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An Ill Wind Blowing
November 21, 2016
An ill-wind is blowing through New York in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president. Rather than begin a healing process, the city seems more divided than ever.
Trump’s first three selections — Tea party Congressman Michael Pompeo as CIA director, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser, and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general — indicate he may govern as he campaigned. Flynn had been dismissed by President Barack Obama for taking a hard line on what is called “radical Islam.” Sessions was rejected as a federal judge 30 years ago after being accused as a “racist.” Their selections suggest Trump’s first priority might be to make good on his campaign promise to arrest and/or deport millions of immigrants here illegally and create a national Muslim registry or database. Both are an appalling thought to many New Yorkers, but praiseworthy moves to others.
The appointments were received with shrieks of disapproval by The New York Times, whose publisher acknowledged the week before the paper had failed to cover the election properly. Apparently Times’ editors didn’t get the message. First there was the hyperbolically misleading front page headline: “Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State of Disarray.”
Then came “Donald Trump’s Disturbing Picks,” and “Mr. Trump’s Plan to Purge the Nation.” Of Flynn, the Times headlined: “too hotheaded for a sensitive position.” [The Wall Street Journal was more approving.]
There were also stories that Trump is considering former mayor Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state along with other contenders. In another front-page article disparaging Giuliani, the Times made no mention of his extraordinary job in the wake of 9/11 when Time magazine subsequently dubbed him Person of the Year.
Then there is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, apparently purged from the Trump transition team after two of his former aides were convicted in the Bridgegate scandal. But his demotion is also seen as payback because as a former New Jersey U.S. attorney he convicted the father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Charles Kushner was charged with illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. The latter involved Charles Kusher’s hiring a prostitute to seduce his sister’s husband, who had cooperated with the government. He then videotaped the encounter and sent the tape to his sister.
Over at Police Plaza, Mayor Bill de Blasio “hosted,” as his scheduler put it, a news conference to ostensibly discuss police security at Trump Tower for the 65 days until inauguration day.
As police officials laid out their plans, de Blasio, who earlier in the week said he had lectured Trump about his immigration policies in a private meeting, continually interrupted to reiterate his opposition to Trump policies. Not for nothing did a Clinton staffer in a purloined email describe him as “insufferable.” Yet, whereas in the past de Blasio’s rhetoric sounded self-serving, it now seemed somehow reassuring.
Then Friday night, while attending the play “Hamilton,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence was booed by theater-goers as he took his seat. Later, as Pence left the theater, actor Brandon Victor Dixon directed his own gratuitous attack on Trump’s policies. “We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us ... and uphold our inalienable rights.”
Before anyone becomes too depressed, we quote from historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Age of Jackson,” following his election in 1829, which has been compared to Trump’s:
“For the White House [of outgoing president John Quincy Adams] the new year began in gloom. …
“’There is more effrontery,’ Samuel Clesson Allen, a retiring congressman from Massachusetts had exclaimed, ‘in putting forward a man of his bad character — a man covered with crimes… than ever was attempted before upon an intelligent people.’ …
“Uncertainty about the future increased the official gloom. Mr. Webster, the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts scrawled a memorandum for friends at Boston:
‘Ge. J will be here abt. Feb. 15 –/ Nobody knows what he will do when he does come …/ My opinion is/ That when he comes he will bring a breeze with him./ Which way it will blow, I cannot tell/ My fear is stronger than my hope.’”
By his first selections, Trump has indicated which way his breeze is blowing. Some people may not like the direction but, just as the country survived, and even prospered, under Andrew Jackson, so, too, will the country survive, and perhaps prosper, under Donald Trump.
Copyright © 2016 Leonard Levitt