Thursday, February 22, 2018

Best defense against Russia's lies: `Consider the source' -- Feb. 22, 2018 column


The Russians are coming – for real. And they’ll meddle in our November elections.

After all, it worked for them in 2016.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee Feb. 13.

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Coats said.

Even President Donald Trump now concedes Russians interfered in the last presidential election, though he still cannot bring himself to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin. Authorities agree there’s no evidence vote tallies were altered, but it’s impossible to know how many minds were changed.

Russia’s goal is to sow fear, distrust, discord and divisiveness in America and elsewhere and restore Russia’s role as a world power, experts say. Russians have been successfully pushing our emotional buttons for years, using social media.

Most recently, after the massacre in Parkland, Florida, they used #guncontrolnow and #gunreformnow to stir the pot. They used similar tactics following the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas.

Russians began posing as Americans in social media, creating false stories and spewing tweets, in 2014. These were trial runs to see how much they could get Americans to believe, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday after an extensive investigation.

We take the bait -- as the tale of the tainted turkey demonstrates.

Around Thanksgiving 2015, someone claiming to be Alice Norton, a 31-year-old mother of two in New York City, wrote on a cooking website forum that her whole family had gotten food poisoning from a Walmart turkey. Twitter repeated the claim thousands of time, and a news story reported 200 people were in critical condition at hospitals.

The story was a hoax. There was no such outbreak of food poisoning, the Journal reported. The claims were linked to a Kremlin propaganda agency charged with meddling in U.S. elections by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The tainted turkey was just one of several fictitious events Russian propagandists manufactured before they moved on to support Trump and Bernie Sanders while disparaging Hillary Clinton, the Journal said.

The United States continues to be “under attack” by those who want to create cyber disruption, Coats and other intelligence officials warned. Our response?

“We’ve had more than a year to get our act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter future attacks,” Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said at the hearing. “We still do not have a plan.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a Cyber-Digital Task Force Tuesday to study what the Justice Department is doing to combat global security threats. Interference in our elections is one priority.  

That’s good, as far as it goes.

Social media companies are shutting down Russian bots, the automated accounts that flood tweets and posts, but as soon as one account is gone, others pop up.  

If we can’t rely on the government or corporations to stop the flow of misinformation by November, if ever, what can we do?  

Three words: Consider the source.

That’s what my mother said when I was a child and a bully said or did something ugly. Consider the source means don’t pay attention to someone whose opinion doesn’t matter.

Now more than ever we need to know if the source of information is credible. Don’t rely on Wikipedia or your friends to have their facts straight.

To recognize bots, experts suggest checking an account’s bio and profile picture. If the language is odd, if you Google the image and find it all over the Internet, if the “person” tweets more than seems humanly possible – move on. Don’t share it.  

We need to cultivate more good old American skepticism. Propaganda works because it plays to our existing distrust and divisions. Recognize when you love or hate something online it may be because it confirms your bias. We all have them.

This election year, look before you retweet. Don’t be played for a sucker.

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

George Washington's rules inspire search for civility -- Feb. 15, 2018 column


In the entertaining novel, “Rules of Civility,” about 20-somethings in glamorous, 1930s New York, the enigmatic Tinker Grey keeps with him a much-underlined copy of George Washington’s rules of proper behavior.

Tinker aspires to the refined life the rules represent, though narrator Katey scoffs that the rules are “A do-it-yourself charm school. A sort of How to Win Friends and Influence People 150 years ahead of its time.”

You’ll have to read Amor Towles’s novel to see how it turns out – and you should. A welcome escape from today’s news, it was published in 2011, became a New York Times bestseller and Wall Street Journal best book of the year, and has been published in more than 15 languages.

And, besides, all 110 of Washington’s rules appear in the novel’s appendix, with the quirky spelling, punctuation and capitalization preserved. Anyone can benefit from an acquaintance with “Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”

Washington didn’t dream up the rules or even compile them. The Jesuits composed the rules about 1595 and they were translated into English about 1640. Washington wrote them out as a penmanship lesson before he was 16.

Biographers say Washington was self-conscious about his lack of a gentleman’s education and took the rules so seriously they helped form his character.
Many concern table manners, such as “Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy” (Rule 92) and some personal dress: “Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they are Brush’d once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness” (51).

Others speak to personal conduct: “Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad Company” (56).

And some offer sage advice on public discourse. “Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ‘tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern” (58).

And, “Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly” (73).

As we celebrate Washington’s 286th birthday on Presidents Day on Monday, more Americans lament the loss of civility.

