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Common Cents

Moral bankruptcy in the White House

Michael Parkhurst

(6/2017) I spend a lot of time on planes, a lot of time, and while people donít talk to each other as much as they used to before cell phones became all-consuming, I occasionally have the pleasure of sitting next to someone who can still carry on a coherent conversation.

On a recent flight I sat next to an Australian man and when our conversation turned to politics, he started that portion of the discussion with "What were you Americans thinking of when you elected Donald Trump?"

I had to admit to him that the only answer I could come up with was that the Democrats put up the only candidate Trump could have beaten. Had they put up anyone else, even Bozo the clown, Trump would be page 19-side bar story in some rag tag paper, not a front-page national embarrassment.

And letís be clear, Trump is a national embarrassment Ė and this is coming from someone who considers himself a classical conservative Republican. Having studied under William Buckley, the founder of The National Review, the flagship conservative publication that sparked the conservative revolution that spawned the likes of Ronald Reagan, I think it safe to say that if Buckley was alive today, he would flay Trump for his outrageous lies- or, as Trump calls them, "alternative facts."

Anyone who ever watched Buckley take apart an opponent on his talk show ĎFiring Line,í knows that Buckley would make quick work of Trump Ė and in doing so, bring some respect back to the conservative movement.

Where is the outrage from the conservative movement on Trumpís attack on "fake news" sources? Arenít these the same news sources our grandparents listened to as they huddled around a fire during the Great Depression? That a whole generation listened to during Word War II? That our parents turned to during the cold war? And my generation tuned into for our landing on the moon? How come suddenly they are Ďfake news sourcesí while one-sided, unsubstantiated articles on internet websites are now Ďtrustedí?

Where was the moral outrage from Conservative Republicans when Trump was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the crotch? There was none. Where was the moral outrage when Trump denigrated Senator John McCain, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, for being captured? "I prefer winners," Trump said, "not losers who get captured." Apparently it didnít matter to conservatives that Trump has never served a day in his lifeÖ

Where was the moral outrage during the debates where instead of laying out sound policies, Trump simply insulted his fellow candidates? I challenge anyone to name a single legitimate policy position that could actually be carried out! Did anyone really believe that he could get Mexico to pay for a border wall? Did anyone actually think he could ban the immigration of Muslims to this country?

Where is the moral outrage when science is rejected? When the protection of the environment is no longer considered a positive attribute, when instead of thoughtful discussion, our political discourse has degenerated into nothing more than simple insults? Has Trump made insulting oneís way into office acceptable? If so, I fear for our country.

Every time I hear Trump say he intends to "Make America Great Again," Iím reminded of a saying, long attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville: "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat, set out from post-revolutionary France on a journey across America. Tocqueville looked to the flourishing democratic system in America as a possible model for post-revolutionary France. His study of the strengths and weaknesses of an evolving democratic society, which was published in his book, Democracy in America, has been quoted by every American president since Eisenhower, and remains a key point of reference for any discussion of the American nation or the democratic system.

Now it turns out, de Tocqueville never actually wrote that phrase in his book, but for me, it still rings true. America will always be great as long as we are morally good. But with a morally bankrupt President who is driven only by self-aggrandizements and personal greed, the greatness of this county will be challenged.

Letís not mince words, Trump is a lost cause, and the sooner Conservative Republicans recognize that, the sooner we can get on with preventing any damage Trump will do to our national prestige.

Which bring me back to the ray of hope I always share with those I fly with Ė the U. S. Senate.

The role of the Senate was conceived by the Founding Fathers as a check on the popularly elected House of Representatives. To quote James Madison, our fourth President, the Senate's role is "first to protect the people against their rulers [and] secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led."

"Transient impressions;" I canít think of a better way to describe Trump and his agenda. The American public got drunk on his promises - most of which he openly now ignores. Remember his call to "Drain the swamp?" He hired it!

It is up to the Senate to meet the expectations of our Founding Fathers and provide the adult leadership this county now so desperately needs. But if we are to get that leadership, Republicans and Democrats need to set aside their political differences and rule as Americans first, Republicans and Democrats second.

If the Senate Republicans will not, or cannot find common ground with the Democrats, the outcome will be disastrous for them. Already one can feel a Democratic ground swell, which, if it continues to build, will return the House to Democratic control in the next midterm elections in 2018.

Given Trump has already announced his desire to seek a second term, unless an adult in the party stands up to him, the Democrats, who will undoubtedly field an exceptional candidate Ė like former Vice President Joe Biden - will give the Republicans a whipping not seen since the Whigs got voted into obscurity in 1856, which just so happen to pave the way for a new upstart political party - the Republican Party.

If Republicans cannot, or will not return to the civil, intellectual and morally based polices championed by William Buckley, and the best they can do is a Donald Trump, maybe we do need to go the way of the Whigs, and clear the way for a party that will embrace these values.

They already lost this conservative. If they can lose me, the 60% of the voters in the middle who donít like extremists, and are looking for someone to vote for that reflects their values, are already a lost cause.