I have always been into American presidents. It started when I was in elementary school. I sent a get-well note to President Eisenhower following his heart attack. A few weeks later I received by mail an embossed card thanking me for my best wishes which thrilled me beyond belief. At age 7, a presidential buff was born.
I never lost my interest in presidents, all presidents. It didn’t matter much whether the president was one I admired like FDR or JFK or ones I disliked like the two Andrews (Jackson and Johnson), I was interested in them all.
Accordingly, over the years I have visited most presidential homes, birth places, graves and museums. I am no admirer of Richard Nixon but, for me, his museum in Yorba Linda, California (with the house in which he was born sitting right in the courtyard) is a trip and a half. FDR’s Hyde Park is a piece of heaven. I even enjoyed Warren Harding’s home in Marion, Ohio, from which he conducted his “front porch” campaign. And I love James Garfield’s house near Cleveland (in fact, I love everything about Garfield, an outspoken champion of equal rights for African-Americans).
I like presidents.
But then Donald Trump came along and destroyed the whole thing. If someone like Donald Trump could just jump from television show host and rich guy to the White House, then what is so special about becoming president? Again, I was no fan of Nixon or George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan but each of them had something that made him stand out from the average Joe.
Not Trump. I cringe when I hear how he uses the language, especially when he uses it to berate others or self-promote. Does he ever use his rudimentary language skills for anything else? I recoil from his loud manner, his truculent demeanor, his lumbering persona.
I remember early in the campaign I was taking care of my 7-year old grandson who was coloring while I watched a Trump speech. I didn’t think Alex was paying any attention until he looked up, stared at Trump for a few seconds, and then yelled, “Stop bragging, dude!”
Even at 7, he knew that there was something repugnant about Trump’s endless bragging. Even at 7, little boys and girls know you just don’t do that, although a 4 year old might.
The bottom line is that Trump has managed to taint all his predecessors for me. And not just for me. Who couldn’t feel terrible for President Barack Obama who had to turn over the White House keys to Trump? Was there ever a transition so heart-breaking?
Obama had earned the right to hand the office to which he brought so much honor to someone, no matter the party, whose presence would not demean it. Say what you will about Mitt Romney, the previous Republican nominee, but he would have continued the reign of decency in the Oval Office. Frankly, not even Ted Cruz (who knows what the Constitution is , even if his interpretation is, by my lights, way off) could have debased the presidency the way Trump has.
And that is just by his presence, a presence that will always be associated with his repulsive language about women, his race-baiting of Muslims and Latinos, and his mocking of the disabled. That is without considering the policies he is trying to implement, at least as ugly as any of his campaign language and far more dangerous.
But for me, in addition to everything else, Trump has taken away one of my great sources of pleasure: the American presidency. Hopefully, I will get it back. But one thing I will never get back is my belief that to be president is to be uncommon. That shouldn’t reflect on, say, Theodore Roosevelt or Harry Truman, let alone George Washington or FDR. But, sorry boys, it does. It just does.