Published: October 8, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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After two weeks of turmoil and rage, what more could possibly happen?

We’ve given up the common ground for my ground. We’ve gone from dissent to disrespect; from disrespect to hatred. Before we face the next bitter Division Du Jour, perhaps it’s time for us to consider what we stand for?

I believe Judge Brett Kavanaugh is, fundamentally, a good man and judge who did something 36 years ago that he deeply regrets, may not remember, but is afraid to admit because it would destroy decades of service and any chance of sitting on the highest court in the land. That’s sad.

Also sad are Senators – three of whom (Chuck Grassley, Orin Hatch and Patrick Leahy), sat on the Judiciary 27 years ago during the Anita Hill hearing – who have not moved the needle one inch toward putting policies and procedures in place that would demonstrate respect and dignity for any woman who comes forward with a credible accusation.

That’s what they stand for.

Another sad fact is that Senate Democrats attacked Kavanaugh before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was even known. That’s shameful.

Sadly, this led Kavanaugh — in an extraordinary moment of weakness — to say, “what goes around, comes around,” suggesting that he won’t be impartial to Democrats who come before him on the Supreme Court. That’s egregious.

Sadder still is the Senate’s Republican leader who will do whatever it takes to “plow  through” any obstruction including denying a Democratic president from even holding a hearing for a judge who was approved by both Democrats and Republicans to the second highest court then tell supporters that one of his “proudest moments” was saying, “ ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’ ”

That’s what Mitch McConnell stands for.

Then there’s our president, a man who became a millionaire at 8 years of age because his father, through tax manipulation and fraud, taught his son his most valuable lesson: “Life is mainly combat; the law of the jungle rules; pretty much all that matters is winning or losing and rules are made to be broken.”

That explains so much about Trump who, despite multiple promises, never released his tax records (now we know why), and lies more than any previous president. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, he is the most unethical president in this country’s history.

Patriotism? That’s only important if Trump can use it as a weapon to hit football players with tweets when they have the temerity to avail themselves of their First Amendment right to peacefully protest during the national anthem; or why he refused to call John McCain a war hero because he likes “people who weren’t captured”; or why he rails at a free press as “the enemy of the people” whenever they criticize him, and then threatens to change the libel laws, because after all, Trump is the real victim of: the media; an attorney general who doesn’t protect him; the “deep state,” or anything else that pops into his head or is fed to him by Fox News.

There is nothing patriotic about his nativism, racism and xenophobia.

That’s what Trump stands for.

But in demagoguing his way to the country’s highest office, Trump has caused too many to distrust our most vital institutions: the FBI (except when it works in his favor), the intelligence community, the courts, judges and, of course, a free press (except Fox).

What has happened to trust?

While we have always had crises of conscience leading to protests over issues like Civil Rights and the Vietnam War, we have, for the most part, trusted elected leaders who stood up for our values and brought about necessary change. We also trusted Walter Cronkite, scientific research and vaccinations.

Trust in government took a nose-dive during Nixon’s Watergate, (which, by the way, only came about due to a free press).

However, according a Knight-Gallup survey (Jan. 15), “public trust in the media is at an all-time low.” Two reasons: the prevalence of social media (a flagrant purveyor of misinformation), and highly charged, partisan sources. “Forty percent of Republicans,” the survey reports, “say accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light should ‘always’ be considered fake news.”

Should “always” be considered fake.

Twentieth century Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Lippmann wrote, “There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.”

Lippmann could’ve written that yesterday.

Today, partisanship is more important than unity and mockery has replaced respect.

What happened to moral leadership?

According to a Quinnipiac University National Poll (Jan. 25), 67 percent of American voters say that Trump is “not a good role model for children,” and 60 percent say, “he is not honest.”

We used to believe in the moral leadership of people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, as well as presidents like Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, because, despite their flaws, they stood for America’s best interests. They spoke out for Civil Rights, and against “the unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex.”

Have we had worse times? You bet! A Civil War, the Great Depression, the fight for civil rights. But in each case, we had a president who had the leadership skills necessary to work with others and find solutions.

Where is that kind of moral leadership today?

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson summarized the issues we’re facing, perfectly.

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.

“A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not. What a fact is and is not. And begin by holding ourselves accountable through truthfulness and demand our pursuit of America’s future be fact-based, not based on wishful thinking; not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises…

“If we do not, as Americans, confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sectors, then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years.”

So the critical questions for each of us are: What do we stand for? And how can we make America whole, again?


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