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America’s national identity is defined by its first principles.

In four years, my father’s family will have lived on this continent for 300 years.  Does that make me more American than a young Guatemalan woman who has just pronounced the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States “and the Republic for which it stands”.  That Republic was and is and always will be based upon its founding principles.

What makes us both American is belief in our first principles.  In America, nationality is not defined by race, creed, color, religion, or ethnicity.  It is defined by allegiance to a set of principles more clearly defined than any other nation on earth.

So the test of our patriotism, of our Americanism, is adherence to those principles.  When those of us who are American citizens, from whatever background, accept and follow those principles, then we are part of America.  When we claim our unique difference from other nations, this is what we claim.

I participated in several elevated Senate debates on immigration with Edward Kennedy, Alan Simpson, Bill Bradley, and a large number of others.  These debates were complex but resolvable principally because the national interest was the objective sought by leaders of good will.  In the height of the Cold War, with repeated references to “national security”, one of our colleagues defined national security as: a strong defense, a sound dollar, and secure borders.  But he did not mean a two thousand-mile long Southern wall.  By secure borders, he meant sane, enforceable, and humane immigration policies.

Our national identity is neither liberal nor conservative.  These are ideologies that drive policies but not identity.  If anyone is proposing to add an ideological question to a citizenship application, they are not being heard from.  We do not define citizen identity by liberalism or conservatism, nor should we ever.  Americans are free to choose.  That is one of our first principles

Our national principles are contained in our founding documents, especially the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence, but also in the Constitutional debates and correspondence of the Founders, restatement of founding principles by great Presidents and leaders who followed, and by other statements defining our national behavior provided in our best times.

The times in which we now live have quickly devolved into world-wide searches for national identity.  At their worst these searches have deteriorated into divisive nationalism, populism, and exclusivity.  Nationalistic political movements in Europe and elsewhere are becoming tribalistic, with racial and ethnic categories.  Nativism is the new rage and the new scourge.

Purity of heritage is the new hallmark for belonging.  All others, especially immigrants, are to be shunned and excluded, even in a nation of immigrants such as ours.  Globalization, mass migrations, and attempted escape from oppression are root causes for this nationalistic discontent.  The only nations relatively free from these racial and ethnic contests are those composed overwhelmingly if not exclusively of unitary ethnic citizenry.

Because of our long history of immigration…save for Native Americans, aren’t all of us from somewhere else?….it is difficult if not impossible for us to identify a “pure American.”  There were periods of immigrant waves in the past two centuries where those who could trace their ancestry to the Mayflower era were held aloft as what an American should look like.

But then we had a third-generation Irish Catholic president and even now one who is third or possibly fourth-generation German (self-identified as Swedish for some reason), and old standards require adjustment as to who is and is not American.

It would be instructive to ask all Americans to define our first principles.  Routinely, applicants for citizenship perform better at such tasks than those of us born here.  (I attempt to do so in a forthcoming book: America Beyond Trump: Restoring First Principles.)

All men and women are created equal.  Church and State should not intrude on each other.  We are entitled to a fair trial.  The press should be free in order to hold government accountable.  We are a commonwealth and hold certain public things in common.  We are free to speak.  There are many more such principles that are clearly stated.

Perhaps uniquely, America has a founding and enduring creed in the principles that created our nation two and a third centuries ago.  Those principles, not ethnicity, race, religion, or ideology, are the foundation and source of our national identity.  They define who we are, at our best, and who we hope to become.

American is not finished.  We have not even begun.  We will always be a unique national work in progress.  The success of our national journey will be determined by our adherence to the founding principles that created our national identity.  They are the compass to guide our path and our passport to the future.