“There is more civility in a death penalty case than there is in some congressional hearings,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, told Politico.

Gowdy, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a former federal prosecutor, announced Jan. 31 he’s leaving Congress and politics after this term to return to the justice system.  

After a congressman was shot and gravely wounded last summer in Alexandria during practice for a congressional baseball game, members of Congress from both parties pledged to be more civil.

A bipartisan group of House members proposed a National Civility Day to remind people that “civility involves being nice or polite to others and treating others with respect.” The bill has gone nowhere.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, weighing in on our toxic politics, suggested a solution in a video: “We control our own actions. Let’s be more civil. Let’s improve our tone.”

Many people blame President Donald Trump and his barnyard vocabulary for the coarsening of the culture, and his insults and name-calling certainly hurt the cause of civility. Trump, as usual, blames the news media.

“I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am,” he told reporters last fall.
If Trump had read Washington’s rules, he’d know: “Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile” (49), “Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any” (50) and “Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof.” (79)

Anyone can read Washington’s rules on “Every action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present” (Rule 1) and “Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience” (110) are worthy goals.

And if, while on Mount Vernon’s website, you happen onto an annoying Page Not Found 404 error, you’ll find “Rules of Civility #404: `When confronted by a missing web page do not gnash thy teeth, but rather press forward with a fine countenance towards the next available page.’”

Sound advice. Washington would approve.

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

What would Lincoln say? Hot tweets not cool -- Feb. 8, 2018 column


If there’s a president Donald Trump admires more than himself, it must be “the late, great Abraham Lincoln.”

“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office,” Trump told a rally last summer.

“Great president,” Trump said of Lincoln last year at a dinner for House Republicans. “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican. Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that. We have to build that up a little more.”

For the record, Republicans call themselves the party of Lincoln, and polls show most Americans know Lincoln was a Republican. 

Lincoln’s 209th birthday will be Monday, but you might miss it. It’s not a federal or even a state holiday most places.

Only Illinois, Connecticut, Missouri and New York still observe it in February, according to the National Constitution Center. Indiana, oddly, celebrates Lincoln’s birthday the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Tourists who happen by the Lincoln Memorial at noon Monday will find a free ceremony open to the public with music, speeches and wreaths. At the Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky, park staff will lay a wreath.

The following Monday, the third Monday in February, is the federal holiday that commemorates George Washington’s birthday. Congress never officially changed the name, though the holiday became known as Presidents Day.  

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY Abraham Lincoln!!!” Trump shouted via Instagram last year with a picture of the Lincoln Memorial and what was supposed to be a quotation from Lincoln: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

But those were not Lincoln’s words. The quotation came from an advertisement for a self-help book on aging in 1947, fact checkers reported.

There is a way Trump can honor the 16th president that has nothing to do with capital letters, exclamation points or fake quotes, however. He can learn from Lincoln the brilliance of the unsent letter.

It’s a lesson any of us can apply in our “Tweet First, Think Later” age. 

When he was angry, Lincoln’s ritual was to write a letter venting his feelings and put the hot letter aside until he cooled off, when he would decide not to send it.

A famous example is his letter to Gen. George Meade after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Although the Union Army was victorious, Meade had let Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his army get away.

“I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would . . . have ended the war,” the president wrote Meade.

“As it is the war will be prolonged indefinitely…Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it,” said the anguished commander in chief.

Lincoln knew the power of his words and chose not to demoralize his general in the field. The letter was found decades later among other Lincoln papers, with a notation that it was never signed or sent.

“Now obviously the opposite of that is when President Trump gets angry with somebody, that tweet goes out immediately,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Jan. 24 in an interview.

“I sometimes think if only he had a hot tweet and a cool tweet, maybe things would be a lot better,” said Goodwin, author of “Team of Rivals” about the political genius of Lincoln in choosing political rivals for his Cabinet.

Lincoln was a master of communication in his time; his Gettysburg Address is recited to this day. Trump is the first president to master social media. But neither Trump nor anyone else could remember the content of his impulsive tweets, as ephemeral as his moods.

On Lincoln’s birthday, we can all be glad Trump admires the president historians consistently rate the best in history.

But if he truly wishes to honor Honest Abe, he – and we -- should stop and think before we fire off that hot tweet.

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ask not for whom the toll tolls -- Feb. 1, 2018 column


President Donald Trump waxed almost-poetic in his State of the Union speech about rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

“Together, we can reclaim our great building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways, all across our land,” he said Tuesday night.

