Nov. 8, 2016, was despair day, tears and groaning day, disbelief day. Donald Trump had been elected president although everyone knew that could never occur. So now, in the minds of some, it was time to undo what happened, no conscience needed. The old norms? The rule of law? Sorry, but that would just slow them down, and here came the anti-Trump crusaders more threatening than Trump.
There’s no question about the overreaching. Incriminating, perhaps felonious leaks from intelligence agencies poured forth in unprecedented numbers. Courts intervened to stop legal Trump actions. Some news outlets became blues outlets. Free speech, already struggling, disappeared at some universities. Some psychologists in need of examination said Trump was loony. A comedian aimed for giggles by pretending to be holding up Trump’s severed head.
As it turned out, however, it was “impeachment” instead of “decapitation” that became the word of the moment, and then there was this conspiracy theory about collusion with the Russians. Some questions had been asked before the election, but the speculation now reached a boiling point. Soon enough we had a special counsel investigation.
And now we have a stranger-than-fiction development.
It seems that an actual Russian collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign produced mostly discredited dirt on Trump that the FBI then used to help enable its spying on a private citizen suspected of aiding the imagined Trump collusion. The FBI did not want to talk to a congressional oversight committee about it because, after all, why should it be answerable to anyone?
Finally, the agency had to and then there was this Republican memo summing up some of the testimony and classified documents, telling us how a dossier of the Clinton campaign dirt was used as evidence to persuade a Foreign Surveillance Court to give the go-ahead to do the spying.
The FBI screeched that none of the memo should be released because it would endanger security, which it didn’t. Then we had a war of interpretations as Democrats said the GOP misrepresented the truth and Republicans talked about liberal politics superseding fundamental demands of ethics and law. Former FBI director James Comey jumped in.
“That’s it?” he asked in a tweet about the GOP memo. “Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”
Well, that’s bosh, but they should keep doing their jobs despite what Comey has done to them. He broke every protocol there was when, as FBI director, he gave a press conference essentially telling us that Clinton as secretary of state violated security laws by using her personal email server for classified materials.
He then said no prosecution would work because of an inability to prove criminal intent. It turned out he had not tried to prove much because, in an FBI interview with Clinton, she was not required to take an oath and nothing was recorded. Later, when Comey decided to publicly reopen the Clinton case pretty much on the basis of nothing, he just may have cost her the election.
After Trump fired him, Comey arranged for his own memo on a talk they had to get in the hands of the press, a matter of legal dubiety, and he is now serving as a top witness for his friend Robert Mueller, which is highly questionable. Mueller, the special counsel, may not have much of a collusion case against Trump and may instead be focusing on obstruction of justice. He wants an interview. If Trump agrees, this man with a roulette wheel for a mouth could end up facing charges on just about anything.
Meanwhile, everyone is focused on the November midterm elections, saying the Democrats may retake the House and, if they do, impeachment is certain.
We may at least be spared a guillotine.
If you’d told one of my grandparents, “What I really want from a job is relevance, flexibility and autonomy,” they wouldn’t have thought, “Let’s help her get some guidance from a professional counselor or a career coach.” They’d have made a sign of the cross, then sent for a priest and demanded an exorcist.
The very words “innovation, flexibility and autonomy” weren’t in their vocabularies — not even in their native tongues — and certainly wouldn’t have applied to any requirements they had for employment.
My grandparents did shift work. Always carefully pronounced, it was usually miserable. These unpleasant jobs were, not coincidentally, the most poorly paid.
But paid they were, and that was all anybody expected. Their children, a few rungs up the social ladder, learned to expect more. Not much, but some.
Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but they had better jobs than their parents. They were literate, numerate and, in their own ways, ambitious. When they were teenagers, my mother was a switchboard operator and my father was a radio operator on a B-24 Liberator bomber. Then my dad joined his brothers in a small factory sewing bedspreads and curtains.
He had the kind of job where he showered as soon as he got home; he always hoped my brother and I would be able to have the kind of jobs where you showered before you went to work.
And both of us do — now. It took a few years. The next generation of our particular tribe seems, knock wood, to be OK. If they’re running, it’s not from the cops, but in marathons. If they’re sleeping outside, it’s in a tent and on purpose.
But I worry. I worry about kids I know who have dropped out of school and who do actually need workplace counselors because they have no clue how to be self-sufficient. They need to learn how to keep a job by showing up on time — sober — and accepting responsibility for their actions. I worry about friends in the community who, like my grandparents, have no option but to accept minimum-wage positions without benefits and are haunted by the constant threat of unemployment.
In even more practical terms, what were once called “fringe” benefits have increasingly become the very reason to get a job in the first place.
With the idea of universal health care being gutted, if you don’t have health insurance through your employers, you’ll be performing your own appendectomy with toothpicks, bendy straws and cosmetic sponges.
If you don’t have a retirement plan through your company or institution, you might end up spending your golden years playing the penny slots. After all, casinos are now America’s version of elder care.