And our unfinished work is to guarantee that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Where Have You Gone, Elizabeth

Author: Gary Hart

We are missing Elizabeth Miller’s sometimes acerbic wit, keen insights, and often challenging observations.  We hope she is well and will return to this site when she is able.  Our numbers are too small to let anyone disappear.  The advantage of small membership is the identity each member reveals.  Perhaps nostalgically, I sense the identity of each of our regular commentators and the often illuminating exchanges that occasionally occur.  In moments of crises of the soul, I have sometimes been guilty of straying from the forum of political opinion and, if so, I pray that was not the cause of her leaving.  I promise not to indulge in my own personal preoccupations again.  Be well, Elizabeth, and come back to the matters of principle forum.  Gary

We all have our models, prototypes, frameworks, and agendas for sorting the bus load of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.  The categories include gender, race, generation, and experience.  Some will sort among the several women, some among the minorities, some will want young and others will want older, and then there will be the struggle over who is the most liberal/progressive, as defined by a whole basket of issues.

Let’s step back and assess the situation.  By November 2020, we will have had four years of White House and Cabinet chaos, an endless struggle over a Melvillian wall, and most of all the destruction of almost eight decades of relative solidarity among Western democracies and others over security, trade, environment, and economic stability.

This is the reality the next president will face.  He or she will have three choices: continue Trumpian isolationism; rebuild the post-World War II alliances; construct a new set of alliances addressing new realities in trade, security, environment, and economic and political stability.

The latter is the most necessary but the most difficult.  It will require the political leadership of a Roosevelt and Truman, the diplomacy of an Acheson, and the leadership of a George Marshall.  And it will be carried out against the backdrop of a daunting domestic agenda in health, education, environment, job creation, and creative regulation of markets at least as damaged during the Trumpian era as Americas stature in the world.

For a few wizened characters like me, this matrix becomes the one through which the next president must pass.  Not everyone of the many Democratic candidates is up to it.  When the presidency is seen as manager of the fiscal policy (the “economy”) of the nation, the diplomat in chief, and the commander in chief of the military forces, this narrows the field quickly.

The newest, the cutest, the funniest, the quickest wit is interesting but irrelevant.  That is not to say a new figure, a new voice, a new mind cannot be imaginative, creative, and attractive.  That was John Kennedy sixty years ago, and even he made some mistakes in the early going and in an environment much simpler that the one faced by a president today.

We will need a president who can restore America’s stature, dependability, leadership, and respectability.  We will need a president who understands the technological revolution soon to encompass driverless vehicles, artificial intelligence, and robots.  We will need a president who can negotiate arms control agreements, establish workable trade rules with China, force Russia to butt out of our politics, establish humane immigration systems, and restore some degree of fairness to our tax system.

America beyond Trump will be a study in massive damage repair but also one of enormous new opportunities not seen since the end of World War II.  Ordinary leadership skills, well beyond winning one or two Statewide elections, will be required.  The standards for selection of the Democratic candidate must be kept very high.  Not all of the many putative candidates qualify.

It will be up to caucus attendees and primary voters in all 50 States to take their task very seriously.  This is not a beauty contest or a game show quiz.  Donald Trump is creating a deep hole for our nation at home and abroad that we must climb out of.

And it must be said that the press and media should be held to account in this process.  The political press adores what has been called the “inside baseball” aspect of elections…constantly changing poll results, the race for money, who has hired the cleverest “strategist”, who has what endorsements, and on and on.  None of this really means anything in the end.

If the argument for extraordinary talent and skills made here is sound, it is all ultimately irrelevant.  Will we find the woman or man who can pull our country up by its boot straps and set us back on solid ground for a generation at least.

Beyond policy and program, our national self-definition has been seriously damaged by the incumbent’s casual relationship with the truth and his selection of cabinet members.  We are and always have been a nation of principles as set out by our Founders.  Virtually all of those principles have been abused or disregarded.  The next president must restore our first principles established in our founding documents and defining statements since then.

We face an uncommonly important national election.  It is not a game.  It is not a show.  It is about the future of America after a four year march of folly.  We must pray the best person wins for our nation and for what the Constitution calls our Progeny.

Active Measures

Author: Gary Hart

Sometime last year a documentary entitled Active Measures was released.  A recent viewing revealed that it is a painstaking, well-documented review of Donald Trump’s activities and associations in Russia.  It makes no effort to be “fair and balanced”.  But there seems to have been no critical, documented rebuttal of the case against this continuing close association.

The crux of the matter, leading up to Trump’s unexpected presidential victory, has to do with the confluence of Russian oligarchical money, virtually all traceable to Vladimir Putin, and the global Trump hotel dynasty.

