Time for binding up the nation’s wounds

One thing is abundantly clear after the election. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are exactly the same — except that they are completely different.

That is, they are both really, really bad, but in different ways.

Trump was so erratic and ignorant during the campaign that no sane person could have voted for him. Hillary was so smug and evasive that no sane person could have voted for her either. Did you?

Clearly, what this country really needs, besides a good five-cent blood pressure pill, is a national candidate of impeccable stature — like Mark Twain, who told reporters in 1900 that he would run for president on the inclusive platform of being in favor of everything. That was not only funny but smart ­— something for everyone.

Of course, if Twain had become president, William McKinley would not have begun a second term, and then Teddy Roosevelt would have had to wait a while longer to get into the White House. But he did get there, and so did Twain, who was invited for lunch in 1905. Twain said he loved Roosevelt the man, but hated Roosevelt the politician. He should see the crop today.

It was accurately observed during the 2016 campaign that the press took Donald Trump literally but not seriously, while his supporters took him seriously but not literally. In fact, the press takes everything Trump says and does to its absolute literal extreme in order to make him look as unstable and unfit for office as possible.

This was a questionable tactic for supposedly neutral journalists, even when Trump was just a clownish candidate with little chance of winning. But now that he has been sworn in as president and commander-in-chief, it does not serve the country or the world (just the Democratic party) to constantly portray him as unhinged, and to make overblown charges of chaos and crisis every day. Liberal college students take that kind of thing to heart, and it worries them.

Of course, this is nothing new. For decades, the press has demonized Republicans while covering Democrats like biographers smitten with their subject. Ronald Reagan was portrayed as a doddering old fool. So was Ike. Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush were fumbler-bumblers. Richard Nixon and Newt Gingrich were evil. Dan Quayle and George W. Bush were idiots. Dick Cheney — well, you get the idea. Some of it is even true, but not all of it.

Democrats, on the other hand, are almost always portrayed as selfless, brilliant public servants, and none more so than Barack Obama, who for the last eight years was lovingly chiseled by the press for a spot on Mt. Rushmore or the dollar coin, or both. We may never have Hillary half-dollars or Trump twenties, but we will soon have Obama on some coin or currency.

Long before election night, the press openly declared war on Trump, discarding even the pretense of neutrality. This will end only when they find something to impeach him on, which will happen soon, perhaps within six months or less. They’re really working at it.

Even before he entered the Oval Office, Trump had been irrevocably branded as an ogre of minorities and immigrants, racist, sexist and homophobic. His hair, of course, is even worse, and who dresses him for God’s sake? Would it kill him to button his coat and cover that bloated belly and ludicrously long tie? C’mon.

Nor was Trump’s victory the landslide he claims (unless he meant it was a Hillary landslide), but it was one of the greatest upsets in history. It made “Dewey Defeats Truman” look prescient. The morning after it happened, an editor at the New York Times told me that everyone there was in a state of “stunned disbelief.” They still are.

But no matter how shell-shocked the press is, or you are, the concerns of Trump’s millions of supporters are perfectly valid, even if his methods and manners and ill-considered tweets are not.

He is right about one thing, though: to fight back against a profoundly biased press.



Mark Godburn is a bookseller and writer in North Canaan.