All through the past week, it seemed as if the nation was slouching through each day burdened by the whiplash of headlines that defined hourly a new, distorting definition of what it now means to be president of the United States. It began Tuesday, when Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats informed the U.S. Senate intelligence committee that “frankly, the United States is under attack.”
Coats sat at a long table alongside the directors of the CIA, the FBI, and the head of the National Security Agency. All were in agreement: Russia had declared war on our country.
The president, Donald Trump, did nothing. This is the first time across all the dust-covered years of our history, centuries filled with courage and honor, that the elected commander in chief chose to tweet instead of plan to defend the country.
Tuesday became Wednesday and the Senate used the time to prove it has evolved into an assembly paralyzed by partisanship, polarization, and a politics so petty and cynical that even an overwhelmingly popular policy—allowing thousands brought here years ago by their parents—could not gain approval to stay. Dreams of simply being able to continue living the lives they’ve led for years, crushed and nearly dead.
The president, Donald Trump, did something. He poked and prodded open wounds. Pulled at scabs of intolerance and resentment. Lied and kept changing his position on the issue of “The Dreamers” and the more he lied, the more he tweeted, the more he defined who he is: a man of no substance, no real feeling.
Then on Wednesday, a school door opened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, and the latest merchant of death, a 19-year-old man, stood in a corridor holding an AR-15. Within minutes, hallway floors were slippery with blood as the shooter roamed room to room with full magazines and a weapon that sounds like a cannon when fired indoors.
Students screamed. Ran. Died. The gunman’s appetite waned within minutes, and minutes were all it took to hang a casualty count of 17 on a disgraceful scoreboard filled with so many past massacres that the total is often lost. The numbing reality is that the most powerful country the world has ever known is so weak it cannot stop murders committed with ease by people who simply have to show up and squeeze a trigger.
The president, Donald Trump, said nothing. He tweeted his sorrow and regret that more students did not come forward with warnings about the demons inside the teenager who escaped from the school in a pack of fleeing students before stopping for a cold drink at a Walmart.
On Thursday, a nation’s eyes filled with tears as the wails of survivors, the unrelenting pain and grief of parents, pain that will never diminish or disappear, all tumbled together alongside the unsurprising absence of courage from so many politicians that it was easy to sense the nuts and bolts of the Republic, the foundation of our democracy, the rules, the morality, the compassion, the deeply ingrained characteristics that have kept the light that is America shining so brightly for so long, to feel all of it coming loose in a slowly moving earthquake whose disruptive core is located in the Oval Office.
The president, Donald Trump, appeared on TV. He forgot to use the word “gun.”
Friday dawned with dead young students being prepared for burial in Florida. And in Washington, Robert Mueller, who has worn the nation’s uniform in war, headed a Homicide Unit, and changed the culture of the FBI in the wake of September 11th, announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian business outfits for conspiring to conduct cyber-warfare against the United States. The men who sat at the table Monday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee no doubt nodded in agreement.
The president, Donald Trump, did not. He began to tweet, an activity that would consume him most of Friday, through the weekend and nearly all Sunday morning. His tweets became increasingly deranged.
He ended the week having done nothing to defend the country. He ended the week thinking only of himself, not an unusual event. He ended the week as he began it, wrapping himself in a fantasy that is slowly drifting away.
So we have the dead children in Florida. We have those living at the margin, people who gave one of the few things they truly own, a vote, to Trump and they too will be disappointed by this man who has no beliefs, no emotional IQ, no understanding of the history and honor necessary to lead this wounded nation. We have others who have been here for decades and want only the opportunity to stay and participate in the only country they’ve ever known. And we have 535 individuals in Congress, a majority of them having dropped their duty to represent a common good.
And now we have another President’s Day.
But this time we do not have a true and trusted president.