“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
- Out-of-the-mouth-of-knaves update: “I don’t wear masks like him.” Recall, that was Donald Trump’s predictable, surly—and beyond ironic—taunt directed at Joe Biden during their regrettably repellent first (and hopefully final) debate. But some things cannot be masked. Trump’s hubris, cavalier attitudes and utter indifference to truth and responsible leadership are foremost. Even though he had a mask with him—in his coat pocket—that he pulled out dismissively as a prop. It’s what a reality-TV performer does.
It was a prime example of arrogant misleadership, diversionary optics and a sobering reminder that none of it will end as long as there’s Trump political contagion in the White House. As the personification of recklessness, Trump can’t set an example for prudent, societal self-protection. Plus, he doesn’t believe in transparency and still hasn’t apologized for the mismanagement and lies that have needlessly cost thousands of American lives.
And then he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Given what he has put America through, it’s no surprise that polls show no sympathy bounce for Trump. Then his hospitalization and treatment devolved into an exercise in theatrics and media manipulation, including medical double talk. And then, most blatantly, there was his spin around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to wave to fans when he still should have been in isolation. His Secret Service handlers, presumably, took one for the team.
The best we can hope for is a teachable-moment duality. First, that Trump becomes Exhibit A for what can happen to anyone not taking common-sense, public-health measures such as masks and social distancing. Even one who revels in crowd worship and face time with minions. As a result, maybe even cult followers can ostensibly see the folly of characterizing mask-wearers as wimps and those without them as avatars of freedom. And, oh yeah, masks can also protect jobs and our national economy. Second, the super spreader-in-chief has ultimately—and inevitably—arrived at the convergence of karma and Faust. Leave it at that.
- “An abundance of caution.” That was the reasonable rationale for taking President Trump to Walter Reed Medical Center. Too bad “abundance of caution” wasn’t in evidence since the onset of the pandemic.
- “Look, we have a great vice president. We have a government that is steady at the tiller. We’re prepared.” That was National Security Adviser Tim O’Brien, when asked about contingency plans if the president were incapacitated.
- According to unidentified White House sources, Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for evangelical hypocrisy and sycophantic fealty to Trump.
- The point is not that Trump “misspeaks.” This president misthinks and misacts. As a result, the country is misinformed, mismanaged, misled and misgoverned.
- “1776 Commission”: What Trump says he will create to advance a new “pro American” curriculum and help “restore patriotic education to our schools.” It’s necessary, says Trump, to counter revisionist ideas about the nation’s founding and history that has led to a generation of “Marxist” activists and proponents of “critical race theory.” Joe Goebbels would have agreed.
- Amid the turmoil of all things Trump-related–from Proud Boys shout-out to presidential coronavirus–we don’t pay much attention to the United Nations these days. But there was a notable—and quotable—moment the other day with the U.S. ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft trying, unsuccessfully, to pressure that world body into enforcing new economic sanctions against Iran. “We will stand alone to protect peace and security at all times,” said Craft. “We don’t need a cheering section to validate our moral compass.” But it would, arguably, help to have the UN and the EU on our side.
BTW, Kelly replaced Nikki Haley and has been UN ambassador for a year. Prior to that, she was the Trump-appointed ambassador to Canada. Prior to that, she and her husband donated more than $2 million to the Trump campaign. Prior to that, she was a delegate from Kentucky to the 2016 Republican National Convention. That’s how that works.
- Speaking of things international, one of America’s most outspoken ambassadors, Pete Hoekstra, made news recently—and that’s never what a diplomat wants to do. But Hoekstra, the Trump-appointed envoy to the Netherlands, held a fund-raising reception for a far-right Dutch political party, the Forum for Democracy Party, in the American embassy. Hosting a political fundraiser is more than just undiplomatic. On its face, it’s considered interference in domestic politics and a violation of the (1961) Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Hoekstra is a conservative former GOP congressman from Michigan who helped found the Tea Party caucus.
- “Stare decisis”: We could soon be hearing more of this Latin (“to stand by things decided”) phrase as we approach the confirmation hearing on SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett. It has to do with precedent, as in, say, Roe v Wade. “Stare decisis,” Judge Barrett has written, is “not a hard-and-fast rule in the court’s constitutional cases.” Stay tuned.
- Melania F. Trump is in the news for reasons beyond a positive COVID test. Some unflattering quotes are attributed to her in the book “Melania and Me,” by her former advisor Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Somehow the Worst Lady managed to work Christmas and an F-bomb into the same sentence.
- “There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare.” That was William Seward, President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state, weighing in soberly—and, alas, presciently—on America’s still fragile democratic republic.
- The infighting Irish: Bad luck–and optics–for Notre Dame to see its president, Rev. JohnJenkins, test positive for COVID less than a week after having attended the Rose Garden ceremony–sans mask and seen shaking multiple hands–for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. “I regret my error of judgment,” said Rev. Jenkins, 66, who is a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates. “I failed to lead by example.” Too bad that candid admission didn’t come from that other president.
And speaking of awkward optics, recall that former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz spoke at the Trump-fawning, virtual Republican National Convention.