Donald Trump Embarrasses Nation At Mount Vernon

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Where I wanted to drink a cup of coffee and watch the sun set…

What Donald Trump does not know about American history continues to make news, and further underscores why he is such a national embarrassment.

Long time readers to this blog are fully aware of my love of history.  While I never assert everyone needs to have an in-depth background on all parts of our story, I do strongly contend there needs to be a firm grasp of the themes of our history and a friendliness with the narrative of our time as a republic.  That is what I believe each person and voter should have to be a good citizen.  But when it comes to a president I want a full and rich grasp of what came before so to steady the current hand of leadership.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think my view to be most reasonable.

Which then leads me to the story about Donald Trump visiting Mount Vernon. Today it is being reported that when Trump had a guided tour of Mount Vernon last April with French president Emmanuel Macron, Trump proved to be a simpleton.  I call it as I see it.

For the record I was able to visit Mount Vernon two years ago–just about this time of year.  It was a thrill that went to my inner core as it resonated so much with what I read and think about concerning the formative days of our nation.  I spent several minutes just standing on his lawn in reflective thought looking over the Potomac.  I would have so loved to been able to sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun lower over the home and water while sensing more fully what Washington would have viewed so often.   James and I visited on one of those hot days when the humidity was very high, but that suited me just fine so to experience the conditions that often confronted those who lived and worked on this large farm.

I was so moved with this slice of history we brought back a flag which was flown at Mount Vernon.  We have only flown it at our home on July 4th.   It comes down the evening of that holiday and stored in a special container for the following year.

Trump never once came close to any such observations or sentiments as he visited Mount Vernon.  What is worse to know is that he has no curiosity about our national story or the people who made the nation great.

The president’s disinterest in Washington made it tough for tour guide Bradburn to sustain Trump’s interest during a deluxe 45-minute tour of the property which he later described to associates as “truly bizarre.” The Macrons, Bradburn has told several people, were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the president.

A former history professor with a PhD, Bradburn “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house, said a source familiar with the visit, so he spoke in terms Trump understands best — telling the president that Washington was an 18th century real-estate titan who had acquired property throughout Virginia and what would come to be known as Washington, D.C.

Trump asked whether Washington was “really rich,” according to a second person familiar with the visit. In fact, Washington was either the wealthiest or among the wealthiest Americans of his time, thanks largely to his mini real estate empire.

“That is what Trump was really the most excited about,” this person said.

If Trump was impressed with Washington’s real estate instincts, he was less taken by Mount Vernon itself, which the first president personally expanded from a modest one-and-a-half story home into an 11,000 square foot mansion. The rooms, Trump said, were too small, the staircases too narrow, and he even spotted some unevenness in the floorboards, according to four sources briefed on his comments. He could have built the place better, he said, and for less money.

America’s 45th president is open about the fact that he doesn’t read much history. Trump said in July 2016 that he had never read a presidential biography — and had no plans to do so. Though he is an avid fan of George Patton, the flashy, tough-talking World War II general, he has shown less interest in learning about his presidential predecessors or about the office he now occupies. Former White House aides say Trump initially did not know the history of the Resolute Desk, which has been used by presidents since Rutherford B. Hayes, though he now enjoys showing it off to visitors to the Oval Office.

Trump’s lack of interest in presidential history, said the historian Jon Meacham, means that he has “basically thrown out the one data set available to him. We don’t have anything else to study. It’s all you got.” It also stands in contrast to the fascination of other presidents with their predecessors. Even former President George W. Bush — not known as a tweedy intellectual — consumed several presidential biographies while in office.

True Colors Show At Wisconsin Capitol

Elections have consequences.  That is one of the basic understandings students will come to accept as civics is studied in classrooms around the state.  But as news stories this week demonstrate some leaders in Madison, who are to work for the people ‘back home’, have forgotten that precept.

One of the broad agreements, when it comes to the aftermath of elections, along with the need for civility following the dust-ups of campaigns, is for the executive to fill a cabinet with the choices best suited for the needs of the time, and those which match up with the character of the one elected by voters.  Unless there is a strong reason such as criminal behavior, ethical lapses, or moral impairments a governor, or president, should have the cabinet selections of their choosing.

