It has been a week of heart touching images, towering praise, and warm personal recollections. Yet, through it all, I was continually drawn to one constant, repetitive question. How can the simple act of remembering and telling one man’s simple decency, moral character, and devoted service provoke such a jarring contrast and stinging rebuke to the very man who now sits in the same chair that George H W Bush used to occupy, without ever mentioning his name?
Everybody in the country blew out a sigh of relief when our current President, The Great Pumpkin, made it through the Bush lying in state, and state funeral, without embarrassing the nation any further than he already has. The sad part is that the bar has been set so pathetically low, that all Trump had to do was to not be caught on camera tweeting about the Mueller “witch hunt!” from the front pew of the national cathedral. This is like praising a 4 year old for not spilling soup on his shirt at a wedding reception, or dragging his finger through the frosting on the wedding cake.
One of the problems of ascending to any high position, including the Presidency of the United States is the risk of “living in the shadows” of a predecessor. This has been known to happen. Lyndon Johnson struggled to remove himself from the shadow of the charisma, youth, and charm of John F Kennedy. Gerald Ford lived under the cloud of Richard Nixon’s perfidy. The recently passed George H W Bush was never able to escape the confines of the towering image that Ronald Reagan presented. There can be a real, mental and emotional problem for a successor to be constantly feeling like he has to “fill someone else’s shoes.”This is not, and never has been a problem for one Donald J Trump Pestquire. Hell, this goof couldn’t fill Curly Howard’s shoes on his best day on the planet. If Trump was a baseball player, his hero would be the old time pitcher “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, mainly because he wouldn’t have to worry about filling them. But it does present a problem for the man or woman who follows Trump into the Oval Office.
Imagine that you are the new, incoming President, and are sworn in on January 20, 2021 at noon. You’re already hosed sideways. How can you take full pride, knowing that at this point, Alfred E Newman would be an improvement. Not because the bar of expectations for you are set so high, but rather the fact that it is set so ridiculously low. How do you break free from the shadows of an overstuffed poltroon like Donald Trump? I’m serious, think about it for a minute.
You can be a political genius, and nobody will see it, because everything you do is being done in comparison to your predecessor. You immediately become the paragon of executive dignity, for no better reason than you don’t trail a half a roll of Charmin up the air stairs to Air Force One behind you by the heel. You automatically become an administrative genius by default, simply for nominating cabinet secretaries who have actually heard of the damned department they’ll be heading before you named them to the job. You’re a world champion government reformer on day one, for putting people into staff positions and cabinet posts that won’t be indicted, or forced to resign in abject humiliation before they finish stenciling their name on the office door. And the new commander in chief can become the wunderkind of diplomacy, simply by appointing ambassadors to key allied countries, and filling the State Department staff positions to support them.
I know it sounds funny, because I typed it that way, but it could happen. The next President could literally solve world hunger, and the immediate contrast would be drawn to Trump’s “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you ever saw.” He or she could balance the budget, and erase the deficit, and the emphasis would be on the Trump tax cuts that exploded it. Everything Trump touches, dies, and that would include the next President’s first term in office.
Frankly, I don’t think that I’d take the job if they gave it to me for a Christmas present. For starters, the inauguration balls would be a nightmare. Put me in a tuxedo, and you have an Irish penguin. Also, I can’t dance on the end of a rope. I step on Teri’s feet on the way to the fridge, on a dance floor? Fuggedaboudit! But mostly, I wouldn’t take the job, because there would never be any real reward for it. Trump has been such a nightmare, that no matter what you accomplish, it will be relegated to a matter of “cleaning up the mess” that the Trumoster fire left behind. The president who follows Trump will never be a “great” president, simply because he can’t be. Becoming the president that follows Trump is like being the guy who walks along behind the circus elephant, the one with the rolling can, shovel, and broom. Rodney Dangerfield would get more respect.
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