I, like most of the world, am waiting with bated breath to see that American power is, indeed, peacefully transferred away from Donald Trump Jan. 20 at noon. While we wait, as many as 25,000 National Guard troops are being stationed in our nation’s capital.
Barriers, checkpoints, and Red and Green zones have been established, reminiscent of someplace more like Baghdad. The Mall and its monuments are all closed, fences topped with razor wire have been erected, and the American people have been warned to stay away — and to stay away from their own state capitals as well.
It is all tragically necessary because one man, in his impotent fury and pathetic inability to admit to losing an election, “sicced” his people on the Capitol, while our nation’s senators and representatives did the people’s business within. Sicced them like attack dogs and attack they did.
We are still learning horrifying details of what transpired that day — ranging from people defecating in the halls of Congress (a detail I still can’t bring myself to believe) to the possibility that there were actual murder squads looking for legislators to kidnap, perhaps kill. Worst of all, some legislators feel that they might have been in danger, not just from outsiders, but from their very own colleagues as well.
I do not believe that particular depth was reached even during the Civil War. But it is what we have come to in just four years of President Trump.
The Capitol dome was still under construction when Abraham Lincoln took his first oath of office on its steps March 4, 1861. Many had urged that construction be suspended to save funds for the coming war. Lincoln disagreed. “If people see the Capitol going on,” he said, “it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”
I hope we can say the same. But I have never been less sure.
While we wait — and pray — that all goes peacefully, let’s look back at the Inauguration that brought us here, namely, that of Donald John Trump.
Trump made many promises. Did he deliver?
Perhaps we should use corporate lingo like an H.R. Department measuring someone’s accomplishments against his own stated goals.
In his speech, Donald Trump promised “great prosperity and strength. We will bring back our jobs.” The unemployment rate for December 2016 was 4.7 percent. Four years later, it was 6.7 percent. As H.R. might say in its evaluation: “Performance well below expectations.”
As for “strength,” he taught the world that the word of America’s president was not to be trusted, breaking two multi-national agreements (Paris Agreement and Iran nuclear deal) and threatening to back out of nearly every other global compact. Evaluation: “Identified as an area requiring significant improvement.”
“We will build new roads, highways, bridges, airports and tunnels all across our wonderful nation.” But, in fact, Trump’s repeated promise of “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke, as he continually hijacked himself — first, in June of 2017 by railing against his own Justice Department. The second attempt in August 2017 was when Trump shocked the nation by declaring that “there were very fine people on both sides” of the deadly white-supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. Evaluation: “Efforts non-productive toward stated goals.”
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world.” I doubt the world will agree. Trump told Germany’s Angela Merkel she was “stupid” (she has a doctorate in quantum chemistry) and Britain’s Theresa May that she was “a fool and a coward.” He also threw candy at Ms. Merkel at a conference, saying “don’t say I never give you anything.” Even the leader of our nearest neighbor and ally, Canada, came in for abuse (“two-faced”). Our allies were forced to conclude that “we can no longer rely” on the United States. Evaluation: “Conduct completely inconsistent with minimal international standards.”
“There should be no fear.” Tell that to the 23 people killed and 23 others injured in El Paso, Texas, plus their entire community. Tell that to the 11 victims in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Tell it, for that matter, to your own vice president, who had to shelter in the Capitol while your admirers were banging on doors and screaming: “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” Evaluation: “Gross misconduct.”
“To free the earth from the miseries of disease.” We all know how that went.
“A new national pride will heal our divisions.” As I look at the Capitol dome through a forest of fencing and razor wire, there is only one more thing to say:
“American Carnage.” Promises kept.