Thursday, October 26, 2017

The president's new clothes -- Oct. 26, 2017 column


In the Hans Christian Andersen fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” when the little child sees the emperor without clothes, he blurts out the truth.  

Everybody in the village instantly realizes the child is right -- except for the emperor who, shivering, carries on.

“So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all,” the story ends.

If only real life were that simple.

There was no universally shared “ah-ha” moment when two former presidents, a the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and two sitting senators – one his party’s former presidential nominee -- separately denounced President Donald Trump.

Instead, opinion in the American village split along predictable lines. The critiques won praise from the Democratic left and fell on deaf ears of the president’s Republican supporters.

In the latest poll by Fox News, Trump’s favorite news outlet, a whopping 83 percent of Republicans still approve of the job Trump is doing. Only 7 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents approve, Fox reported Wednesday.

Overall, because Trump can’t expand support beyond his base, only 38 percent of registered voters surveyed approve of his job performance. That was a new low for the Fox poll.

Americans in 2017 live in parallel universes with their separate news sources, heroes and very different takes on events at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Trump’s foes see nothing good in him and his fans are blind to his faults. Trump himself ricochets between calling congressional Republicans names and insisting they’re having a love fest.

Critics say Trump has accomplished nothing, while he and his press secretary cling to the dubious claim he’s already done more 10 months than President Barack Obama in eight years.

Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has struck fear in the hearts of Republicans with his well-funded plans to sweep Washington clean of incumbent GOP senators, except for hardliners like Texan Ted Cruz.

Many political observers believe Trump must deliver a substantial policy change to keep Republican voters’ support, hence the rush to enact a tax cut before year’s end.

But Trump’s constant blaming others for his failure to deliver on any of his major campaign promises – build the wall, bring back coal jobs, replace Obamacare with a better, cheaper plan – has worked for him so far.

What is different now is the growing bipartisan resistance to Trump. His two predecessors have taken the extraordinary step of warning Americans about the direction Trump is taking the country. Neither named Trump directly, but their message was clear.

Former President George W. Bush said almost nothing for the eight years Obama was in the White House.

But things have gone so off the rails that the Republican felt obliged to say Oct. 19: “People of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

Lamenting “our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush pointedly said, “And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.”

Speaking the same day at a campaign rally in Richmond for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, Obama said, “Why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other and be cruel to each other and put each other down?”

Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona have rebuked Trump by name, saying he is unfit for office, divisive and debasing the country.

McCain is battling brain cancer, and Corker and Flake, conceding heavy weather for mainstream Republicans in GOP primaries, have announced they will not run for re-election next year.    

Unlike other Republicans, they are free to speak their minds, but such scathing criticism from within a president’s own party is rare. A tough defense and strong fiscal conservatism have been bedrocks of Republicanism for decades.

So when we see staunch fiscal conservatives like Corker and Flake and a defense hawk like McCain call out a Republican president for his policies and his behavior, it should give everyone pause. This is no fairy tale.

©2017 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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