Column #148. First published in the St. Cloud Times online Nov. 1, 2019, in print Nov. 3
The Times wants columnists to deal with local issues. During the past 12 years I have adhered pretty closely.
The national scene these days is fraught to a degree unprecedented in my long experience. Its messiness seeps into everything. The White House, alas, is just around the corner from all our houses.
Last month in our near neighborhood, Minneapolis, there was an event so alarming that it demands to be called out.
As regular readers of my column know, I’m liberal. To criticize this occasion, though, does not depend on political disposition. It requires only common decency about action in the public square.
President Trump’s Oct. 10 campaign rally at Target Center, which I saw on television, was sickening – nearly everything about it, and not just the dozen or more falsehoods the president uttered.
Here is what most appalled me.
In a line that in earlier eras would not have been allowed in a newspaper, Trump said this as if to Hunter Biden: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”
Nasty enough if simply declared; to address it to someone’s son is, in addition, crass.
And what followed? Thirty seconds of thunderous applause, laughter, catcalls, with Trump preening around the stage, his mouth puckered up, mouthing “It’s true! It’s true!” and using his arms and hands to keep the noise going.
It was bad enough seeing the middle-aged and old folks whooping it up. It was worse, much worse, seeing the young people thinking it perfectly OK – indeed, laudable – for the president of the United States to use in public such vulgar language about another president and vice president of the United States.
The next day our own Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer tweeted, “What a fun night gathering with Republicans from all over Minnesota at the rally for President @realDonaldTrump.” Not a peep of criticism – even though, back in July, Emmer at least had the civility to say “There’s no place for that kind of talk. I don’t agree with that,” about a North Carolina rally crowd’s chanting “Send her back!” when Trump named Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Apparently there is a place for talk about “kissing Barack Obama’s ass.”
How have we sunk to a quagmire where such a foul-mouthed public sentiment from the president of the United States is shrugged off as “normal” or acceptable? Are parents who fervently support Trump happy for their children to hear about “kissing Barack Obama’s ass”? If their kids used such language, would the parents penalize them – or commend them for mimicking the man some of them call “God’s Chosen One”? “Viewer discretion is advised” should be posted before all telecasts of Trump rallies.
There was so much else that was awful at the Oct. 10 rally.
For six minutes Trump railed against Rep. Omar, replaying discredited accusations and quotations devoid of context, asking about her election, “How the hell did that ever happen? How did it happen? How did it happen?” Here’s how: she received 78% of the vote. Imagine how Trump would crow if his victory had been that decisive.
Stoking fear to fuel division, Trump reiterated his standard tirade against refugees, especially, of course, Somalis. “In the Trump administration, we will always protect American families first, and that has not been done in Minnesota.” Then: “In the Republican Party, we believe that those who seek to join our society must embrace our values, honor our history, and love our people.”
Yes, Mr. President: for me, “our values” include welcoming refugees, “our history” is filled with the contributions of immigrants, “our people” doesn’t leave anybody out. These values, this honor, this love, which your rhetoric – along with many of your policies – trashes, used to be bedrock Republican principles. It’s time for your party to reclaim them. The ovation you got at Target Center suggests this won’t happen any time soon.
What Emmer called “a fun night” included this from Trump: We “no longer have any troops in the area. We don’t have any troops. The troops have been pulled out, where Turkey is carrying out now a very tough campaign against the Kurds. Get ’em out. So Turkey is right now waging a very tough campaign against the Kurds. We get along with the Kurds, and we help the Kurds.”
Notice: “We help the Kurds.” Not a word about how they carried the bulk of the fight against ISIS for five years, and now we simply abandon them. Emmer eventually criticized the president, but on Oct. 10 it was “a fun night.”
When our elected officials revel in a debacle like the Oct. 10 rally, the local gets submerged in the Trumpian swamp.