And unthinkable, perhaps, as it would have been to my grandparents or to most human beings currently on the planet, the most privileged of us expect far more than a paycheck from our jobs.
These hopes include but are not limited to: 1. Wanting a creative job that can be worked either from home or in a space equipped with ergonomically designed furniture featuring ample light and stimulating colleagues; 2. Searching for a way to change the world for the better through the combined talents of a group of highly motivated, intellectually gifted and passionate individuals and 3. Relying on free parking, free coffee and free school supplies for everyone you’ve ever met since you have access to the supply cabinet.
But what most of us want is fair compensation and a chance to use our skills, engage our talents and develop the best of our imaginative resources.
We want to show up and be recognized. We want to be treated with dignity and offered respect for what we do, whether it’s waiting tables, selling cars or working for the FBI.
If you’ve never done the job, you probably have no idea how hard it is. I don’t care whether it’s washing floors or being Senate majority leader, the person who works hard, especially if it means cleaning up after others, deserves credit.
Work, like love, should never be taken lightly. Done well, it will involve long-term commitment, and at its best, it’s a gift. And sometimes, when you’re really lucky, there will be coffee.
WASHINGTON — Military parades, “treasonous” opponents — do you sense a pattern here?
President Trump is such a master of the politics of distraction that everything he says and does is assumed to be a diversion from something more important, the Russia collusion issue above all.
It’s certainly true that in Trump’s exotic circus of scandal and outrage, many stories that would have engulfed earlier administrations roll right off the back of the news cycle. Consider, for starters, his profiting while president from his resorts and golf clubs, his alleged payoff of a porn star, and the resignation of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over conflicts of interest.
On the substance of policy, he can govern largely by stealth. Discussion of the decisions his administration has made on a range of regulatory, environmental, labor, health care and tax matters gets pushed to the bottom of the public agenda.
It will thus be tempting to dismiss Trump’s desire to have a big military parade as yet another ploy to change the subject. Trump knows perfectly well that many liberals are uneasy with massive demonstrations of military strength, so some who might raise their voices in dissent could draw back out of fear that he is baiting them and that they’ll play into his hands. Trump clearly longs to be the lead figure on the reviewing stand gazing out on the tanks and missiles as a tribute to his own power, while casting his critics as unpatriotic foes of our men and women in uniform.
But this is precisely why his parade proposal should be treated as dangerous and not simply another bout of Trumpian ego enhancement. It comes within days of Trump’s charge that Democrats who did not stand and cheer him during his State of the Union address could be guilty of “treason.”
When a leader who often praises strongmen abroad defines routine political opposition as disloyalty to country and then suggests hauling out the military to march in our streets as he looks down from on high, friends of freedom should take notice. Those who challenge the portrayals of Trump as an authoritarian or an autocrat because our freedoms are still intact miss the point. In enduring democracies such as ours, liberty is eroded slowly by politicians who undermine the norms and practices that protect it. There is good reason why we have not made military parades a standard part of our patriotic repertoire.
Trump said he got this idea from France, our democratic ally whose Bastille Day military procession goes back 138 years. This gives him cover because spectacles of the sort Trump has in mind are associated less with free nations than with dictatorships in Russia, North Korea, China, and the totalitarian regimes of the 1930s.
The United States, born in republican opposition to royalist rule, has been properly reticent about flaunting our formidable arsenal, typically limiting such displays to celebrations of war victories. This is in keeping with a tradition that regularly honors those who sacrifice to defend our country, but resolutely limits the political role of the armed forces.
There is also an element of pragmatism in our shunning of martial ostentatiousness. Our military is, as Defense Secretary James Mattis has said, “the world’s most feared and trusted force.” There is no need to prove this with a pageant of might that is at least as likely to inspire resentment as respect — especially since it is now inevitable that even our friends abroad would see Trumpian excess in this break with our past, as Rick Noack noted in The Washington Post.
Mattis has done better than most Trump appointees in avoiding complicity with the president’s worst abuses. Perhaps Mattis has decided to preserve his influence by humoring Trump’s parade envy. Here’s hoping that instead, a Marine who knows what genuine battlefield heroism entails will find a way to sideline this very bad idea.
He might persuade Trump to contain his self-indulgence and spend the money a parade would cost on scholarships for the children of wounded warriors and those who have died in battle, or to help homeless vets. This is what real patriotism looks like.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the last great general to serve as president, urged “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” to mesh the “huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Trump’s parade is the antithesis of Ike’s prudence and his commitment to safeguarding our democracy.
I spent more than 23 years in the military and no one wants to be in a parade, plus the cost is unreal.
After the first Gulf War, I knew troops who were paid to go to Washington, D.C., and New York City just to march in a parade.
Your tax dollars paid for thousands of personnel, equipment and aircraft.
I don't think we need to waste money for President Donald Trump's entertainment. He can watch North Korea's numerous parades tax free.
Fred Schwingle, Onalaska