A 101-Year-Old Historian Makes a Desperate Plea: The Amateur in the Oval Office Has to Go - And Soon
By now, many of you are familiar with the outcries of Ashland, Oregon’s elderly scholar. Living on (now past 101), he can’t help noticing what’s happening to the Executive Branch of the government of the United States. He’s not happy! Nothing at Emory, Georgia, or Stanford, apparently, prepared him for today’s spectacle of government by guesswork. So here he is again, this time close to fulminating….
So it has come to this: Our free press is subject to ridicule; actually, it is undergoing threat. Presidential antagonism is approaching entirely too close to action.
Not too long ago, political opposition to “the press” was quietly endured as “well meaning, but wrong.” Now, the expression “lock her up” has spread from a candidate’s lips to an office-holder’s lips. It has become a slogan. Worse, Donald J. Trump’s favorite outcry “Fake News” is no longer exotic; it is commonplace, or close enough. It is regarded in some places as a normal way to refer to America’s daily news headlines.
Political rallies have long occupied partisans as election day approached. Now, it does seem, instead of governing, the White House occupant campaigns around the calendar—instead of concentrating on Congress or the passing scene.
At one time, high office holders in D. C. took an assigned position and went to work for “the duration.” Now, many top officials simply quit in mid-stream, and proceed to walk out. Maybe they are told to go, and “hurry up about it.” (Goodness knows what kind of instructions our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has gotten from his “boss.”)
In this administration, reputations fade, so much so that individuals have to leave. It is “one jump ahead of the sheriff,” so to speak. Or, “Go while the going’s good.”
Let’s say there is an Event. Our president misrepresents it. We cannot trust our president to tell the truth about it. Well, the truth is something you are not going to hear from today’s occupant of Air Force One.
In life it has long been a truism that there are “the good guys” and there are the “bad guys.” In statecraft, however, it is no longer easy to tell our allies from our enemies. Once, we made permanent friends of nations far away and tied them to us with alliances. Today, you can’t tell any ally without checking first with the White House to make sure which nation is a friend and which an enemy. Indeed, they may well have switched overnight.
This is serious stuff. The ship of state has no helmsman, it seems; or maybe he just doesn’t think it important for us to know the difference between a true friend and a dangerous enemy.
All of these things that are happening to us from within our American government in 2018 are important. But the travails of the press are damaging to the point they simply cannot be laughed off, ridiculed, treated as “no more than a joke, really.” We have to enjoy a free press. That’s A FREE PRESS. We must have it.
There is indeed a field of endeavor called “journalism.” It has standards, and concepts, and principles. All are taught in college classrooms. Our present political leader ridicules any such idea and barges ahead—to the point where his expression “lock ‘em up” or whatever it is, sounds suspiciously like a proclamation of jail time back in Nazi or Fascist days.
What I want at this point is an end to high school games that masquerade in the guise of proper conduct for leaders. In government the stakes are much too high to “play around” with them. I must have a return to sense and sensibility to be happy at rest every day.
I really want, if the truth be known, the removal of Donald J. Trump from the presidential office. If I can’t have that, I want powerful individuals in named offices (Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, etc.) who will keep that one man from running things until his term has limped to its end.
I feel, overall, as though my country has been borrowed away from me. Totally without my permission, mind you. And somebody owes me for time spent playing at the fair grounds.
Now and then I feel like washing my hands. I want to Do Something Dramatic. Maybe yell a little. Read another book with a title likeFury, or maybe Fire, or Unhinged—and coast for a few hours or a day or so until the revelations and the prose in the new book’s pages wears off. What I am saying, I guess, is that I don’t want to be alone in my antagonism against this amateur (that’s right: amateur) in the Oval Office.
How to end this, well, has it really become a diatribe? Promise me this madman with the simple habits and all that spare money will go away. Soonest. Bring in somebody who has read in-depth of the lifetime of Herbert Hoover’s dedication; the comprehensive love of Life of Theodore Roosevelt; Lincoln’s use of language to elevate national spirits; Jefferson’s ability to raise my comprehension of self-government by framing a document that’s good for me.
For Hell’s sake: I’m sick to death of mediocrity, of posturing, of pretense, of lies told with a straight face. What did I do to deserve THIS? The corridors outside the Oval Office need new inhabitants. Trump relatives are handsome and/or pretty, but I have to say they don’t fill me with confidence in their experience or abilities. And I believe the truth to be that they haven’t really earned those high and powerful positions by earlier hard work.
Bring in somebody as president who can shame Congress into doing what is right. Figure out some way this TV star can’t pick somebody else to fill a Supreme Court vacancy with all that is bound to entail. Most of all, please:
Bring dignity back to my White House. Don’t let this fellow salute one more time; it gives me the willies to think of a general or admiral kowtowing to this guy, even if he does, probably, get a kick out of the winks and nudges at home later on.
I want my country back. Is it too much to ask?
Vaughn Davis Bornet’s Ph.D. is from Stanford University (1951), the B.A. and M.A. (1939, 1940) are from Emory University, the year 1941 was at University of Georgia. Author of over a dozen books and scores of articles and essays, he has been writing articles frequently in recent years on the internet’s History News Network. He holds “Distinguished” awards from American Heart Association and Freedoms Foundation. He taught at University of Miami, 1946-48, and Southern Oregon College, 1963-80. He was a staff member at The RAND Corporation in the 1960s. A Commander in the Naval Reserves, his active duty was 1941 to 1946. His 2016 books Lovers in Wartime, 1944 to 1945 and another, Happy Travel Diaries, 1925 to 1933 (both Amazon) are recent. His latest is Seeking New Knowledge: A Research Historian’s Rewarding Career (Bornet Books). He lives, apparently only semi-retired, in Ashland, Oregon.