by Gallagher & Schleicher
[as also in Waco Tribune-Herald on November 20, 2020]
We consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to periodically fill the Waco Tribune-Herald opinion pages these last three and a half years with our thoughts on President Donald J. Trump and his experimentation with American democracy. Concluding that our work here is done, for now, we invite Donald to join us in departing voluntarily. We would no more like to be dragged off the Opinion page than we assume he would enjoy being escorted out of the White House by armed U.S. Marshals.
Our columns have comforted some, angered others, and if we had to do it all over again, we would take back not a single word. For this was no normal president and these last four years have been anything but ordinary. This was not a situation like that with former president George W. Bush, with whom we often and strongly disagreed, but who was nonetheless a likable chap who we can say from personal experience did not take himself too seriously. Bush had the self-confidence required to know that he did not always have all the answers, contrasted with a narcissist who would prefer to imprison anyone who triggers his insecurities.
We dare not imagine that our columns, or related creation and distribution of near daily memes on Facebook (aided by the White House providing a “photo of the day” to recaption) in any way influenced his landslide defeat. But we do know a record number of Americans overcame enormous and systemic efforts to make voting as difficult as possible to elect Joe Biden to the presidency, or at the very least to prevent the re-election of The Trump. Credit is also due to Donald himself — we surely could not have done it without him.
A normal president would have responded much more quickly and thoroughly to COVID-19, preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths and reducing the economic collapse that will forever be associated with the Trump name going forward. Truth is, even the mere appearance of trying to meet his responsibilities competently or even sincerely might have been enough to keep him in the White House for another term. But “it is what it is,” in his now immortal words.
In a July 2017 column we asked whether all the standard rules no longer applied and answered that they did. Consider for yourself whether what we wrote then has in the end proven true: (1) If bad news is coming, get out in front of it. (2) To get legislation passed, be a consistent and credible source of expertise. (3) When you have greatly erred, admit it publicly and outline steps to prevent future occurrences. (4) Humility helps prevent disastrous decision-making. (5) Unnecessarily antagonizing a reporter will backfire on you. (6) Independent voters in the middle decide elections, so politicians should focus on them.
The glee many might assume we feel at Donald’s defeat is mitigated by the fact that we would much rather have preferred that a minority of our fellow citizens — by way of an Electoral College majority — had not made the mistake in the first place of electing him. Or the mistake of staying home in 2016.
We are not among those who think these last four years will have been a blessing in disguise by revealing the cracks in our democracy with time to repair them before it crumbles. We view it as more akin to a serious car wreck from which we are grateful that the country has apparently survived, while being mindful the road to full recovery is a slow and painful one, lasting decades if not longer.
While Beyoncé sang the national anthem for the second inauguration of Barack Obama, she may have to be called back into service prior to the January 2021 event for some serenading. Among the relevant lyrics from her “Irreplaceable” song would be, “And keep talking that mess, that’s fine. But could you walk and talk at the same time? … Talkin’ ’bout, how I’ll never ever find a man like you … I could have another you in a minute. Matter of fact, he’ll be here in a minute…”
So it is a fond adios to our readers, a less fond adieu to our ever-orange muse, and a hope against hope that the country finds a way through the resentments and fears that so divide us. We will continue writing, but elsewhere and on other topics. Who knows? Maybe a run by Don Jr. or Ivanka in 2024 will pull us back to these pages for a column. For now, however, we trust the soon-to-be ex-president can likewise fill his schedule (e.g., tee times, deposition prep sessions and setting up his new Parler account).
Like so many of you, we look forward to the day that perhaps a grandchild will ask us, “When Trump almost destroyed the country, did you speak out?” And like so many of you we will be very glad to have an affirmative answer. Thank you to the Trib for its role in providing that.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London and tweeting at @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney who represents U.S. federal employees worldwide and Texas business/non-profit clients. Their prior columns are online at contranymtimes.com.