Creeping along from Obama 44 to Trump 45
The transition I call the “Trump Creep,” aptly describing the process and the man, is about to end. The inaugural is here and now the show really begins.
For some, these days since Nov. 8 have been like the “Twilight Zone.”
But just wait.
We ain’t seen nothing yet.
The man who likes his politics raw, blunt, and tweeted is about to take over. Taking on such power could be humbling. Or it could grow his already monumental ego to a size that could bust the Capitol.
Ironically, the term “creep” was also an acronym that harkens back to Nixon and Watergate (remember the burglary at the Committee to Re-elect the President). Maybe that’s no mere coincidence as Trump is already the least liked president in two decades to enter office, the least ethical (anyone else settle a $25 million fraud suit?), and least transparent (seen any tax returns? Blind trusts?).
Trump (what’s with all the Mr. Trump business? NY Times style on second reference would call Mickey Mouse, Mr. Mouse. My style book says just plain Trump), who is on the brink as the most potentially Nixonian president we’ve ever had. And now he’s ready to govern.
A Trump 45 could be a real pistol. Aimed at us.
Immigrants, Muslims, all of us who qualify as “other.” And all of us do.
At last count, more than 60 Democrats have chosen the route of Rep. John Lewis and won’t be attending the inaugural, including Asian American members of Congress Rep. Judy Chu of California, head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Rep. Grace Meng of New York, Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Mark Takano of California, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
“When President-elect Trump denigrated and disrespected our civil rights icon and leader John Lewis, and when he did it on Martin Luther King weekend of all times, I said that is the last straw,” Chu said on my podcast.
I’ve both attended and covered inaugurals past. All of them had a sense of bipartisan joy and excitement.
In 1993, I covered the first Clinton inaugural, when many Americans and people of color were excited that after 12 years of Republican rule, a new administration was bringing real hope to America.
The actual highlight for me was hearing Maya Angelou read her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” which heralded a fresh start:
Here on the pulse of this new day,
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Where’s the poetry in 2017?
In 2009, when I covered the first Obama inaugural, even the political rhetoric was poetic when the incoming president expressed his vision.
“On this day we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord,” Obama said. “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”
I still remember hearing Obama’s words, standing in the cold wondering how long any sense of bipartisanship would last.
It was all too brief.
But there was enough to allow Obama to stave off an economic collapse rivaling the Great Depression. There was enough to make sure people didn’t lose their houses due to all those toxic mortgages that many Asian Americans in California were burdened with. There was enough to give 20 million previously uninsured health insurance.
Whatever spirit got us all that seems to be missing from the inaugural of Trump 45.
The last news conference of President Obama was indicative of the kinds of concerns we’ll rarely hear about in the new administration, which is even talking about kicking out the media from the West Wing.
(White House-Photo by Pete Souza)
Unlike Trump, who recently shouted down CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, calling him “fake news,” Obama lauded the media at the last news conference. “America needs you and our democracy needs you,” said the president, “…to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves.”
What’s the best version of Trump? Fewer tweets? More transparency? Less orange?
The conference was also notable because of that sense that became a hallmark of the Obama years: a sense of inclusion.
I’ve been in that room before as an ethnic news reporter, and so often, our concerns aren’t acknowledged. But this time, there was April Ryan of American Urban Radio asking Obama if after being the first black president we’d ever see it again.
“I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith, corner of this country,” the president said. “Because that’s America’s strength. When we have everybody getting a chance and everybody’s on the field, we end up being better.”
You sure didn’t get that sense in the White House cabinet appointees of Trump.
But the president continued. “If, in fact, we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then yeah, we’re going to have a woman president. We’re going to have a Latino president. And we’ll have a Jewish president, a Hindu president. You know, who knows who we’re going to have. I suspect we’ll have a whole bunch of mixed up presidents at some point that nobody really knows what to call them.”
Interesting, that instead of saying Asian American, or Chinese, or Filipino, or Korean, he said Hindu, a shout out to Indian American participation in terms of manpower and fundraising, perhaps.
But definitely an eye-opener as we consider that distant time when we may have an Asian American president!
On that and other issues, Obama was always there as a constitutional protector to beat back discrimination and race, and to make sure we were not forgotten.
He didn’t forget on his second-to-last day.
“And by the way,” the president said in his press conference as he talked about racial divisions and stereotypes, “It’s no longer a black and white issue alone. You got Hispanic folks and you got Asian folks, this is not the same old battles that–we’ve got this stew that’s bubbling up from people everywhere, and we’re going to have to make sure that we in our own lives and our own families and work places do a better job of treating everybody with basic respect and understanding that not everybody starts off in the same situation.”
And on the very last day, Obama did a little bit more, adding 330 more commutations of sentences, bringing his total granted in his eight years to 1,715, according to the Washington Post. That’s more mercy doled out than the last 12 presidents combined.
So as Obama 44 comes to an end, we remember fondly the closest thing to an Asian American president we’ve ever had–Barack Obama, the bi-racial African American with the Indonesian half-sister, who was born in the nation’s most Asian state.
He wasn’t perfect, but he seemed to balance all of our interests for the greater good. That simple trick in the name of democracy we may not see again for a long, long time.
It makes this last day something to savor as we creep along to Trump 45, vowing to keep hope alive.