On Inauguration Day, March 4, 1865, vice-president-elect Andrew Johnson showed up for this swearing-in stone drunk. As he entered the office of Hannibal Hamlin, the outgoing Vice-President, it was most obvious that Johnson had a very bad hangover. It should be noted that Hamlin was a teetotaler and had even banned liquor in the Senate chambers. So when Johnson called out for a stiff drink it left many wondering what to do. A bottle was finally obtained and as history notes in Accidental Presidents by Jared Cohen those assembled watched “Johnson guzzle down the entire bottle as if he were on the verge of dehydration and had just been handed some water.”
Johnson was never duly elected for the job, but became the nation’s leader upon the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. While Lincoln had used prudence and flexibility to govern and win the Civil War Johnson undermined Reconstruction in such a tragic fashion that it harmed our nation for a hundred years. Historians over the ages had always placed Andrew Johnson as the worst person to have served as president.
But then Donald Trump rode down an escalator in 2015 and started spouting racist rants about brown-skinned people. In time he would verbally attack a former POW, as well as Gold Star families. Historians, sadly, will need to adjust their view of our national story when it comes to the bottom feeders.
Donald Trump will finally leave our White House this week and face his personal demons away from the minute-by-minute headlines that he has thrived on far too long at the expense of our democracy. But before he departs there is a need to sum up his loathsome nature and what he did to our country. Given the truckloads of material from which to choose I select two of them that have always been my talking points about why Trump should never have sat in the Oval Office.
First, and foremost, was the videotape of Trump standing before a political rally mimicking a disabled reporter. What was most telling, too, was that his supporters laughed. Then to add to the national dismay Trump, over and over, defended the ‘humor’. It was a most telling moment for the nation when defining Trump, and also his base of followers and sycophants.
Second, were the words from Trump when stating Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was presiding over lawsuits against Trump University, could not be fair because he is “of Mexican heritage” and as such had “an inherent conflict of interest.” He repeatedly attacked the judge as “unfair” and “a hater.” The racism was reprehensible. Trump placed ethnicity with implied bias and in so doing attacked the independence of the judiciary. If a judge can be disqualified from a case merely for his personal background, rather than for any material conflict of interest, what does that say about the strong underpinnings of this place called America, the ‘melting pot of the world’? That type of repugnant behavior is what we witnessed from Trump repeatedly.
The hate spewed by Trump over his (thank God!) one term was equally rank when wanting to ban 1.4 million people from entering the nation based on how they worship God. When conservatives fell for the darkness of Trump in 2016 they traded in their moral fiber (again) for a purely partisan and hate-filled tonic that proved to be the opposite of our national ideals.
The past four years have been painful and damaging to the nation, as well as those nations around the world, who look to the United States as a strong ally and sturdy foundation. What we all have endured was due to the discarding of a simple way of looking at the role of one who serves in government. I have long argued for those who serve in our government be it local, state, or national, to have a certain mindset about the job. I closed out a chapter in my book, Walking Up The Ramp, with these words. I end Trump’s time in our White House with those same words and thought.
Years after leaving my job I wrote a note to a friend who was hoping to get a job in the state capitol. Knowing how difficult and frustrating it can be, I wanted him to know his hard work was worth the time, and emotional investment. I closed my note to him with the following about how he should conduct himself once employed under the dome–it was the way I met each day when I went to work in that wonderful building, and I hope is the way others seek to do their job when fortunate enough to work there in the years to come. “…in your job make each day count, and affect change in every way possible; honor the public’s trust in every action you take.“