But that is not what we are witnessing when it comes to the cabinet choices from Governor Tony Evers.  Between the news stories on Wisconsin Public Radio and the printed articles in newspapers there is plenty of statements from the opposition party to show accepting the judgments of the voters last November is not their first priority.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, earlier Tuesday said the Senate would hold up confirmation of Evers’ Cabinet secretaries as it waits for the courts to resolve the issue.

“I think some of those Cabinet members could be in trouble,” Fitzgerald said when asked what he would do if the governor doesn’t restore the 15 appointments.

The Juneau Republican said “there’s some truth” to the contention by Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, that he was slowing down the confirmation process as retribution for lawsuits brought by liberal groups challenging the lame-duck laws.

I could add commentary about the many statements from national Republicans concerning the pace of confirmation proceedings over Donald Trump’s cabinet, and compare those words to the tactics now on display in Madison.  But instead I wish to bring up something better than words.   I wish to remind my readers of an action–which speaks louder then any rhetorical flourishes.  And do so with the aid of former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.

While reading the newspaper today I thought back to Russ and the way he viewed the process of governing.  There is a lesson to be learned as this state moves towards the contentious budget process, because this current power-play taking center stage concerning Ever’s cabinet, is all about getting a stronger position for the construction of that document.

In 2001 I contacted the senator, like so many of my Democratic friends and fellow citizens, to ask him to vote against the nomination of John Ashcroft for the position of attorney general.  Ashcroft was a most troubling nominee put forward by President Bush.  Several weeks later Feingold wrote a letter in response to explain why he had instead supported that nominee in the confirmation process.   He wrote that barring any legitimate reasons such as legal, ethical, or being so far outside mainstream thinking which would demonstrate the nominee could not fulfill the duties of the office, meant there was no course he could take than vote to confirm.

The lesson was clear. A liberal Democrat strongly felt compelled to confirm a strict conservative nominee to serve in the cabinet of a president who himself was only allowed to sit in the Oval Office with the vote of a divided Supreme Court.

Make no mistake about what lesson he demonstrated then, and what we need to learn from it for the sake of our state today.  Feingold felt elections had consequences and an executive, once placed in office, had a right to shape policy and create the changes advocated for in the last campaign.  If that is not a lesson in how the process of government is supposed to work, even when it means biting your tongue and fighting your first instincts, than I am not sure what example could be offered to make the case.

I will be the first to admit my gut reacted negatively to the vote cast by Feingold for the office of attorney general.  I was upset by the vote.  My political mood in early 2001 was not about moving on, or forgetting what had transpired over the weeks following the previous year’s general election.   But my head knew that Feingold was right.  Logic and reason are sometimes slow to triumph over our base emotions.   But are we not glad they do?

That very fact is why we need level-headed statesman to take a stand now in favor of moving forward with Evers’ cabinet choices  At this time we need leaders like Feingold proved himself to be in 2001.  We need elected folks who have the courage to lead our state forward with bi-partisan firmness.  But with equal measure we need state Republicans to lower the temperature among their base as Feingold did when writing his letter to his supporters.

I fully grasp the contentious nature of what is now unfolding under the dome.  But I hold firm that far more important than any citizen’s personal feelings about the cabinet selections is the fact we all must make sure the process of governing is allowed to function.

Great Headline Greets The World

It feels downright awesome to wake up to a headline on the radio that is uplifting and energizing.  On WGN (AM 720) I smiled upon hearing that scientists have captured the first image of a black hole.

In the midst of all the rancor and loud voices who are out-shouted by all the louder voices, let us take a moment to ponder the news.  And also thank those who use their creativity, focused grit and perseverance, work many late nights and early mornings so to take humanity to places we have never been before.  I sincerely respect people like that.   The ones who made the headline today possible are heroes.

In the midst of all the bombast that will surround events of the nation and world today it is important to stop and just marvel at what has occurred.

What the picture shows is a a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.  That alone is hard to fathom and contemplate.   The image comes from some 55 million light-years away from Earth.  With perhaps the best summation of the photo The New York Times wrote, “It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.”

So take some time to sit back, pull the plug on your devices, and ponder the enormity of what has happened today, and then reflect over how little we know about all that surrounds our planet.