Following disastrously failed casino ventures in New Jersey, Trump experienced a series of bankruptcies and found conventional bank financing scarce.  Through ties Paul Manafort and others developed with spectacularly wealthy Russian oligarchs, money soon became available for the Trump Tower in New York, condominium developments in Florida and elsewhere, and a variety of other Trump branded hotels world-wide.

In virtually every case the money was funneled through Deutche Bank and other international banks, then through other cut-outs and shell companies, until its original sources were untraceable.  Sophisticated people think the Mueller investigation is devoting much time and energy to the cause of recreating these schemes.

From Trump Tower onward, clever Russian oligarchs invested in apartments using shell company documentation and, in many cases, flipped the apartments at huge windfalls.

Even with the evidence provided by the Active Measures documentary, it will take years, even decades, to piece these intricate schemes together.

In the meantime, it does lay the base for understanding Trump’s bizarre, some have alleged treasonous, attitude toward Russia.  Even as Trump & Co. claim they are being tougher on the Russians than any previous president (Reagan is rolling in his grave), at least five separate discussions between Trump and Putin remain undocumented or all records held in Trump’s personal possession.  The most blatant and unprecedented was the two hour meeting in Helsinki with only translators present and their notes sequestered by Trump himself.

Given this history, only two explanations are possible: either Trump has been totally stupid, or he kept the business side with Russia in operation up to and through the election not ever expecting that he would be elected.

The latter would certainly explain his pre- and post-election antagonism toward the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the U.S. Government.  Never having read the U.S. Constitution, he believed the U.S. Department of Justice was his personal law firm and, until his new Attorney General recused himself from the Mueller investigation, that Sessions and Justice would protect him from the FBI, CIA, and Justice itself.

If Active Measures (a KGB code phrase for extraordinary operations) is only partially accurate, Mr. Trump is facing serious trouble.  If the possibility of indictment or impeachment exists, Russian money still underwriting Trump hotel operations will disappear rather than be implicated.  Thus, the political house of cards is in turn resting on a financial house of cards.  Mr. Trump is heavily leveraged both ways.

It would require a Shakespeare to construct a drama of an angry, unhinged king who loses both his kingdom and his fortune.

Meanwhile, the respectability of the United States of America is at risk.  If the worst possible thing occurs, and it could, what will be our standing with the democratic leaders and nations of the world?

Which leads to the next national election.  While media focus is on the new, the young, the attractive, the sensational, the most progressive of the sizable candidate wave, what we may require is a statesman or woman of historic standing, reputation, experience, and credibility to repair the damage, restore our friendships and alliances, and create the foundation of trust without which a great nation cannot lead.

We could well be headed at rapid speed toward a situation unprecedented in American history where high degrees of sobriety and statesmanship are required to restore the course of this nation’s ship of state.

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Author: Gary Hart

“Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night,” according to the movie.  Or perhaps lots of nights.

Donald Trump does not respond to pressure well.  Pressure, in the form of Pelosi and Mueller among others, has increased virtually overnight.

He now has an interim Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and a temporary chief of staff.  “His” generals are gone.  His National Security Advisor contradicts him on a Syrian withdrawal, saying it would occur over an undetermined length of time.  Then the Pentagon starts moving equipment out despite that.

His border wall, which many in his own party do not support, has become an obsession of Melvillian dimensions.  Since popularized in the age of Gingrich, the party responsible for a government shut-down, and in this case it is not the Democrats, has been punished at the next election.  Republican Senators faced with re-election in 2020 are beginning to bail.

There have been no indications that anyone who has his ear has had the courage to point out to him the implications of both Houses of Congress, with subpoena powers, in the hands of the opposition party.

This would be a fresh hell for which he is not emotionally or psychologically prepared.

The domestic warfare now opening is not of the scale of our Civil War or two World Wars.  But those world wars united us and, after a long period of healing, even the outcome of the Civil War made us a better nation.

The unprecedented Trump war now beginning has no historic precedent.  Absent a presidential resignation, it has no possible positive outcome.

