Is there no kind soul out there who would be willing to stop by Richard Cohen’s office and check to see if he’s, you know… okay these days? I’m worried that his ongoing fixation with President Donald J. Trump is taking a toll on him.
The WaPo columnist has been pumping out a nearly non-stop river of bile toward the President and every member of his administration for a while now, but his most recent offering caught even me by surprise. If you click through and read it you can mostly skip the first couple of paragraphs where he recycles the usual list of charges about various Trump attributes which make him The Worst President Ever. That part is pretty much just boilerplate these days. But the meat of his complaint this week is actually something fresh.
Before getting to the core of his accusations against the President, however, Cohen takes time out to show what a horrible nation America has been in the past, though we’re “not supposed to talk about it.”
Ah, but no. We are admonished from doing that. This is America, and it is special, and it does not swoon for demagogues. It has gone through hard times, sure — the Civil War and the Great Depression and the Red Scare following World War I and the Russian Revolution, and the McCarthy period following the onset of the Cold War. It has done terrible things to the Indians, enslaved blacks and thereafter remained exuberantly racist both in custom and law. It incarcerated U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent and, for a time, was so deeply anti-Semitic that it turned its back on frantic Jews fleeing extermination. But overall — and especially when compared with lots of other countries — we have been downright marvelous. And so we insist.
Ah, it’s a rare day when you see that much venom being dumped on the nation that allows people like Cohen to hold the jobs they have and freely express their opinions in one of the country’s most widely read publications.
What’s really put a bee in Cohen’s bonnet are the rallies that the President continues to hold. He’s especially ticked off about the recent events in Florida and Pennsylvania. We have never, he insists, seen anything like this. And you should be alarmed.
There has never been anything like this in America. We have suffered the occasional regional or third-party fool running for president — the racists Strom Thurmond and George C. Wallace come to mind. But American presidents were there to thwart them, to bottle them up. No president has ever held the rallies Trump has. The outpouring of venom, the toying with violence gives them an old newsreel cast. We have seen such faces here, contorted in the ecstasy of hate. Yes, in 1957 when nine black kids enrolled in Little Rock’s Central High School. Yes, nine years later when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took his movement to Chicago. It has taken Trump to revive the face of American hate.
I suppose we should give Cohen some extra credit points for not including Hitler’s rallies on the list, but he clearly wants you to know that these gatherings of Trump supporters are even more dangerous. Perhaps we can shed a feeble ray of the harsh light of reality on this screed.
The President holds these rallies because it’s what he likes doing best. I’m not defending this as the most selfless or noble penchant in the history of American politics. Far from it. But as near as I can tell, this is where Donald Trump feels most in his element. He loves the approving roar of the crowds and the entire circus atmosphere. I’ll go one step further and opine that Donald Trump enjoys running for president a lot more than the actual job of being president. That’s probably why he announced (and began) his reelection campaign before they’d even finished sweeping up all the confetti from his inauguration.
And why wouldn’t he? Considering the day to day reality of the job and the constant portrayals of him showing up everywhere but on Fox News, the job itself probably isn’t all that much fun. Trump is a competitor who enjoys the thrill of the chase. I firmly believe that’s why he’s in a constant state of confrontation with various world leaders. Fighters live for the fight.
Are these attributes, so jarring to those used to the habits of previous Oval Office residents, something which adds up to a successful presidency? If we’re being honest, we won’t know the answer to that one for a long time. At the moment we have various indicators such as the current state of the economy, the employment situation and consumer confidence suggesting that he’s getting some of the more important parts of the job done. His foreign policy grade is a bit harder to score, showing positive indicators in some areas and more questionable outcomes in others. There’s still a fair distance to go before history can begin casting judgment.
But these rallies? They are hardly the stuff of Klan meetings or celebrations of Benito Mussolini. It’s just politics, except some of Trump’s many detractors in the press have trouble wrapping their minds around the concept because it’s nothing like the politics we’re used to. In the meantime, I’d like to suggest some ginseng tea for Richard Cohen. I’m assured that it has a marvelously calming effect.