The “Other” Side
On Sunday I attended Bob Woodward’s talk at the Weinberg Center. For those who have been under the bed for the past few months, this respected journalist who, along with Carl Bernstein, outed President Richard Nixon and triggered the Watergate crisis, recently published a book called “Fear,” about the Donald Trump administration.
I delayed signing up because I was uncomfortable about comments on television regarding its content, but, out of respect for my 2019 resolution to hear more from both sides of our current political debate, I showed up, trepidation notwithstanding.
Mr. Woodward was received with a partial standing ovation from an excited crowd. He spoke for about 20 minutes, and then did questions and answers, mostly from his presenter, who was certainly riding the same wave as he.
To summarize quickly, Mr. Woodward said that President Trump is dangerous for our country.
He said the president has no plan and makes decisions based on impulse. Mr. Trump does not understand how the government works. He doesn’t like alliances or understand their benefits. He does not read. He does not take the advice of his team. He does not learn. He is out for his own aggrandizement. He never wakes up for his 3 A.M. tweet storm thinking, “What can I do to make things better for the American people today?”
One might wonder why the president should be having that thought every day, since his constitutional mission is to create a space wherein people can make things better for themselves.
This reminds me of an editorial I recently read stating that Democrats want to help the poor, but Republicans don’t care about them. Government assistance to the population is important. Much of it should come in the form of protection and oversight, such as reigning in predatory lenders and enforcing laws against unfair competition involving price fixing, or exploitation of low wage, illegal immigrant workers. Giving alleged victims stuff, not so much.
Too bad promising to give people stuff sounds so good. If you look at our hand-out history, you will see the creation of low-income public housing project ghettos and the requirement that there be no husband or father living with welfare recipient mothers and their children. Thus, the sight of many unemployed men in poor neighborhoods standing idly on street corners, coming up with just enough money for pretty Easter dresses and other treats, but not able to actively parent their own children. Yes, Suzie, handouts have their downside.
Mr. Woodward did make some good and truthful points, too. Certainly, President Trump’s incessant public name calling, self-praise, and personal assaults on his own appointees and staff, not to mention his opponents, are just about intolerable. This may be a bargaining tool for him, or a way to infuriate his opponents until they make mistakes, or, of course, simply narcissistic homage to himself. The scary part is that he is oblivious to his own contribution to current, seriously distressing political vitriol, and/or unable to stop himself.
Reminds me of Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were probably way more criminal than Donald Trump, and very effective at obfuscating attempts to investigate them. They could not stop lying, fighting, or even hanging on to their Whitewater investment when a few settlements and “humble” apologies would have saved them years of litigation and even impeachment. President Trump’s behavior also hurts himself.
On the other hand, President Trump does have a plan, or at least a mission: “Make America Great Again,” and he has a point. In the interest of alliances and ill-conceived peace-making, we’ve squandered money, thousands of American lives and our respect in the world.
You can’t be effective in the world if you’re not strong at home. Infrastructure, economic prosperity, the revamping of our legal immigration system, and respect for the tax-paying middle class everyone so cares about during campaign season, are not only in the interest of old, heterosexual white guys with “R’s” tattooed on their foreheads
Mr. Woodward was preaching to the choir for sure during his quite mediocre offering. At one point, he asked who thought “the wall” was necessary. Three hands rose in a very crowded theater. That means almost no one showed up but “yes” people. Kind of a sad start for 2019.
Maybe we should get out more, maybe engage with others, even those who might not agree with us. Otherwise, 2019 means more of the same.