The Morning Jolt

Hail to the Legitimate Chief

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Hail to the Legitimate Chief

Senator Ben Sasse explains why we celebrate Inauguration Day: “For over 200 years, this nation has been peacefully transferring power from one president to the next. We don’t reflect enough on how odd that is historically. And if it doesn’t give you goose bumps, you need to pause, and we need to re-learn some history together, because this isn’t the way it used to be done.”

Not everyone is ready to come together. David Frum writes in The Atlantic:

The message will be stated and restated this day: For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.

The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.

This is close to concurring with the statements from Representative John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and Michael Moore that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president. Because Russia was pretty transparently rooting for one side and because the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta, was dumb enough to click on a phishing e-mail that gave hackers access to tens of thousands of his past e-mails, the election was a giant scam. The 137 million votes that were cast don’t really count, and we should ignore or discard the results.

(If you’re a member of Congress, and you really think that Trump is not legitimate, you should be introducing Articles of Impeachment immediately. Put your money where your mouth is; anything less is just a pose.)

In this narrative, the American people are really hapless and gullible. A decisive slice makes their decision on the presidential race solely because of the contents of the WikiLeaks revelations, a naïve faith in the good intentions and impeccable honesty of this guy:

The idea that the American people were oblivious to Trump’s faults strains credulity. The contention, from Clinton advisor Peter Daou, that “The national media” was “obsessed with taking down Hillary” is so laughably, self-evidently untrue that you want the believers to get counseling. The idea that Americans might have known Trump was guilty of all manner of sins and character flaws and chose to roll the dice on him anyway — because they liked him better than four years of the Democratic alternative — simply cannot compute for the crowd crying “illegitimate.”

I might be more sympathetic to Democrats if I hadn’t lived through election of 2000. This was another case where a hard-fought race came down to a small margin of votes, another case where the Democrat won the popular vote and the Republican won the Electoral College, another case where Democrats insisted the election wasn’t fair. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Democrats believed that the layout of the butterfly ballot was so unfair, that it invalidated the election results. A lot of Republicans look at relentlessly one-sided media coverage, election after election, and think that isn’t fair.

Were the WikiLeaks revelations significantly more “unfair” than the revelations of the Access Hollywood tape? Or the revelation of George W. Bush’s DUI in 1976 just four days before the election of 2000? Or independent counsel Lawrence Walsh indicting former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger four days before the presidential election, an indictment that was tossed out a month later for being beyond the statute of limitations? There is always some unexpected outside force in an election that the loser can claim was the decisive factor.

Even after the 2004 election, some Democrats believed that Bush had “stolen” the election in Ohio. According to The New Yorker, this was not merely a belief of the lunatic fringe: “In 2004, when Kerry lost the Presidential race to George W. Bush, who is widely considered the worst President of the modern era, he refused to challenge the results, despite his suspicion that in certain states, particularly Ohio, where the Electoral College count hinged, proxies for Bush had rigged many voting machines.”

In other words, the last presidential election where a Republican won and the Democrat didn’t contend that the winner cheated was 1988. In my adult life, there have been only two possible outcomes to a presidential election: A Democratic win or a Republican win that Democrats believe is illegitimate.

If you believe that the past three Republican presidential victories are the result of cheating, you have a child’s view of the world, where your side is always right and your side should always win. Yes, Trump’s a boor, incapable of brushing off petty insults, and completely unlike any president we’ve had before. But I’ve seen all the “not my president” and “selected, not elected” crap before, for a much more decent, dignified man. Let’s turn the clock back sixteen years:

George W. Bush’s motorcade lurched through the largest inaugural protests since Richard Nixon on Saturday, enduring thousands of protesters who hurled insults, bottles, tomatoes and an egg. Protesters clashed briefly with police clad in riot gear at a few flash points while Bush remained inside his armored stretch car for most of the parade up a soggy, cold Pennsylvania Avenue. Police ordered the motorcade to slow in anticipation of some protests, and then to speed through others. A couple of protesters threw bottles and tomatoes before the presidential limousine arrived, and one hurled an egg that landed near the motorcade, the Secret Service said.

George W. Bush indisputably had his flaws, but he was a gracious man who tried to treat his opposition with a certain amount of respect and who appreciated the dignity and decorum of the office. He reached out after that bitterly divided election, inviting the Kennedys to the White House for a screening of a film about JFK, and paying tribute to Rep. Joe Moakley in his first address to Congress. Plenty of the same Democrats complaining the loudest now — John Lewis, Al Sharpton, Michael Moore — treated Bush like crap.

I simply don’t believe that Democrats are upset because Trump is uniquely bad as a person or a president. History tells me that they’re upset because a Republican won.

Farewell, President Obama. A Kind, Appreciative, Parting Thought…

Our old friend Patrick Brennan reminds us of one of President Obama’s best moments, one that many of us overlooked at the time…

The president of the United States — the country we worry is losing all touch with religious faith, with Christian values, with any spirituality at all — there he is, going solo in what might as well be a beatitude of the black church, singing a rousing spiritual, with AME clergy, in their purple robes and two centuries of tradition, joining him in heavenly praise.

Yes, it wasn’t exactly impromptu — but it was a cappella, and it was an exceptional spiritual moment on full display to a mass culture that has precious few of them. The words the president continues on with — “Clementa Pinckney found that grace, Cynthia Hurd found that grace . . .” — are no less beautiful. When a Christian says those words — when John Newton wrote them, and Obama sang them — it’s not about some kind of anodyne, humanistic grace. It’s about Grace. It’s the president of the United States proclaiming the beatific vision.

He who sings, Saint Augustine said, prays twice. I didn’t agree with much of what President Obama did in office, but I’m so glad he sang on that day in Charleston, when we needed at least double the prayers.

ADDENDA: RIP, Miguel Ferrer, known for Twin Peaks, Robocop, NCIS: Los Angeles, and a slew of other movies and television shows.