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For Better or for Worse, Trump Turns the Page
I was largely indifferent to American politics back in 2000, when George W. Bush faced Al Gore in that year's presidential election. I was willy uninformed about most of the major issues back then, largely because I was young and lived at the center of my own universe. Still, I liked Bush's style and found his platform appealing. That year, I registered as a Republican and pulled the lever for the man who would become our 43rd president.
Very early in Bush's presidency (months before 9/11 and those iconic images of him standing on rubble at Ground Zero), I was watching a national news brief on one of the networks. The backdrop (for whatever story was being reported) was a video of Bush walking across the White House lawn to Marine One (the president's helicopter). It was raining, and he was alongside one of his advisors. What caught my eye was that Bush was actually holding a manila envelope over the advisor's head to protect him from the rain as they spoke.
I remember thinking at that moment just how thoughtful and decent of a man he was. There he was, the leader of the free world, keeping his advisor's head dry instead of his own. I turned to my girlfriend (now my wife) at that moment and said, "This guy is good for America."
Over those eight contentious years in office, I never stopped believing that Bush was a man of character, who valued our country more than he valued himself. Regardless of how you felt about his policies, his commitment to America and his love for its citizens went without question. That's how I saw it, anyway.
Several political commentators have described Trump's win last night not just as a repudiation of Obama's presidential legacy, but also the legacy of George W. Bush. They're referring to policies, of course, but in Bush's case, I would extend it to the issue of character, as well.
Character used to matter to most people when it came to the presidency. With the major political parties giving us Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it's hard to make the case that it still does. This cultural shift has come at a price.
Last night, after it was clear that Trump would become the president-elect, I logged into Facebook to see how my friends were reacting to the news. One person that I was particularly interested in hearing from was a single mother whose ten-year-old daughter has been one of my daughter's school-mates since kindergarten.
The mother is a big gun rights and personal responsibility person, who might have been receptive to the idea of President Trump had he not mocked a reporter's physical disability last year.
You see, her daughter faces the day-to-day challenges of multiple disabilities, including a disfigured arm that looks remarkably similar to that of the reporter that Trump ridiculed. Her daughter is, of course, the apple of her eye — a terribly sweet little girl whose bright smile and warm greeting always brighten my day, whenever I pick up my own daughter from school.
Last night on Facebook, the mother was mortified that Americans could bring themselves to elect such a man to the nation's highest office. Almost always an optimist, she's now thinking about moving them back to her home-country of Canada, and unlike the Hollywood celebrities who've made similar statements, she may actually do it.
Another mother friend of mine worried about what a Trump presidency would mean for her young Hispanic son. She's concerned about bullying at school, being that most of the country showed last night that it was accepting of a man who openly displays anti-Hispanic bigotry (as we saw with the Judge Curiel debacle). I believe (and told her) that her concerns are unwarranted, but I do understand why she has them.
Times have certainly changed, and it saddens me that these types of emotional burdens are immediately spawned as the result of a presidential election. It shouldn't be this way. Unfortunately, it's the byproduct of giving Americans a "binary choice" between two deplorable nominees: unavoidably, you're going to end up with a deplorable president. I just figured it would be the other "deplorable."
I fully acknowledge that I was dead-wrong when it came to Donald Trump's general-election viability. Last night, as the results were pouring in, and it was clear that all of the polling data had been wrong, I emailed Bernie Goldberg to tell him: "I knew people hated Hillary, but I didn't think they hated her THIS much." He concurred, but we both know it's more than that.
As I detailed in a recent column, the political-class has worked hard, for a long time now, to pit Americans against each other. They've done so along demographic lines to distract from failed policies, while engaging in breathtaking corruption. The electorate finally got fed up with it, so they grabbed their torches. Issues, policies, and even honesty all played second-fiddle to a sweeping anti-establishment attitude.
Where I wasn't wrong was in my assessment and criticism of Trump's candidacy over the past 16 months or so. I still believe he's intellectually lazy, ill-tempered, wrong on most policies, and potentially quite dangerous to our country. I still view him as an embarrassment, and I have no regrets in not supporting him.
The best-case scenario, as I see it right now, would be if Trump happened to work the same deal with Mike Pence that he reportedly extended to John Kasich months ago — where the Vice President would make the administration's big decisions, while Trump himself would focus on the messaging. I'm not counting on that, of course, but one can dream.
Either way, I'm willing to give Trump the same benefit of the doubt that I gave Barack Obama, back in 2008. Where he's right, I'll support him. Where he's wrong, I'll oppose him. Either way, he'll be my president. And if he actually follows through on what I've deemed up until now to be hollow promises (like conservative Supreme Court justices and replacing Obamacare with a more market-based solution), I'll sing his praises to the high-heavens.
My expectations are about as low as they can possibly be right now. I know a lot of people (perhaps most of the country) share that sentiment. I'm hoping more than anything that Trump will prove me wrong.