Never Too Late to be Great



GORDONVILLE — It’s a common refrain among supporters of your president (not mine).

Repeating as much as the line in the song “Talk Talk” (by the band Talk Talk), it goes something like this: “He has done so much for this country. I wish people would just give him a chance.”

And then I’m usually issued a personal challenge to do so.

Fine, I’ll take off my alleged blinders and play along.

Let’s go in search of evidence of any presidential achievement that rises above the level of the baseline perfunctory stuff.

What has your president (not mine) achieved with the core policy of simply undoing anything and everything that Barack Obama did?

Does governing by overnight insult via Twitter count as an achievement?

By demonizing the media, whose rights are guaranteed under the First Amendment?

It is clear your president (not mine) has certainly tried, albeit with all the political grace of the proverbial bull in a china shop, to fulfill his clumsy populist campaign visions.

Even though the lives of Wisconsin farmers or Michigan factory workers or West Virginia coal miners have not been altered for the better, and sometimes for the worse, your president (not mine) still makes sure to feed them that steady diet of red meat with a side dish of overcooked venom.

But the cost of not governing the full nation has been so steep that we are in Civil War mode.

Your president (not mine) said he was going to build a wall at the border with Mexico and, get ready for the rim shot, make Mexico pay for it.

Because the big baby didn’t get his bottle, he willingly created chaos — a 35-day government shutdown – and he is still threatening the nuclear option of declaring a national emergency.

Other applause-line promises included repealing Obamacare, defunding sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood, starting to say “Merry Christmas Again” (not sure if and when that ever stopped, but whatever), etc.

His main legislative victory was passing a tax reform bill, one that backfired enough on average Americans – likely the same swing voters that got him into office — that the Republican party was hit hard in the mid-terms of last November.

It would seem that, for every attempted step forward, we have waltzed backward toward an abyss.

The real answer to the accomplishment question may lie in the biggest overarching promise of all, the one to which some clung and his detractors scoffed, which was to “Make America Great Again.”

The feeling here is that we were never great, and I challenge you to show me a time in our blood-stained history when we were. Remember, people, “great” is a perfect 10, not a 9 or a 9.5.

Before you tell me to love it or leave it, I do believe that what makes America great is that our potential for greatness has a high ceiling.

As far as giving him a chance, I’m willing to give anyone a chance.

Sure, I was left pretty much bewildered that the national electorate could be so misinformed, but there was a thought – a Hail Mary pass, really – that this wheeler-dealer could bring both sides to the table and end gridlock.

Instead, it has gotten so bad that Obama-era gridlock would be an improvement.

As far that chance you want me to give him, your president (not mine) pretty much lost me at hello. It was a 1-2 punch. His lack of leadership in the wake of Charlottesville, and then with his aloof pomposity – and pledges of the allegiance to the NRA — after horrific mass shootings were turnoffs beyond repair.

And let us not forget his arrogant ignorance toward Puerto Rico, treating this American territory like a foreign country, after Hurricane Maria.

The arrests of those in his administration, and the whole Stormy Daniels thing, almost seemed like side freak shows outside the big tent (even though they would have brought down other presidents not wearing coats of Teflon armor).

The net results of these missteps show up in the lowest approval ratings in modern history (source: Gallup) and the highest senior staff turnover rate (source: Brookings Institute).

But there is good news.

So good, in fact, that the promise of a modicum of greatness is within reach.

I saw it in the generations of women marching in D.C., not to mention around the nation.

I saw it in the young people, the voters of tomorrow, doing the same after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

I saw it in the results of the 2018 midterms that created the most diverse representation of the changing culture that the backers of your president (not mine) were galvanized to resist via coded language.

And I see it in the resilience of barely five-foot Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who – in the words of the late great Tom Petty – won’t back down to the 6-foot-3 orange giant.

Now, we just need to see it from Robert Mueller.

Oddly, this reachable American greatness is one your president (not mine) may achieve at his own peril.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Sunday, Feb. 10.

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