We are beginning to see a confrontation between Trump and his “base” and the rest of America.  Those who consider themselves conservative but not part of the “base” will be caught in the middle.  Trump can prevail only if Democrats overplay their hand.

Protecting the nation by restoring our first principles must be the central theme of this struggle.

We must prepare for an intense campaign of distraction, threatening words uttered and actions taken to draw media, and therefore public, attention away from the impending confrontation between Trump and the truth.

New evidence, mostly from insider leaks, arrives daily.  Is it possible, as reported very recently, that the President of the United States has acquired sole ownership of all notes, including from interpreters, of his five meetings with Vladimir Putin?  If so, why?  There is no precedent in American history for this.  What transpired in those meetings that he conducted ostensibly on behalf of the American people that he wishes to sequester?

Trump does not own those records.  They belong to us.  There are no possible good reasons for hiding these historic records.  The new House of Representatives has subpoena powers.

Absent newly-demonstrated sobriety by Trump, there are no possible good outcomes from this looming confrontation.  Elements of the “base” are extremists.  They will not retire quietly.  Law enforcement agencies must be prepared for bad outcomes.

Our nation has faced many tests, assassinations and civil unrest not the least.  The coming test will be without previous precedent and may well determine who we are as a society and who we insist on being as a nation.

 

The Darkness Before the Dawn

Author: Gary Hart

A very astute friend has been discussing changes in popular culture, occurring so gradually as almost to be unnoticeable, that will have the cumulative affect of producing a different kind of society with as yet unclear political implications.

He says, for example, that many, if not most, people will quit going to movie theaters and will watch movies at home.  The same is true of dining out.  We have only to wait for first run movies to appear on DVD and, with a somewhat larger screen, watch them at home.  Meals delivered to the home are expanding exponentially to a growing consumer base, especially for two wage-earner families.

In both cases the savings are the same: car parking, theater tickets, large restaurant bills, tips here and there, baby sitters, expensive sodas and popcorn at the movies, and on and on.  Not to say also maneuvering through urban traffic and the danger of a DUI after the restaurant.

These trends are not new, especially among the working middle class whose incomes have become stagnant.  And young people have to be from wealthy families to afford a dinner and movie date.

These trends also involve shopping and merchandise.  The popular shopping malls of the 60s, 70s, and 80s have been surrendering to the bulldozers and wrecking balls years ago as the rise of catalogue shopping and Amazon rendered them obsolete.

Even as the investment world, driven by equity firms, retirement funds, and concentrated wealth, produces a rosy economic picture, some see that picture turning into a sunset.  Wealth is swirling upward, middle class wages stagnate, human hands are replaced by robots, and the third and fourth quintiles of workers become more frustrated and angry.

An ugly fog of stagnation seems to be settling in…permanently.

The social implications, and therefore the politics they produce, are becoming clearer.  People still socialize, but mostly among family and close friends.  But the community represented by popular entertainment, dining out, and shopping is narrowing.  Attendance at religious services, another locus of community, is markedly down.  Attendance at city council, county commission, and school board meetings is sparse.

It is one thing to neglect participation because things seem to be going well.  It is another to opt out because it doesn’t make a difference.

These patterns are replicated in one way or another in many, if not most, Western democracies.  Populist demagogues hone popular frustration by blaming immigrants, internationalists, and liberals.

And then, like a bad dream, a man appears to lead the world’s greatest democracy who sees government as a reality show, a source of never-ending chaos and drama, a new form of Survivor, a source of distraction, and a circus in which he is ringmaster.

No cohort is more confused than the intelligencia of the political party he has highjacked.  The man in the Oval Office does not play by any rules ever devised.  Every day is a new show with a drama based on a new set of assertions—never facts—and empowered by random family members, ever-changing cronies, a leaderless, somnambulant former party, and cabinet henchmen whose only talent is to break the rules, disobey laws, rig federal largess for corporate buddies, and then head for the door as investigating hangmen appear at the door.

Meanwhile, the large majority of Americans tune out, convinced by anti-government media that this is just a tip of total corruption in Washington, and who increasingly live their lives behind closed doors, in danger of leaving their communities to their own devices.

