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Wednesday, 08 March 2017 20:02

Trump tweets himself back into the muck

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As near as I can tell, the readers of this newspaper are pretty evenly divided on whether I should continue writing columns about President Donald Trump. I get emails, letters, Facebook messages and comments from readers I bump into at church or in the grocery store who assure me that I am contributing something meaningful to our democracy and urge me on, as a member of the much-maligned free press doing my best to speak truth to power. At the very least, those of us in the media who are willing to take on Trump are providing some measure of relief or catharsis to those who feel threatened, disgusted or alienated by the president.

On the other hand, I get a lot of vivid suggestions on other types of columns I could or should be writing, with some readers going to the trouble of recommending hobbies I might take up (jumping off of cliffs, or hurling myself into heavy traffic), places I might go (hell is the current frontrunner, with a smattering of Middle-Eastern countries also in the mix), and people with whom I might have sex (myself, overwhelmingly).

I have been writing columns a long time now, so I’ve seen my share of angry letters over the years. I’ve been upbraided by members of the school board, chastened by Ethan Allen (the furniture chain) and threatened by a grand cyclops from the Ku Klux Klan. Fine. But a few of the ones I have been receiving of late are of a different species entirely, especially the anonymous ones, which are particularly mean-spirited and personal, making references to my wife and kids, as well as how unpopular I am at the fitness center where I go to exercise. Apparently, there is a group of “conservative men” there who would like to spit on me while I am there working out, only they have “too much class.”

Look, I can be as defiant as the next person and could write about Trump every other week since he is a fountain of column material, though I much prefer writing human-interest stories about my kids getting braces, the dawn of a new baseball season, or the agony and the ecstasy of the squirrel population in my backyard and our ongoing battle over the birdfeeder. Those columns are more fun to write, and they keep my blood pressure at an acceptable level.

I really would like to write about something other than President Trump, anything else, anything at all. The problem is that he won’t let me. Before I can go two weeks without writing about the president, he first has to get through more than two days without saying, tweeting or doing something that is so reckless, so outrageous and so dangerous that it demands not only comment, but as much collective correction as we all can possibly muster.

I thought last week might be a turning point of sorts. The president delivered a speech to Congress that was so well-received that even Anderson Cooper called it “one of his best speeches ever.” He struck a much more positive tone and stayed on message, which is easier to do when you are reading a prepared and well-rehearsed speech from a teleprompter. Still, the media ate it up and spent the evening fawning over how “presidential” the President suddenly seemed.

But the honeymoon was over almost before it started. A few short days later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigation — present or future — into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election and contact between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, which sent the president into a tizzy.

An even bigger bombshell came two days later when Trump tweeted his accusation — without a single drop of evidence — that former President Obama had wiretapped his phones prior to the 2016 election.

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump wrote. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Read those words. Let the import of what our president is suggesting sink in. We have a sitting president accusing a former president of committing a crime (since the president does not have the authority to wiretap anyone), or seeking a court order to conduct surveillance of a private citizen, which raises the question of what probable cause the court might have found to authorize a wiretap in the first place?

The former president has flatly denied the charges. In the meantime, FBI Director James Comey apparently sought through his staff to reach out to the Justice Department to push back against Trump’s allegations. Eventually, the Justice Department will be forced to respond. Inevitably, there will be an investigation, not only into Russia’s interference into our election and any ties it may have had to the Trump campaign, but Trump’s own charges that former President Obama had him wiretapped.

If it turns out that Trump’s allegations are not true, he should resign. It was one thing when he led the “birther movement,” a malicious lie that former President Obama was not born in the United States. It was another thing when he lied that he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of people voting illegally, another allegation made without a shred of evidence.

Whatever credibility this administration has left is riding on the outcome of this latest allegation. It should be clear now that the “kinder, gentler” Trump was a mirage. By the end of the week, the real Donald Trump stood up. And then he sank back into the muck, because that is his natural habitat.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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