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There was an outspoken cultural critic and journalist active in Vienna early in the 20th century named Karl Krause, who William Getzoff of the Chicago Literary Club presented an insightful essay this past Monday. Krause was also known then as a powerful satirist and aphorist.

He could have been writing about President Trump today, when he said:

“The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he.”

Ring any bells?

Earlier this week, a photo popped up showing my little sister pinning on one of my gold bars as I was commissioned an Army  2nd Lieutenant out of the OCS Brigade at Ft. Knox, Kentucky in 1969. Ten months and 10 days after enlisting in the OCS program, I’d been propelled from recruit to officer. I had skipped my college graduation in May in order to take a cruise of Lake Michigan and the North Channel with my family before reporting for duty. My enlistment was forced by the draft, which proposed to grab me within two weeks of graduation.

What followed were two years of active service, in places ranging from the Army War College (where I served as officer in charge of 43 military funerals at Gettysburg National Cemetery) to working as a press escort officer out of a forward corps press camp in Vietnam.

While a proper sense of the appropriateness of honoring those who fought and died in war was imbued in me through my own service and exposure, it was only years later that I learned that the war in Vietnam had been extended, with the loss of 20,000 additional Americans and a million Asians, by a political calculation to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger when they maneuvered to cancel the proposed Paris Peace Talks of 1969 in order to deny the Democrats the Presidential election that year.

My god, how can politicians play tinker toys with the lives of millions of people, as if we were just pawns on a board? And that’s just what they did, and what they have continued to do in the generations since Vietnam, despite the lessons we could have learned there, but didn’t.

So, this Memorial Day, I do mourn the lost, those who were sacrificed as much as gave sacrifice for their country. But I also mourn the continuation of the crass, inhuman brand of politics that characterize the highest levels of leadership in our country., then and now.  If only humanity were our true brand of politics, and that humanitarians were our one and only brand of politicians.

I don’t often weigh in on Trump online, because, where does one start? However today, I’m motivated, because in addition to smiling through the assassination of a Washington Post journalist, Trump has lashed out at his former treasured personal lawyer Michael Cohen as nothing but a “PR person who did small legal work.”

Then, of course, he decided to crunch down on the porn star that he had Michael Cohen buy off after he had an affair with her while he was married by decrying her as a “horseface.”

My only comment is that the President of the United States is a very small person; too small to waste any time on, if he hadn’t been raised to such an exalted position by people who are amused by such revelations.

As an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, and someone who is proud of my lifetime of work building communications bridges between organizations and the public, I am offended by this very small person who is temporarily cluttering up office space in the People’s House.

our Great Apple Oak awakes to summer

Trump last night said we would no longer be nation-building but killing terrorists in Afghanistan going forward. Oddly, several years ago I heard from a general departing to lead Americans in Afghanistan that we were failures at nation-building there, but good at killing.

Sorry folks. America has been trying to nation-build in Afghanistan for 16 years, and in Iraq (how did that go?) and in Vietnam before that (we know how that ended.) It has been about nation-building all along, and that has failed time after time. Despite what Trump said last night, it is still about nation-building in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

Are we good at killing? Yes. Are we wasting another generation of young American troops in another fruitless war? Yes.  Are we protecting the American way of life in the process? No. Are we wasting more billions, even trillions, that could be used to rebuild our own nation? Yes.

Are we learning anything? Yes. Are we doing anything useful with that learning? Absolutely not. Thanks Trump. The one time where one of your bad ideas — getting out of Afghanistan — might have been positive, you failed us again last night.

We visited Budapest several years ago, where the Hungarians took down the major statuary of the communist era and assembled it in a well-designed park outside the city in 1993. Marx, Lenin, Engels and the gang are gathered outside the city limits, where tourists and locals can find them, if they wish, but are not confronted with these symbols of a dark age, unless they wish to seek them out.

What America ought to do with the Confederate monuments being taken down is perhaps something like Memento Park in Budapest.

Chuck Todd of MSNBC closed his Sunday feature news program this morning by thanking the audience for watching his “show.” This grates me no end. To me, he is degrading an important news program by referring to it as a simple entertainment — a “show!”

Semantics matter, even in this world of reality TV and Trumpness.

A program implies, to me at least, something of importance. A show is just that, some Barnum & Bailey entertainment.

So, let’s call a spade a spade, and let’s call news by the name “programs,” and comedies, etc. “shows.” Such respect of semantics might help us begin to define the difference between the two terms in our contemporary lives, where, thanks to the one who calls himself “the President who is making America great again,” a meaningful “program” has often been denigrated to a mere “show.”

The opening scene in 2012, just five years ago, from the TV series  “The Newsroom,” made me tremble back then, and still does today, as the Trump regime bulldozes its way through the increasing rubble of America’s former greatness.

Wonder what I’m talking about? Take a look: you’ll remember.

One nice thing about getting to be an older man is that one no longer needs to give a damn about taking a strong position, and after just watching Trump in what was billed as his first press conference as President-elect, I’d rate him a one on a scale of ten, as he might say in commenting on young actresses.

Nice try, Mr. Trump. No, he didn’t even try.  In my 40 years of conducting scores of corporate news conferences and press briefings, I’ve never seen even the most calcitrant and abused CEO treat the press with as much open disdain as Trump did today. He courts the most intense scrutiny from the press any President has ever seen. I spent my career trying to build honest-broker relations with the press. In that respect, Trump is a total disaster, and if that is what his “base” wants to see, they are only confirming how “base” they are.

The loser in all this is not the press, it is you who are reading this, because of the questions not allowed to be asked and the questions remaining unanswered. You know, the French have had 13 governments since the original French revolution. That means they have peacefully thrown their entire government out 13 times. At this early stage of Trump’s reign, I’m sad to say it seems we may be due.

Sure, I want the Presidency to serve our nation well. Maybe Trump as President is not the same man we saw before his election. Maybe he’s not the same man I witnessed a decade ago when he verbally demeaned the news media while also demeaning  a large audience comprised substantially of professional women. Maybe he’s not the same man I watched announce his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists, and calling for a wall with Mexico and the removal of 11 million people living in this country. Maybe he’s not the same man who called for barring Muslims from the U.S. Maybe he’s not the same man who invited Russian intelligence to undermine the U.S. election. Maybe he’s not the same man who said other countries ought to have the atom bomb, and that the hard-won multi-national anti-nuclear agreement with Iran should be torn up.

Maybe he’s not the same man…

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