I’m fascinated by the sometimes unexpected result of ordinary combinations. Every artist knows that french ultramarine blue mixed with burnt umber (brown) yields a convincing black. Or everyone knows that two of the lightest elements in the universe, oxygen and hydrogen, when combined one part former with two parts latter, yield a rather heavier-than-expected thing called water. The staid and retiring Briton has a demonstrated history of marching to the sound of gunfire, and Americans will remain happily and indifferently on a fence until galvanized by a single injustice gone too far.
I think the flashpoint in history for many of America’s fence-sitters was Donald Trump’s ill-advised ordering of troops to stage an unprovoked attack on peaceful American protesters, merely so he could pose in front of a boarded up church with a bible. If Trump had any chance to win re-election in November that chance may have just evaporated forever. Attacking peaceful Americans with teargas and rubber bullets was the whole ballgame right there.
The White House propaganda machine is working overtime to reframe the incident and it isn’t working. I get supreme personal pleasure from this one thought, though: if they had it to do over again, Trump wouldn’t have gone anywhere near that church and he would have left the protesters in peace. But that’s just one more empty toothpaste tube too many. If he had any chance at holding onto his job, Donald Trump just blew it forever, and the “stable genius” has no one but himself to blame.
Political and academic pundit David Pakman reports an email inbox flooded with messages from former Bernie supporters and disgruntled Republicans, each saying Trump has finally gone too far. One particular writer noted that he hated Joe Biden but that he would now “crawl over broken glass to vote for him,” just to get rid of Trump. Strong stuff indeed!
Such was the resultant tidal wave of indignation that even former Secretary of Defense General James Mattis came out of hibernation and said this about it: “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
One of Donald Trump’s responses was to attack General Mattis, and it was weak, even by his standards, when he tweeted:
Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed to “Mad Dog”…
Just for the record, Trump didn’t invent the nickname “Mad Dog” for Mattis, any more than he invented the terms “fake news” or “prime the pump.” It’s a feature of his delusion to claim ownership of the work of other people. The notion that Trump fired Mattis is also a likely fiction. Mattis resigned, and he has the letter of resignation to prove it. While letters of resignation are common in political firings, that particular one doesn’t read like a firing. All of which is to say, Donald Trump has nothing in common with Barack Obama, and it is to his perpetual shame and frustration that he never will.
Speaking of not having things in common, Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany compared Trump’s pose-with-a-bible with Churchill’s personal wartime inspection of bombed out London. The well-regarded savant and Quora commentator Roland Temmerman had this to say about it: “I have to admit one thing though. Trump and Churchill do have one thing in common. They both spent time in a bunker. One while London was being bombed, the other when some teenagers with signs showed up in front of the White House.”
Of course, it’s now less than five months to the election and much can happen between now and then. But it would take a miracle for Trump to recover from his own self-immolating action. Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant and we must vote. There cannot be a larger moment in history for any of us than the one that looms for all of us in November.
I leave you with the words of Robert F. Kennedy, who died fifty two years ago Saturday. “Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills, misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.” To which I have nothing to add except, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.