Sounds good, but don’t let the bling distract you. Somebody has to pay for those gleaming new roads. Don’t be surprised if tolls are the price of convenience and safety.

In Northern Virginia, you could buy a nice restaurant meal for what it costs to drive alone for a few miles at rush hour.

Solo motorists who hopped on I-66 at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 24, a Wednesday, paid $46.75 in tolls to drive from Washington’s Beltway to Rosslyn or Washington – a trip of nine miles.

The toll was among the highest since Dec. 4, when tolls began on the express lanes, radio station WTOP reported, adding the Virginia Department of Transportation, which owns and operates the express lanes, says the system is working as designed.

Under what’s called dynamic pricing, tolls change every six minutes, rising to discourage drivers from using the lanes to keep traffic flowing. Tolls vary quite a bit. The estimated toll at 8:30 a.m. Thursday for a solo driver going the same nine miles was $22.25.

Those traveling with two or more people still ride free, but all solo drivers must pay, even those in hybrid vehicles or en route to or from Dulles International Airport. Express lane toll hours on I-66 inside the Beltway are 3 to 7 p.m. westbound and 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. eastbound Monday through Friday.

Efforts are underway in the Virginia General Assembly to limit I-66 tolls. If Congress goes along with Trump’s infrastructure plan, though, motorists can expect more tolls down the road, so to speak.  

Infrastructure is supposed to be an area of bipartisan support, but as usual the devil is in the . . . politics.

President Barack Obama tried repeatedly to pass infrastructure bills, only to hit Republican roadblocks. Trump has been talking about his big infrastructure plans since the campaign.

When Hillary Clinton proposed $275 billion in federal infrastructure spending over five years, Trump saw her bid and more than doubled it.

“Her number is a fraction of what we’re talking about,” Trump said in an August 2016 interview with Fox Business. “I would say at least double her numbers, but you’re going to really need a lot more than that.”

Trump urged Congress Tuesday to work together to pass a bill for “at least $1.5 trillion” for infrastructure. Details will be released in coming weeks, but the administration is expected to propose contributing $200 billion in federal funds over 10 years and to leverage the rest from state and local governments and the private sector.

Now Democrats are balking.

“A nothing burger” is how Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, described Trump’s infrastructure remarks.

“President Trump cannot pretend to solve our infrastructure woes by slashing real investments to states and local governments, pushing the responsibility off federal balance sheets, cutting existing transportation programs to pay for Wall Street and foreign investors to toll our roads, and gutting bedrock environmental protections,” DeFazio said in a statement.

A leaked memo of principles for the administration’s infrastructure bill, obtained by The Hill newspaper, contends states should be given the “flexibility” to collect tolls and use the revenue to invest in infrastructure projects. States were banned from tolling on interstates in 1956, with some exceptions for states already collecting tolls on some highways.

But the trucking industry and other transportation groups object to higher tolls. The memo didn’t mention raising the gas tax, which has not increased since 1993.

“If Trump relies on the private sector and forcing states and localities to come up with their own funding, Trump’s infrastructure plan could result in a patchwork of tolls that span coast to coast,” said Stephanie Kane, spokesperson for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, in a statement.

Everybody likes the idea of gleaming new roads and safer bridges, and nobody enjoys paying tolls. Don’t spend your tax cut just yet. You may need it.

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can Trump control Trump in State of the Union -- Jan. 25, 2018 column

