not vote for Trump.
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George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at: gmitro35@gmail.com.

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