This is my favorite time of year. Winter coats, waterproof boots and the sound of car tires screeching on ice have been replaced by short sleeve shirts, sandals and the hum of air conditioners. This week I had planned on sharing with you the joys of summers past and present but I was unceremoniously pulled back to earth by none other than our president, Donald Trump.
While many of us are celebrating the warm weather with greatly anticipated vacations at the shore or trips to exotic places, Mr. Trump is busy testing the limits of our tolerance for outrageous behavior. His recent actions provide further evidence that he does not enjoy the same respect for our institutions that was shared by every president in our history.
There is an old, somewhat cynical saying prevalent around the courthouse about advocacy that goes like this: When you have the law on your side, hit the law. When the facts are yours, hit the facts. When you have neither, hit the table. President Trump continues to hit the table.
This past week, O.J. Simpson was granted parole after serving almost 10 years for a crime that paled in comparison to the one he was acquitted of more than a decade earlier. I remember during the earlier case when commentators were trying to assess his guilt or innocence based on his behavior. First, it was suggested that an innocent person would not have made a run for it as Simpson did in the now-famous white Bronco chase that so many of us witnessed on live television. Secondly, while awaiting trial, Simpson made no effort to find the “real killer,” something a grieving, innocent husband would surely have done.
When confronting the Russian collusion scandal, our president has similarly responded in ways that are more consistent with a person who has a lot to hide rather than an innocent man, embracing transparency.
An innocent President Trump would welcome a bipartisan investigation into the Russian collusion matter and enthusiastically seek an expeditious clearing of his name and campaign. However, Trump’s behavior raises suspicions at every turn. An innocent president would recognize that we have an absolute right to know that our election was not stained by a foreign government. It doesn’t make any difference which party won or lost; what’s at stake is the very integrity and stability of our electoral process. Even more frightening is the concept that campaign officials in some way may have participated in the corrupting of our political process. All citizens, regardless of their political beliefs, need to know that they did not, and would not, participate in such a scandal.
An innocent President Trump would want his attorney general to be beyond reproach and would understand the need to avoid the appearance of impropriety. But, as of this writing, Trump is ready to fire Mr. Sessions for being “weak” and “disloyal.” His so-called weakness and disloyalty was twofold: First, seeing a clear conflict, he recused himself from the collusion investigation instead of doing Trump a favor and scuttling the probe. Second, he failed to revive the investigation into Hillary Clinton, demonstrating disloyalty to Mr. Trump. In television terms, our president exhibits behavior more like Tony Soprano than Josiah Bartlet (“The West Wing”).
An innocent Trump would welcome the work of nonpartisan Bob Mueller and hope that he is able to find the truth once and for all. Instead, this President Trump is exploring ways to fire Mueller (I guess for doing his job), fishing for any conflicts that could possibly be claimed. Instead of hitting the law or the facts, the president is banging the table, hoping we can’t tell the difference.
None of this should surprise anyone who has not been in a coma for the last seven months. Even so, I find it somewhat ironic that a candidate who decried politics in his campaign last fall, is now injecting his political message into areas heretofore considered off limits to partisanship.
Trump’s speech to the uniformed men and women of the battleship Gerald R. Ford had the trappings (in the prepared remarks) of a standard patriotic effort that many found acceptable. However, he managed to turn what should have been a nonpolitical event into a highly charged partisan effort. First, he made an inappropriate plea for an enhanced military budget, this to the military no less. Second, he directed (was that a direct order?) the officers to “call your congressmen and demand a healthcare bill.” In both instances, he demonstrated a dangerous lack of understanding and outright disregard for the long held tradition of not politicizing the military. This notion that we keep politics separate from the military goes all the way back to Washington.
Just two days later, President Trump managed to politically corrupt yet another event whose organizers pride themselves on running nonpartisan, wholesome jubilees—the Boy Scouts of America. His address started out with the normal upbeat oratory but quickly degenerated into one of his political rants: full of chants and attacks on Hillary Clinton and President Obama and including a totally startling and inappropriate accounting of Mr. Trump’s encounter with a New York developer. Although many in the crowd clearly enjoyed Trump’s appeal, the fact remains that he consistently demeans the office of the presidency by politicizing that which has always been held to be above politics.
Former Eagle Scout Brian Alexander put it best when he stated, “You’re supposed to grow up to be someone not like Donald Trump…You’re supposed to grow up to be someone like John McCain or Barack Obama.”