Votes, Tweets and Tense Times

Votes, Tweets and Tense Times

Jewish Light Editorial

After one of the most bitterly divisive midterm elections in recent memory, harsh partisanship rages on.  

Republicans slightly increased their majority in the Senate, while the Democrats regained their majority in the House of Representatives.  There was neither a blue wave nor a red tide, but there was a slender hope that the split decision on Congress might encourage bipartisan cooperation on issues like infrastructure or even immigration.

But even before all of the ballots could be counted, President Donald Trump once again was grinding out tweets that only made a tense situation worse.

As horrific forest fires raged through California, leaving death and destruction in their paths, Trump faulted California forest officials for “gross mismanagement” and even threatened to cut off federal disaster relief funds.  Californians deserved far more reassurance from Washington.

Then Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general. In his temporary position, Whitaker will oversee the investigation by Robert Mueller into whether there was campaign collusion with Russia — a probe that Whitaker has criticized in the past. In all-too-typical doublespeak, the president last month told Fox News “I know Matt Whitaker,” only to directly contradict himself over the weekend by telling reporters “I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”

The above farce unfolded just after the White House revoked press credentials of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta because he refused to relinquish the microphone at a press conference. Acosta arguably was rude in his refusal to allow an NBC reporter to take his turn, but suspending his press credentials only reinforces Trump’s self-declared war on reporters as the “enemy of the people,” when in fact a free press is a pillar of the First Amendment and democracy itself.

Amid all of the above contretemps, Trump traveled to Paris only to be greeted with a statement by French President Emmanuel Macron that France might need to develop an independent military strength to protect itself from Russia, China — and the United States! This from a European leader whose country twice was saved by American involvement in both World Wars. Could Trump’s hectoring of our NATO allies be coming back to bite him?

For someone who declared the midterms to be a victory for him and his party, Trump is coming across as just as belligerent and combative as if he had lost. At his post-election news conference, he even singled out GOP candidates who refused to embrace his policies and invite him to campaign for them, then lost. He pledged to work with the new Democratic majority in the House, but none-too-subtly threatened attacks if things don’t go his way.

And what happened to all those issues that Trump raised right before the election, like the menacing caravan of immigrants approaching from the south or the impending middle-class tax cut? Once the ballots had been cast, they disappeared from the White House playbook.

After such a bitter campaign in many parts of the country, the nation needs to hear more soothing words and witness more conciliatory actions from the man who has served nearly two years as president. Just as the United States needed bold leadership and soaring speeches during the terms of Woodrow Wilson and FDR, so do we need real leadership and presidential inspiration now, instead of petty score settling through destructive and depressing tweets. Let’s hope we get it, and soon.