But all is not gloom.  As the Fallows, Jim and Deb, have shown in their recent book, Our Town, there are vibrant recovering communities, largely small and midsized, where citizens are volunteering, local businesses investing, schools teaching, and there is hope for the future.

Despite the chaos in and around the White House and the fog of stagnation it creates, emanating from a man who could care less for this country, and despite the cultural changes shrewdly observed by my friend, there must and will be a return to sanity and to a brighter day for the country we love.  We are optimists because we are Americans.

As Revered Jesse Jackson used to say about himself, God is not done with us yet.

Sunset of Civility

Author: Gary Hart

Even some of us described as “liberal” by the media—that is tolerant, open-minded, experimental, socially concerned—have a conservative side.  Mine has to do with public life and public institutions.  It is offensive for an elected official to use profane language in public and against political opponents…including Donald Trump.  And the chambers of Congress are not the venues for making social commentary about gender by breaching dress codes for those elected to serve there.

Trump’s vulgarities are cited as justification for vulgar language.  Vulgarity does breed vulgarity.  But falling into that trap brings anyone using vulgarity down to his level.  He wins.  You lose.  Does profanity elevate the dialogue, or is it merely a jazzy way to spin up the anti-Trump base?  Do night club style dresses on the floor of the Senate genuinely send a powerful gender message, as some have commented, or does it diminish the Senate as an august deliberative body?

So this is my conservatism.  To be sworn in and to serve for years in the Senate, especially at an early age, was well beyond my aspirations.  I felt awe for the institution and even greater awe at serving there.  To me, the White House, the Capital, and the Supreme Court are the temples of democracy, the symbols of all that the Constitution has created.  Not all have the highest secular respect for them.  I do.

Donald Trump possesses none of that respect. Does that provide those who oppose him license to descend to his level?  Not at all.

Perennial jokes are made about those entering the last quarter of the game of life decrying the chaos into which society has fallen and reminiscing about the good old days of decency, respect, and decorum, and to dismiss them as creepy old codgers.

Times change and realities change with them.  But some things are true and lasting standards of behavior that abide.  Decency, mutual respect, maturity, all form the core of civilized society.  Barbarians in high office do not justify crass behavior in others.  There are standards of civility that must be exhibited even in vulgar times.

So there you have the conservative views of an aging liberal.  The conservatism advocated here has much less to do with politics and much more to do with respect for the cathedrals of democracy.  This has become more important than usual in the age of a president surrounded by those who publicly advocate crashing it all down.  This isn’t any kind of conservatism any of us is used to.  It is anarchism and it excites the so-called populists who wrongly think they have little to lose.

Forget about the “Progeny” mentioned in the Preamble to our Constitution to whom we owe a strong and vibrant government.  In an age of anarchism, who worries about what comes after the bonfires enveloping the institutions created by our Founders.

So, for those claiming representation of the Democratic party, to descend to the Trumpian level of vulgarity is to give him the victory over civility.  When those proclaiming liberalism join him on his level, they are joining him in the anarchy he seeks.

Restoration of Optimism

Author: Gary Hart

Cocked-eyed optimism has philosophical roots.  It springs from the Enlightenment, that movement that emerged in the late 17th, early 18th centuries premised on the belief that the human mind exploring new scientific breakthroughs, tolerant democratic government, and human flourishing would, with a few possible detours, inevitably lead to a better tomorrow.

Without knowing it, many of us, especially Americans, took this philosophical movement that so animated our nation’s Founders as a given, a premise of all future undertakings.  It wasn’t exactly Pangloss–we are getting better and better in every way–but it was a sense that we can aspire to achieve the highest goals our talents will allow.

No one is quite sure, but a few years back, perhaps sometime in the 1970s and 80s, this Enlightenment-fired optimism began to falter.  The usual causes are Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, economic competition and dislocation, mass migrations, encountering the limits of environmental tolerance, and much else.

It was not accidental that Ronald Reagan’s vaunted optimism provided eight years in the White House with the one bright light, the end of the Cold War, as icing on the cake.  This was followed by booming markets and, shockingly, budget surpluses during the Clinton years.

