The daily (sometimes hourly) dispatches from the Trump White House and/or GOP-controlled congress are horrific and overwhelming. On this Fourth of July, it feels as though there is so much less to celebrate and be proud of, and that is such a depressing thought.
I recently found two things that helped by re-focusing on something that I have long believed: that what we read and listen to and watch on TV forms and shapes us. And so we are responsible for managing who and what we give our attention to. Here is how I have taken back my responsibility.
- I have stopped following Trump’s tweets. I started following them during the campaign. They seemed to be newsworthy and some said the tweets were an evolution in media akin to Kennedy’s use of TV. History will tell if that is true. In the meantime, the content of his tweets is appalling and shameful and fouls my mental environment. I am no longer giving them my time or attention.
- I have started watching reruns of The West Wing. The 7 season series is available on Netflix. After each episode, I listen to a podcast called The West Wing Weekly — a weekly 1 hour-ish show hosted by Josh Malina (Will Bailey on WW) and Hrishi Hirway. They offer a fascinating commentary on each episode with lots of backstory and historical context and often guest interviews with actors, production folk, or people with real world information about issues raised in an episode.
In watching the show, I am reminded of the things that once made me proud. I am reminded of all those who regarded public service as a high calling and who served at great personal cost to themselves and their families. I am reminded of Presidents who inspired others to do better and greater things to advance the common good. I am reminded of Presidents and members of Congress and staff who took mutual respect and civility for granted, even when there was disagreement. It feels good to be reminded of these things.
Perhaps the message here is that for as long as we have to swim in the stink of Trumpworld, it is our responsibility to maintain our own sense of what is right and fitting for publicly elected officials and for ourselves as ordinary citizens. We cannot continue to Resist if we let ourselves and our expectations sink to the low levels of Trumpworld. We need to keep up both our expectations and our spirits. We need to Resist and keep our hearts and minds unsullied and healthy. The West Wing is helping me with both.
We have the recent news about Russian hacking of the November election thanks to a leaker who has now been indicted. According to today’s NYT, “In a statement, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein (said)… ‘Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government… People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.'” (Emphasis added.)
Sadly, the AG is apparently taking no action with respect to President Trump who “declassifies” military intelligence, uncounselled and on a whim (threatening our nation’s security and undermining the international community’s trust in our government) and who routinely lies to the American public in the performance of duties he undertook pursuant to oath (undermining the American public’s faith in the government.)
The election hack leaker has been indicted for enabling publication of the truth. Sometimes being a leaker is an act of patriotism. Now may be one of those times. There have been others. The linked episode of the podcast “Reveal” (below) tells the story about one of those times — the leaking and publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Even if you think you know the story, the podcast is worth your time.
Dear Mr President,
During the campaign you told the American people that you had a magnificent health care plan. I did not believe you. For that and many other reasons, I did not vote for you. Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than you did and your victory in the Electoral College was by one of the smallest percentages ever. Nonetheless, by virtue of our laws you became the President. I don’t like it, but it is my responsibility to respect the office and whoever undertakes its responsibilities. That is one of my jobs as a citizen.
Your job as President is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The Constitution requires that you “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Art.II, Sec.3. This applies to the laws you personally like and the laws you don’t like. The ACA is still the law of the land. It is your job to faithfully uphold that law. Do your job.
It would be a dereliction of your constitutional duties to use your administration to aggravate the deficiencies of the ACA or conspire with insurance companies to undermine the means by which millions of American access basic health care. You said that letting the ACA “explode” would be the smart thing to do politically. Maybe. But as the President you are more than a politician. You are a public servant with a high moral obligation to care for the welfare of ALL Americans. You are the President. Do your job.
To enhance and improve the ACA will be an unwelcome task given your personal opinions on the health care system. The burdens of the office of President are many, grave and all difficult to bear I have no doubt. But your job was not cast upon you by fate or inheritance. You sought it out. You worked for it. You enlisted others to help you campaign for it, and you won it. You wanted to be the President. You are the President. So now, do your job.
After watching the debate last night, I feel moved to say “thank you.” I believe you will be a history-making president, and not simply because of your gender. I wish my mother had lived to see your inauguration. She would have been 87 this year, and although she tended to vote (alas) Republican, the Republicans she voted for bore little resemblance to Donald Trump. I honestly think she would have been one of your campaign volunteers.
But back to what moves me to write this morning: my admiration and gratitude for your presence on the stage last night. It takes an enormous amount of personal strength and grit to take the high road when you are being taunted from the low road, in public, and by someone who demonstrates an endless and shameless capacity for lying. I know what it is like to be the object of a borderline’s angry lies. It is dispiriting to say the least. I can only imagine how difficult it is to deal effectively and graciously with such a pathology while the nation and the world is watching. Ann Richards on the subject of Ginger Rogers comes to mind, just as a place to begin.
Thank you for trusting us to know exactly who Trump is because we do. We have worked for people like him. We have been the object of their physical or verbal assaults. We have watched them chuckle while dismissing our opinions and concerns as trivial or hysterical. Thank you for trusting us to know exactly who and what Trump is and for spending your valuable debate time talking not about him but about health care, the Supreme Court, voting rights, refugees, Syria and our national character.
Most of all, in the debate last night and in your campaign, thank you for calling us to be our better selves: for calling us less to “greatness” and more to personal and national goodness, and for doing the hard work of leading us in that direction. I look forward to the day when we can say: “Madam President.”