President Donald Trump faces a tough foe as he prepares for his first State of the Union address Tuesday – and it’s not Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader who lately has seemed a paper tiger.
No, Trump’s worst enemy is himself. The showman has never learned to get out of his own way. His outsized personality casts shadows over everything he touches, even, unfortunately for him, policies people like.
His job approval rating has set records – for being historically low. Only 36 percent approve of the job Trump is doing, the latest Washington Post-ABC News and Gallup polls report. A year after their inaugurations, Barack Obama was at 50 percent, and George W. Bush achieved a stunning 82 percent.
Trump faces a dilemma few, if any, of his predecessors have faced. People are happier with the economy than they’ve been in decades -- but they don’t credit Trump or his policies.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say the economy is excellent or good – the highest number in 17 years, the Post-ABC poll said. Traditionally, a president gets credit for a good economy, but so far that linkage has been broken, even though Trump touts the economy at nearly every event.
Trump has become the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents. He gets no respect.
Only 38 percent of people say the Trump administration deserves a great deal or good amount of credit for the economy, while 50 percent say the Obama administration deserves a great deal or good amount of credit, the Post-ABC poll found.
If Trump didn’t boast so much, in effect begging for praise, he might get more. His habit of blaming others for his misfortunes – Democrats, the FBI, Hollywood, the mainstream media – also makes him look petty.
Instead of whining, he could up his own vocabulary and use restraint while tweeting. Sadly, this is as obvious as it is increasingly unlikely.
Americans have become accustomed to the daily diet of boasts, insults and threats from the White House. Many see Trump’s drama as his way of distracting attention from the Russia investigation, but these ploys also overshadow positive trends in employment and the stock market.
Trump has maintained the support of his base but has yet to win over Democrats or independent voters, polls show.
Democrats still struggle to do more than complain about Trump. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus plan to boycott the speech. Democrats who do attend may wear black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement.
If they’re wise, though, no matter what Trump says, Democrats will maintain decorum. No good would come of stooping to the level of Rep. Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, who shouted “You lie!” at Obama during a joint session speech on health care in 2009.
We’re likely to see Trump extol his first-year achievements, such as the tax law, reduced regulations, jobs he says are returning to the United States and judicial appointments. He may offer an olive branch or two.
He may find moderation more productive in the long term as he finally turns to a major infrastructure improvement plan, a subject that’s dear to Democratic as well as Republican hearts.
He could take another step toward improving his image with Democrats with a solid proposal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, expected to be released Monday.
Schumer said negotiating with this White House is like “negotiating with Jell-o.” But Trump’s comments Wednesday about a multi-year path to citizenship for the immigrants known as Dreamers show compromise may be possible.
Helping Dreamers would be popular, even if it comes with the high cost of billions for a border wall.
Politics permeate State of the Union addresses, and this one will kick off the 2018 congressional campaigns. Trump’s re-election campaign has already run a tough ad against Democrats regarding immigration, so, like it or not, the 2020 presidential campaign is upon us as well.
Trump says he needs more Republicans in Congress to help him pass his agenda, but Democrats, energized by special election victories, hope for a blue wave election, possibly retaking control of the House.
A little restraint could do Trump a world of good legislatively. But only if he can curb his instincts for bare-knuckles politicking.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another president names his media enemies -- Jan. 18, 2018 column


President Donald Trump built up expectations for his “Fake News Awards” for weeks, but when he finally named names, it was underwhelming.

On Jan. 2 he promised to list “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA” on Jan. 8, then postponed the big reveal nine days.

“The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!” he tweeted.

Oh, the excitement. Late-night comedians competed to be ranked the worst in Trump’s eyes. Stephen Colbert bought a billboard in Times Square. Two senators excoriated Trump for his assaults on journalism and free speech. 

But then Trump, or someone in the White House, seemed to recognize his latest attempt at media shaming had gotten away from him. His awards were cause for fun, not fear.

His tweet Wednesday night – a straight-forward, “And the FAKE NEWS winners are…” -- linked to a Republican website. The link broke.   

The whole episode was more fizzle than firecracker.  

Trump’s Top 10 list was comprised of old news stories he had called out in tweets over the last year, plus the Russian investigation. If the list proved anything, it was that Trump holds grudges. But we already knew that.

Trump’s list shows his narrow obsession with reporters and news outlets that present news stories he doesn’t like. Trump’s Top 10 included the usual mainstream media suspects – reporters and columnists for The New York Times (two), CNN (four), ABC, Time, The Washington Post and Newsweek. Poor CBS, NBC and MSNBC didn’t rate a mention.

Trump may inadvertently be creating a new category of media hero. At the least it’s good business to be on the receiving end of Trump condemnation.

Michael Wolff was a peripheral purveyor of gossipy tidbits in Manhattan until he wrote “Fire and Fury” a behind-the-scenes look at the dysfunctional president and his first year in the White House. After Trump threatened to go to court to stop publication, booksellers couldn’t keep it on the shelves.

“Where do I send the box of chocolates,” Wolff asked as sales soared and publisher Henry Holt rushed to print more copies.

Look for more buzz and sales of two new books that mine the evils of the Trump effect:  “Trumpocracy” by former White House speechwriter David Frum and “It’s Even Worse Than You Think” by longtime Trump-watcher David Cay Johnston.

Film director Steven Spielberg, sensing the time was right for a movie about truth and the press, rushed to shoot and finish “The Post,” in just nine months.

Starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, the movie tells the story of The Washington Post’s publication in 1971 of the top-secret Pentagon Papers after a court stopped The New York Times from continuing its publication of them. 