Then, like a thunder-clap return to depressing reality, high-jacked planes flew into U.S. buildings, 3,000 American died, and welcome to the 21st century, a century so far of terrorism, endless wars, and, as the final closing of the door on the Enlightenment, the election of Donald Trump.  He was not elected for his optimism; he was elected for his anger and destructiveness.

The spiritual depression this experience has brought to many Americans is unprecedented.  Our Civil War and World Wars I and II are in the same vein, though different.  We pulled together and came out of them whole.  The Trump experience has yet to close and much of its meaning, if there is any, will be determined by how America chooses to move on.  Though analysts necessarily use Watergate as a touchstone for experience, this is much different.  Nixon had his supporters.  You might call them a “base” though I don’t recall that word being used.  But there are great differences.

By setting up a political system composed of a “deep state”, false news media, power hungry Democrats, treachery high and low, and no one, even in the White House and administration, who can be trusted, Trump has orchestrated a dangerous opera.  Whether brought down by the Mueller investigation or defeat in 2020, the message to the “base” will be: I am the victim of high-level treachery.

Those eager for impeachment, and the short-term satisfaction of escape from perhaps the wackiest two years in American history, tread carefully.  The Trump retreat to Mar-a-Lago, or wherever, is fraught with peril.  He will not go lightly, and he will not go graciously.  A third of the American people claim him as their leader.

Fanatical movements are on the rise in Western democracies and elsewhere.  We live in an armed state.  Radical right-wing groups are flourishing and are documented.  Proceed with caution.

If, as it is increasingly being predicted in high places, “impeachment is inevitable”, then it better be founded to the degree humanly possible on iron-clad, copper-riveted facts and indisputable law.  Mr. Trump is his own worst enemy and, if doors and escape hatches begin to close, his stability cannot be guaranteed.

Based on considerable experience, I have great confidence in the armed forces of the United States and in our intelligence and law enforcement agencies.  Congressional leaders must guarantee that these remain in Constitutionally-indoctrinated hands.  This is our most serious bulwark against mischief.

A serious national trial may well lie ahead.  It may well test our national commitment to Constitutional principles, the rule of law, and democratic government.  But we must also trust our country and, when the chips are down, the common sense and decency of the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

At stake in coming days is not only whether our native optimism can be recaptured, but even more importantly whether we will remain the country of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and, yes, Ronald Reagan.

 

There are many ways to escape the Trump era.  Mine is reading.  And most recently my son gave me Michael Lewis’s book The Fifth Risk.  Instead of distracting from the Trump era, it drove me deeper into it.

The narrative is about the Trump transition into management of the U.S. Government and how little those handling the transition know or cared about what they were doing.  They got away with it, at least so far, for an even more depressing reason: too many Americans, especially those who voted for Trump, don’t have a clue what the United States Government does and how it benefits their lives.

The single organizing principle then and now seems to be: whatever the Government was doing before we got here, unless it benefits corporate America, has to stop.

Underwriting this principle are rejection of science, distrust of public service and servants, privatization of even the most successful public policies and programs, and confidence in the willingness of the Trump “base” to accept destruction of the programs most specifically developed to help its members.

At its core is the cynical proposition that true believers will vote against their own and their children’s best interests in the interest of furthering a right-wing program of destruction.  Forget about the country at large and its future.  The image is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Progress in our country has been brought about to some degree by corporate innovation but to a much larger degree by scientific explorations in the public as well as the private sectors.  Breakthroughs in health, nutrition, agriculture, technology, communications, and a host of other areas have, as often as not, emanated from a government laboratory and then made commercial and profitable by the private sector.

From the Oval Office to the lowliest political appointee in this administration ignorance of this bipartisan history is taken for granted, and the ignorant don’t want to know they are ignorant.

Historically, the only period to rival this involved the Know Nothings of the mid-19th century, also anti-immigrant and anti-fact-based reality.

Despite the many political analyses of the rise of Trumpism, none so far has solved the mystery of why close to a third of the country strongly supports a president who knows nothing about governing or government and who favors Wall Street wealth which his “base” is supposed to dislike and distrust.

