The Beginning of the End

| June 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

The larger a country, the less easy for its real opinion to be

ascertained, and the less difficult to be counterfeited; when

ascertained or presumed, the more respectable it is in the

eyes of individuals. — James Madison, “Public Opinion”, 1791

Recently Donald Trump did something so outrageous, so vile, so reprehensible, so unethical, so immoral, so utterly beneath contempt, that I was shocked by his action — and I thought I was beyond being shocked by the conduct of this president.

As Maureen Dowd put it in The New York Times, “But for those who are concerned about the scarring of the American psyche, it’s exhausting to find the vocabulary to keep explaining, over and over, how beyond the pale and out of the norm the 45th president is.

Well, yes it is, “exhausting,” but necessary.

Here’s why:

When the president took the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and deliberately slurred her words to make it appear that she was either under the effects of alcohol or drugs, we have entered a new and dangerous period in American politics.

Amid all the perfidies of Donald Trump, the serial lying, the demeaning of other humans, the name calling, conduct so alien to the 44 presidents who preceded him, as Ms. Dowd suggest, why then should something so seemingly benign as altering the speech pattern of another be of concern?

If H.L. Mencken was right when he wrote, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people,”  then for this president to misrepresent a political opponent by electronically changing the effect of their message, is something beyond Orwellian.

The fact that there was immediate pushback by media signal how appalled they were the president would stoop so low as to engage in such brazen conduct. 

Nicole Wallace, President George. W. Bush’s communication director, who has her own popular show on MSNBC, refused to play the distorted video of Speaker Pelosi, opting instead to play a video of herself, whose words were slowed down to produce a similar results — to dramatic effect.

What Ms. Wallace did was to make clear how easily manipulated video messaging is and why it poses such a danger.

To Trump’s great unwashed, the 30 to 35 percent of them that are hard core Trumpians, who believe he can do no wrong, and are therefore as morally culpable as he — for to believe in Trump and to approve of his conduct is immoral.

Isn’t that a harsh judgment? Yes, it is. But if you believe that Trump is evil, because words and actions have consequences, then those who support him cannot be absolved due to ignorance. In the campaign, perhaps, but given everything that’s happened, to confess ignorance of the man and his presidency will not forgive you.

“He does outrageous, nasty, destructive things, knowing full well he’s crossing a line, and then he pretends he didn’t,” wrote Ms. Dowd of Trump biographer Tim O’Brien. “‘He has spent five decades going to gossip columnists, radio shows, TV interviews and newspapers to stick a knife into almost anybody who crosses his path that he doesn’t like and he revels in it…He doesn’t care what people think about how mean or dumb he is. He just keeps going.’”

“O’Brien said Pelosi ‘hit on something that is core to his con. His whole life is about the cover-up. He has covered up his academic record, his health reports, his dalliances with women, his finances, his family history. Even while he was saying he was the most transparent president in history, his Treasury secretary was across town telling Congress, ‘I’m not giving you the president’s tax returns.’”

Jill Lepore is a Harvard professor, who’s written a 900-page book on American history, which was reviewed in The Christian Century by Robert  W. Wall.

He writes, “She writes the destiny of a second American ideal, popular sovereignty, centers on what she sees as its troubling relationship with the means of communication that are a necessary condition of reasoned public deliberation by democratic citizens.

“As she demonstrates, this relationship has been a concern of Americans since at least James Madison’s brief but important essay ‘Public Opinion’, which held out hope that newspapers could ensure a politics of truth.

“‘It was an ingenious idea. It would be revisited by each passing generation of exasperated advocates of republicanism. The newspaper would hold the Republic together; the telegraph would hold the Republic together; the Internet would hold the Republic together. Each time, this assertion would be both right and terribly wrong.’”

It was Machiavelli who wrote, “The things that seem and those that are,” and in our social media age, that confusion is greater than ever — but to give up would mark the beginning of the end.

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He can be reached at,


Category: National News

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"Mine Eyes Have Seen"