Tuesday Reads: The Pariah “President”Posted: August 28, 2018
I know no one here will find this statement surprising, but Trump has no clue what being “president” is all about. The traditional job of president is not to alienate our country’s closest allies, gin up racism and hatred, inflame partisan divisions, attack freedom of speech and press, and disrespect anyone who refuses to genuflect before him. Presidents are supposed to try to unite the country, heal divisions, and show leadership in difficult times. Not this so-called “president.”
Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: President non grata: Trump often unwelcome and unwilling to perform basic rituals of the office.
Shunned at two funerals and one (royal) wedding so far, President Trump may be well on his way to becoming president non grata.
The latest snub comes in the form of the upcoming funeral for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), which, before his death, the late senator made clear he did not want the sitting president to attend. That the feeling is mutual — Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised McCain as a “hero” — only underscores the myriad ways Trump has rejected the norms of his office and, increasingly, has been rejected in turn.
Less than two years into his first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies.
In addition to being pointedly not invited to McCain’s funeral and memorial service later this week — where former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will both eulogize the Arizona Republican — Trump was quietly asked to stay away from former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral earlier this year. He also opted to skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors last year amid a political backlash from some of the honorees and has faced repeated public rebuffs from athletes invited to the White House after winning championships.
“We’re not talking about a president going and having a rally in a state that voted against him,” said Tim Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University who previously served as the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “We’re talking about a president who can’t even go and participate in a ritual where presidents are usually welcomed, and that is one of the consequences of his having defined the presidency in a sectarian way.”
Noah Bierman at The LA Times: Two funerals and a wedding: The shunning of Donald Trump.
Sen. John McCain’s decision to exclude President Trump from his funeral is an extraordinary moment on its own, a posthumous rebuke from an American icon who regarded the presidency as sacred, and believed its current occupant defiles that office.
Yet Trump’s exclusion from such high-profile events of mourning and celebration — where American presidents are typically counted on to stand in for an entire nation — is emerging as a pattern over his 19 months in office.
In April, Trump was asked to stay away from the funeral of Barbara Bush, wife to one president and mother of another, leaving it to former Presidents Clinton and Obama to serve as national consolers to the Bush family. In December, he opted to skip the president’s traditional attendance at the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala after several of the artists being feted threatened a boycott.
The British royal family dispensed with inviting foreign dignitaries to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May partly to avoid having to invite Trump, whom Markle had attacked as “divisive” and “misogynistic.” Trump canceled the usual White House celebration for the NFL’s Super Bowl champions when he learned most of the Philadelphia Eagles players were unwilling to attend. Only months earlier the Golden State Warriors had passed on their own invitation to celebrate their 2017 NBA championship title at the White House.
Bierman notes that Trump rants about his rejections by “elites,” but at the same time he’s wounded by them.
Trump’s pique “is genuine. None of it is a put-on,” said Michael Caputo, a former political advisor. “He has the same deep and abiding disdain for the elites that each and every one of the ‘deplorables’ have today.”
The resentment was a constant throughout his career in business and entertainment, where he was dismissed as more of a boastful, tabloid-seeking showman than the serious mogul he believed himself to be.
“I am sure that he is aggravated that the political establishment still will not accept him,” said one longtime friend who asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the subject. “What he really doesn’t understand is that their objection is cultural as well as political and that they will never accept him.”
But critics say Trump created the isolation by his occasionally outrageous behavior, by reveling in a politics that feeds conspiracy theories, humiliates rivals and disdains basic notions of civility.
“He lacks any kind of humility. He kind of takes pride in kicking people around. So when people then strike back, he shouldn’t be disappointed, because in many ways he’s asked for it,” said Leon E. Panetta, who served in Congress and in the Clinton and Obama cabinets.
Just look at his childish reaction to the death of John McCain.
President Trump reversed course and ordered that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff for the rest of the week to mark the death of John McCain, after drawing fire from lawmakers and veterans groups who said the Republican senator hadn’t been appropriately honored….
The White House initially lowered its flag to half-staff on Saturday but returned it to full-staff by Monday morning. It was lowered to half-staff again Monday afternoon, shortly before Mr. Trump released his statement. The president’s proclamation covers the White House as well as all federal buildings, military bases and embassies.
White House officials said they prodded Mr. Trump for two days to put out a kind word about Mr. McCain. Mr. Trump resisted, and viewed the news coverage of the former senator’s death as over-the-top and more befitting a president, according to people familiar with the situation. They said cable networks’ focus on the flag controversy came at the expense of more coverage of Mr. Trump’s trade deal with Mexico.
Trump is wrong, of course. The flag has been kept at half-staff until the interment of other prominent Americans, most recently for Senator Ted Kennedy and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
One of the reasons Trump despised John McCain was because of his vote against repealing the ACA, but why is he given all the credit for the bill’s defeat? If it hadn’t been for two Republican women, Susan Collins and Lisa Merkowski, McCain’s no vote would have been meaningless. That’s one of the simple truths about the lionizing of McCain that Holly Baxter points out at The Independent: Why can’t anyone be honest about John McCain’s legacy?
It is difficult to encapsulate a political legacy without sliding into enraged hyperbole or saccharine fawning. With John McCain, it is even harder.
That’s because we’re not in Kansas anymore, politically speaking: in the surreal presidential landscape we’ve found ourselves in, it seems almost quaint to refer to McCain as a dinosaur or a right-wing reactionary, or to say that his cruel streak could sometimes be shocking. After all, he called his wife a “c***” on the campaign trail only once (reportedly reacting to being gently teased about his thinning hair); he only joked about the teenage Chelsea Clinton being the “ugly” love child of Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno. It’s not like he said he could grab any woman “by the pussy” because he was famous; it’s not like he dismissed Mexicans as “rapists”. So what’s the problem?
The very fact that a sitting US president made such shocking remarks, however, shouldn’t blind us to the fact that McCain had some very serious flaws. His Chelsea/Hillary Clinton barb continues a long tradition of dismissing women in politics because of their perceived bad looks. (Remember the “plain facts and plain faces” propaganda against women’s votes during the Suffragette movement, and the depictions of them as ugly harridans who wanted to participate in democracy because they couldn’t get husbands?) Needless to say, the memory of McCain’s mean jibe very probably underpins the reason Chelsea Clinton recently defended Barron Trump against media nastiness, tweeting pointedly that he should be “allowed to have the private childhood he deserves”.
Words are just words, but McCain’s voting record where women’s rights are concerned speaks for itself. He voted to restrict abortion and, in 2015, to defund Planned Parenthood if it carried on providing abortions to women with unwanted pregnancies. We know that votes like these can lead to serious consequences: deaths from backstreet abortions, increased levels of poverty, the perpetuation of cycles of social and economic inequality. McCain also voted against the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act in 2014: the bill was an effort to ensure women could access contraception and gynaecological services without being denied healthcare benefits by their providers because of those providers’ “beliefs”. Nor was he prejudiced against women only when it concerned contraception or abortion: he also voted against a bill that would have made it illegal to discriminate against female employees with the same experience being paid less their male counterparts doing exactly the same job.
Read the rest at The Independent.
More articles to check out, links only:
Literary Hub: Rebecca Solnit: Why the President Must Be Impeached.
Natasha Bertrand at The Atlantic: Devin Nunes’s Curious Trip to London.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?