With Fresh Eyes ...

An Exhausting Presidency

It’s as if we’re caught in the middle of the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray relives each day in a repetitive and despairing loop. Waking up every day to another chapter of the Trump administration conjures up a similar feeling of entrapment, being subjected to a continuous and weary grind of falsehoods and follies.  It has become exhausting; it has become our nightmare.  The lies uttered by this president, his rambling remarks that have no basis in reason, and the caustic personal attacks, the bullying tactics – all contribute to the fractures that pervade the country.

The indecencies of this president have emboldened a portion of his base to openly vent their fears and biases.  Each new campaign rally further incites his crowd.  The arousal of his followers was again evident at a May 8th rally in Florida in yet another of Trump’s now fine-tuned rants against refugees seeking asylum.  Here is what he said: “You have hundreds and hundreds of migrants and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great – and don’t forget, we don’t let them use weapons.  We can’t.  Other countries do.  We can’t, I would never do that.  But how do you stop these people?”  Someone in the crowd shouted, “Shoot them.”

That response garnered shared laughter. The president joined in.  He then replied, “Only in the (Florida) Panhandle can you get away with that statement.” The crowd acknowledged this shout out to their home front with generous applause.  The president smiled.

I am reminded of a town hall event during the 2008 presidential campaign in which the late John McCain, the Republican nominee, rebuked an audience member who said she could not trust his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, because he was “an Arab.” McCain calmly took the microphone away from her and said, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.” It was a respectable, appropriate response - the antithesis of how the current president reacts in similar situations.

The constant drumbeat of lies and accusations wears people down. As Trump repeats his falsehoods innumerable times, no matter how nonsensical they may be, they are taken, by some, as the gospel truth. They become George Orwell’s “Doublespeak,” Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts.”

Nothing is a more consistent target favored by Trump than the media. We are on perilous ground when the free press is repeatedly berated as “the enemy of the American people.” When Trump points to the reporters in the back of the arena during a rally and describes them as “horrible people,” many in the crowd oblige the president by turning to those covering the event and showering them with obscene gestures, profanity and threats. 

To put this in perspective, I cite a quote from the book Do I Make Myself Clear by Harold Evans: “If the public buys the line that media is the opposition, everything from the source (the media) can be discounted as polluted by bias; the concept of truth will gradually wither away. The drip-feed of the poison is that these institutions (media, academia, judiciary) are corrupt, dishonest, lying, and part of the elitist plot against the common man.  The political lie opens the door to a politics that not only denies facts but works actively to disempower facts.”

Groundhog Day meets 1984.
It is all too real.

Contact Rich at richmskgn@gmail.com

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