Unending controversy generated by our Tweeter-in-Chief clogs up more than news of the day. It muddies and crimps critical thinking. It leaves little room for reflection.
His oddities in speeches and social media spew in such succession that their impact is softened and quickly dismissed.
But for me, two recent examples hit and stuck. Their nature and timing merit noting.
First, the president’s bizarre and inappropriately partisan remarks at the National Scout Jamboree were, even for Donald Trump, stunning.
He spoke to an estimated 35,000 members of a 107-year-old organization that stresses honor, duty, and loyalty and that aims at building moral strength, character, and citizenship, along with physical, mental, and emotional fitness.
(Trump, you may know, was never a scout.)
Among meandering messages offered – including how he won Maine, Wisconsin, and the Electoral College in 2016, shots at former President Barack Obama and the “dishonest” press – was his view of the nation’s capital.
“I go to Washington, and I see all these politicians, and I see a swamp. In fact, it’s not a good place,” he said, “We should change it from the swamp to the cesspool or perhaps use the word sewer.”
It wasn’t followed with “and that’s why we need you.” No call to “bring your training and code to government and politics to improve and enhance public service.”
No. Given the opportunity to talk to a rising generation, Trump conveyed an image of Washington as a receptacle for human waste.
And the good news? The size of the crowd and how, under his administration, “You’ll be saying Merry Christmas again when you go shopping, believe me.”
That’s right, kids, remember the goal of enhanced holiday gift-buying.
Boy Scout leadership apologized for Trump’s performance. Trump did not.
I’d note that the Boy Scouts, earlier this year, opened membership to transgender boys, which gets me to example two.
Trump’s tweet banning transgender people from the military — on the anniversary of President Truman’s July 26, 1948, order desegregating the military — drew wide rebuke, and rightly so.
It discriminates against an entire class of Americans, diminishes the ideals of all-volunteer service, and constitutes a blow to basic civil rights.
It is shameful. It greenlights similar thinking everywhere.
Pushback came from more than the LGBTQ community, Democrats, or the “snowflake” left. It came from conservatives such as Sens. Orrin Hatch, Joni Ernst, and John McCain. It came from Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that the military will continue to “treat all of our personnel with respect” and take no action absent a directive carrying more weight than a tweet.
The collective constituencies abused or offended by Trump in the Boy Scout speech and transgender tweet — the former an act of self-aggrandizement, the latter an appeal to parts of his base — is large, diverse and different from what we’ve seen to date.
This isn’t the work of “fake news.” This isn’t part of any “witch hunt.” This is Trump displaying Trump in ways that degrade America and debase decency.
It is a double dose of Trump in the raw.
And because it comes amid controversies over Attorney General Jeff Sessions, special counsel Bob Mueller, White House shakeups, and failed or stalled health-care reform, tax reform, and infrastructure fixes, it creates a moment worthy of a stop sign.
Yes, Trump survived such moments before, as candidate and as president. But in the roiling rapids that represent the Trump administration, we’ve reached a point where Trump has jumped the shark.
It’s a point, no matter one’s politics, inviting reflection — and elemental questions. When is enough enough? When is the last election over? Where’s the coalition to put country over party and keep calling out this president’s egomania and divisive governing-by-tweet until, at long last, it stops?