President Obama, in his final press conference today, made very clear what he has telegraphed for days now, that a main focus for him going forward will be the sorry state of our nation’s voting rights:
“We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote. … There’s an ugly history to that. … The reason that we are the only country among advanced countries that makes it harder to vote traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery. It became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise. And that’s not who we are, not who we should be, that’s not when America works best. So that I hope everybody pays attention to making sure everybody has a chance to vote. Make it easier, not harder. This whole notion of voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news. The notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote. We have the opposite problem. We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote. And so the idea that we put into place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t makes sense. And then the political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do, so that these are not competitive races, and we get 90% Democratic districts and 90% Republican districts, that’s bad for our Democracy too. I worry about that.”
Two very different TV shows I watched over the recent long weekend connected a couple of dots for me.
First, WSJ’s Gerald Seib on “Charlie Rose” (PBS), talking about his recent interview with Donald Trump, repeatedly used the word “transactional” to describe the president-elect’s world view, insisting that Trump is not ideological, instead believing that mutual self-interest makes deals for a better world.
Second, a line in one of my surprisingly favorite shows, “Madam Secretary” (CBS): “Idealism kills mutual interest to save lives,” said one character. Another responded: “For starters, mutual interests aren’t always the same as equal ones, so that statement is just an ideal used to justify self interest.”
This line of thought can yield different conclusions (and disagreements), but for me it suggests that Trump’s thinking is simply about justifying selfishness. Ideals should matter.
The President-Elect is an easy target for just about anything. Throw it at him; it sticks. In the spirit of easy pickings, time to remember the men who came before him & are remembered/tarred & feathered by history & less than grateful citizens. There are the usual suspects: Warren Gamaliel Harding, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, the One & Only (thank goodness) James Buchanan. These are the winners (?) of about every ranking on who was the worst President. Were they? Well, yes. But surely every President has a “worst” something. Offer suggestions about who defines worst, all categories accepted & acknowledged. Name the miscreant, state your reason.
I nominate John Tyler. Why? Only President laid to rest under a foreign flag.
This upcoming Friday I would pull myself together, checking my wardrobe and making sure, even though my suit would be hidden by my judicial robe, that it was neatly pressed and had my USAF Good Conduct Ribbon on my lapel.
Although administering the oath to an incoming President is not a Constitutionally assigned duty, it is, so far as I am concerned, an awesome responsibility. I’ve done this task before, swearing-in our current President twice. Why am I feeling such anxiety now?
As I ride to the Capitol in the limo, that was two minutes early, I decide that I will change my usual script; I will preface some remarks prior to the oath: “President-Elect Trump, please understand that when I administer an oath of fealty, I personally monitor the performance of the sworn individual. In the instance of a person being elevated to the highest elected office of the United States, I will view breach of the oath of office in the most unfavorable terms. Let us begin:
Do you …”
I feel much better now, knowing that I will be putting Donald on notice and, at the same time, publicly assigning myself the responsibility for falling on my sword if he fails to do his duty.