There has been no serious rationalization from the White House for the systematic dismantling of Obama administration initiatives, cancelation of treaties and agreements with allies on trade, security, and cooperation (created by Republican as well as Democratic administrations), efforts to forestall climate catastrophe, and a host of other domestic and international policies meant to stabilize the world.  It is mindless destruction with no reason provided.

The “fifth risk”, project management, involves life or death issues such as nuclear waste disposal, food and drug inspection, carbon build up, and many others.  Those involved now in managing these projects don’t understand them or care about them.  The U.S. Government has been turned over to children and unqualified children at that.

To that must now be added yet another risk, the sixth risk which is the dismantling of government structures that support what up to now has been mostly a progressive national government that makes our country and our society better in virtually every way.

There is no justification for willful ignorance from the White House on down.

 

“America’s Best Idea”

Author: Gary Hart

All humans are sacred.  That is, until they prove otherwise.  All nature is sacred.  That is, until humans destroy it.  Of the many sins for which Donald Trump must answer in this life or another, among the worst is his destruction of what has been called “America’s best idea.”

In an essay in the New York Times (“The Beginning of the End of America’s Best Idea”, New York Times, November 23, 2018), Timothy Egan movingly intertwines American history with its decision in the last century or so to protect America’s natural heritage.  Though his focus is on California, and the devastating fires of recent years and those inevitably to come, he is writing for all our natural heritage…national parks, wildlife areas, recreational areas, unique pristine enclaves, camp grounds, hiking trails, and of course the wild animals that inhabit them.

That a huge national protest against Trump’s mounting depredations of all this heritage– left to us almost always against great resistance by corporate commercial interests–has not happened, is a mystery.  But it must begin.  He has spread so much unAmerican chaos in so many other domestic and international arenas that it is difficult to focus public attention on the long-term, probably permanent damage he has already done and promises to do against this precious heritage.

Though he holds what amounts to a sacred trust, the simple fact is: He doesn’t care.  Either he has no empathy for nature and its grandeur in America, or he places private profit ahead of it, or both.

Others have their own ground for impeachment.  This is mine.  The Constitution mandates that the president “take care that the laws by faithfully executed”.  He, his Cabinet officers, and their politically appointed subordinates are doing everything in their power to ignore or subvert the very national resource laws they are required to faithfully execute.

If you believe, as I do, that there is intergenerational accountability, the duty of each of us to preserve the commonwealth for future generations, and that this duty is moral, ethical, and sacred, then this president must be condemned for falling so far short of this standard.  Even worse, he consciously and purposefully trashes the standard.  His destruction of our heritage is perverse, intended, and even hateful.  He does not care.

There is much natural destruction guided by the president.  None more so than his denial of climate change.  All serious science and common sense connect increased carbon emissions with forest fires, rising tides, and increased storms.  Yet he casually, even gleefully, destroys regulations on those emissions for no other reason than that they were promulgated by the Obama administration.

We all know his demented approach; shrink national park and wilderness boundaries, open federal lands to exploitation, and appoint officials at Interior, EPA, and related agencies whose commitments were and are to privatize our national heritage for profit.  In a Constitutionally intended system of checks and balances, with a Congress responsible to the people, this would not have been permitted to happen.  Historic shame now rests on collaborative Republicans in Congress.

What will it take for Americans concerned for their children’s future to rise up?  Further evidence of dereliction of duties is not required.  Decades of hard work, of speaking and preaching, of testifying and legislating, or public education, were required to achieve the natural and environmental accomplishments we have achieved.  Considering the damage already done and that to come, many more decades of similar struggle will be required to repair this damage in decades ahead, even to return to the more sane pre-Trump era.  And that does not include an unfinished agenda not even being addressed.

Not all of our natural national heritage is in the West, but much of it is.  The East is experiencing flooding and severe weather.  The West is aflame, and those flames often engulf national forests and parks.  Regardless of our location, however, the public natural heritage belongs to all of us and is held in trust for future generations.

It should be on our national conscience to honor that trust.

[The author’s qualifications: Special Assistant to the Solicitor, US Department of the Interior, 1965-67; member, United States Senate Environment Committee. 1975-87; Chairman, Clean Air Committee, US Congress, 1979-80; Presidential Clean Air Project, 2004-05]