“The Post” also serves as a tribute to a woman who found her resolve. Publisher Katharine Graham was trying to keep the Post afloat by taking public the family-owned paper. Her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers helped turn the Post into a national newspaper.

The movie reverberates with the manic, anti-press sentiments of a shadowy Richard Nixon.

So now Trump, who has called the news media “the enemy of the people,” has a sort-of enemies list of his own, a la Nixon.

Nixon’s enemies list, compiled starting in 1971, eventually contained hundreds of names and was a Who’s Who of journalism, academia, government, business, labor and the entertainment industry (Carol Channing, Steve McQueen and Joe Namath, among others).

Being on Nixon’s enemies list was a badge of honor, an essential line years later in someone’s obituary.

These days, as people for better or worse choose their national news reports according to their political views, subscriptions to the liberal New York Times and Washington Post and the conservative Wall Street Journal have soared.

One thing hasn’t changed. News is still the first rough draft of history, with emphasis on rough. When there are mistakes, as there always have been, reputable news organizations still correct their errors -- something Trump rarely, if ever, does.  

Trump’s Fake News awards were of zero consequence. His stringent attacks on the news media, though, may unintentionally give journalism a boost – like another movie, “All the President’s Men” about the Watergate scandal -- and a new generation of journalists reason to get up in the morning.

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Much ado about Oprah -- Jan. 11, 2018 column


Not since an obscure senator took the stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention has a single speech caused such a Democratic swoon. Until Oprah.

Back then, a fervent Barack Obama stirred hearts when he said: “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

In her moving, nine-minute speech at the Golden Globes last Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey stirred hearts when she put her own humble childhood in the story of the nation’s fitful progress toward racial and women’s equality.  

“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” she thundered. The tour de force brought soaring hopes and a down-to-earth challenge from the incumbent. 

“I’ll beat Oprah,” President Donald Trump said, adding, “I know Oprah; I don’t think she’s going to run.”

We should all hope she doesn’t run – and not because we want a second Trump term. As appealing as Winfrey is, the last thing America needs is another unqualified and untested celebrity in the Oval Office.

Experience still matters, as Trump’s struggles have shown. You wouldn’t let someone with no veterinary training or experience operate on your dog – simply because you admired her attitude. Surely experience in governing should carry as much weight.

At 63, Winfrey has reached the pinnacle of success. Forbes estimates her worth at $3 billion. She has earned $300 million since 2015 just from lending her presence to Weight Watchers. Millions read her magazine and the books she recommends.

She’s the third-most-admired woman on the planet, behind Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, according to the latest Gallup poll. For the record, among men Trump comes in second, behind Barack Obama and ahead of the Pope and Billy Graham.

But what are Winfrey’s public policy positions? She says she’s apolitical and has voted for Republicans as well as Democrats. Smart for business.

She favors tougher gun control measures, LGBT and abortion rights and protecting young adults under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Her lack of government experience means no record on which to judge her. It also means she has no firsthand knowledge of how to get things done in Washington. How much would her policies recycle Obama’s?   

Make no mistake, if Oprah says 2020 is a go, she’d jump to the front of the Democratic line -- mainly because there is no line, just hopefuls milling around.   

Fans have been after her to run for president for years, but Trump’s election got Winfrey actively thinking about it. 

“I never considered the question even a possibility. I thought, `Oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough. Now I’m thinking, `oh!’” Winfrey said in an interview last March.

When Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, beating supposed frontrunner Hillary Clinton, he was 47 and had no major, or even minor, accomplishments in Washington. That inexperience would haunt his presidency.

But during the campaign he had something Clinton lacked. Oprah endorsed her old friend.

“Because I know him personally,” she told Larry King. “I haven’t done it in the past because I haven’t felt that anybody, I didn’t know anybody well enough to be able to say, `I believe in this person.’”

She added in gracious, Oprah fashion: “I have not one negative thing to say about Hillary Clinton.”

We’ll see if Winfrey can withstand the siren song of becoming the first female president and whether she’ll put herself through the wringer of her first political campaign against an incumbent president who enjoys bullying and tweeting personal insults and lies.

News reports already have questioned Oprah’s CEO skills, her long-time fondness for junk science and whether she looked the other way about sexual harassment in Hollywood. Soul singer Seal asked if Oprah was an enabler of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein’s despicable behavior. All this in less than a week. 

Winfrey’s inspiring personal story makes real the American dream. We can hope generations of young people – girls and boys – see her as a role model.

But the White House is not a prize America awards its most famous or because we admire someone’s style or business success. That’s a lesson we should have learned by now.

©2018 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.