Tuesday in the White House briefing room Sarah Huckabee Sanders told us the President was joking about having an I.Q. contest with Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson – and she told the assembled reporters we needed to get a sense of humor.
I immediately said “Tough room” in my best Rodney Dangerfield impression. I got a laugh, but I didn’t do it loud enough to disrupt anything. Perhaps I should have.
The fact is that it’s very hard to laugh when the president is doing a thermonuclear war dance with North Korea, failing on every domestic agenda item he’s backed, fighting with the democrats, the republicans, a growing number of former supporters, and his staff while the EPA rolls back environmental protections. There’s also the Russian hacking scandal and the Mueller investigation continues.
Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, Hurricanes and wildfires and other assorted mayhem.
The president demands our respect for his handling of these events – some of his own making – and yet he gets little or no respect.
There are times the president reminds me – at a distance – of Dangerfield. Trump on occasion wears the dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie that made Rodney famous. Trump has a similar build and a similar hair color.
To top it all off, Trump always seems to be the guy screaming he gets no respect.
His tweets, his anger, his petulance and his aggrieved nature – all seem to speak volumes about a very insecure grandfather seeking respect – and demanding those kids get off his lawn.
Of course Tillerson allegedly calling him a “f***ing moron” would set him off. But don’t forget Senator Bob Corker – the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who charged in an interview on Sunday with the New York Times that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”
He also said the president was part of an adult day care center.
You can look at one of the more contentious issues to hit us recently – taking a knee during the national anthem – to see just how serious the president is about respect.
Taking a knee was never about respecting the flag – and that is something the president has to be aware of if he’s sentient and capable of reason.
But the president has tweeted numerous times “RESPECT YOUR COUNTRY” – as recently as Wednesday morning regarding the anthem issue.
For the president that’s the issue. He demands fealty and respect and he’s not getting it.
Logic may dictate the president isn’t getting any respect because he’s destroyed his credibility by his own actions.
Some of the highlights of his actions which have led to his lack of respect include making fun of a disabled reporter, lying about the size of his inaugural crowd, numerous demeaning remarks in which complex policy has been reduced to a 140-character tweet, and a host of other actions which have left women, immigrants, people of color, liberals, conservatives, and members of the middle class increasingly bellicose and angry with an apparent pipsqueak of a president intent on destroying rather enhancing our civil liberties.
Taking a knee was about police brutality. Not about respect. The president and others flipped the script so as to avoid the real issue.
So desperate is Trump for the appearance of respect he’s sacrificed the reality for the optics.
Consider for a second – if I take the president at his word about the national anthem – that I disagree with him. To me standing for the flag isn’t nearly as reverential as taking a knee in solemn meditation – much as people kneel in church.
Am I to stand because you demand it? I will bow to no man, so should I stand for a demand? Would I not then be caving to a hypocrisy of my own making?
As for Corker - he struck a deep nerve with Trump, so much so that Sanders complained Corker is entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts. That territory is reserved for the president. His use of “alternative facts” is well documented.
And that too is one of the reasons he finds himself without respect. Since he shows none fewer and fewer people are willing to give it. As Tony Soprano said, “Those who want respect show respect.”
The truth is we find ourselves with P.T. Barnum running a West Wing reality show of an administration. The damage left by this circus may not heal in my lifetime. We are now wondering how the nation gets back its respect – never mind the president.
Meanwhile, if you elect P.T. Barnum you should expect the circus - which is exactly what we have.