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It’s Getting Dark

Hurricane Zeta is churning its way north, grey storm clouds that look like billows of smoke from a sprawling blaze are gathering on top of Schooley’s Mountain and I’m walking along the river on a damp morning, while listening on my earbuds to FDR in a fireside chat from 1939.

It was the eve of World War II and Americans felt comforted with FDR’s patrician, calming and reassuring voice of power, intellect, rationale, confidence and stability and his impact and the way he conducted himself as President still lingers over the decades. He was a man of honor.

I listened to a 1948 press conference from President Harry S. Truman and couldn’t help but feel that I was actually in the White House briefing room with President Truman. Just three years earlier, this was the president who had given the order to drop the most devastating weapon ever made over Japan and now here he was, just as homespun, folksy and Kansas-bred as ever.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I have no special announcements to make this morning,” said a transcript of the President’s news conference. “We have been making announcements of things as they happen. I don’t wait for press conferences any more, because you are so curious, but if you want to ask any questions, I will try to answer them.”

He went on to address reporters by their first names and honestly told them when he would not answer a question but usually responded to questions, unrehearsed, off the cuff, with composure and without a teleprompter. Truman related with wit and wisdom and he laughed easily and spoke with obvious compassion. He too was a man of honor. Both presidents were, well, presidential and also very classy people.

And then there is Donald Trump, the former reality TV host.

It was July 14 and Trump, the self-styled “very stable genius,” had called a news conference or better said, a campaign address, in which he spent all of six minutes answering reporters’ questions. The rest was a 57 minute monologue, stream of consciousness performance that was often hard to follow as Trump segued and rambled from subject to seemingly, unrelated subject, from police shootings, to Joe Biden, to COVID-19 and China.

And then, along with the story, as has become routine after Trumpian White House press conferences, the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post checked the facts and showed that many of Trump’s statements were misleading, out of context or down right lies.

Soon after the show, one critic said Trump was like the grandfather who had broken into the sherry cabinet. Another labeled Trump as “a truly sick individual” and another said the address was “rambling verbal dysentery.” I think of it as fecal projection.

Can you imagine needing fact checking after an FDR fireside chat or after a Truman news conference? Unheard of because it wasn’t necessary.

As for critics, Presidents have always had detractors who have always found choice words to describe their adversaries. President James Buchanan was called an “old mollusk,” “the sneaking scrivener” and “an old maid.” Oh my, how that cuts to the quick.

Trump, in his trademark mature manner, has taken labeling his political adversaries to a new level, downward.

For Hillary Clinton, it was “Crazy / Crooked / Lyin’ / Heartless / Skank.” James Comey was “Sanctimonious / Leakin’ / Lying / Shady / Slippery / Slimeball.” He called Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “Lyin’” or “Beautfiul Ted” depending on whether Cruz had been nice that day.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was “Little Adam Schiff” and “Little Adam Schitt.” Then there was “Cheatin’ Obama”, Wacky Omarosa for former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman.

And who can forget, certainly not Trump, when he gave Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the nickname, “Pocahontas”; Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vermont was “Crazy Bernie,” Joe Biden is “Sleepy Creepy Joe,” Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is “Alfred E. Neuman” and finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is either “Nervous Nancy,” or just plain “nasty,” “vindictive” and “a disgrace to herself and her family.”

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that past President of the United States usually acted with dignity. To all of you Trumpers, how can you tolerate behavior in a president that you would never in a million years tolerate for a nanosecond in your child’s second grade teacher?

To you Trumpers, though I’m sure you don’t read my blog, I know many of you are really done with Trump, sick of his childish ways, his failure in office and all of the rest. And I know that it is hard to admit that someone in whom you invested so much trust turned out so badly. And how hard it would be to admit as much to your Trumper friends and risk their ridicule or worse.

So, I really don’t mind if you say you like Trump, I don’t care if you cover yourself in MAGA shirts and hats and bumper stickers and banners. But do me favor, just don’t vote for him. I won’t tell anyone that you didn’t support Trump so that you can keep your membership card in the MAGA camp.

It will be our secret.

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Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer

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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer

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