Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Targeting Trump

In a desperate act of self-preservation, I decided to kick the social media habit one recent evening.

It’s quite simple.  Lock your tablet in a steamer trunk, kill the aps on your smart phone.  And exhale.

Oh, sure, I knew I’d miss the cat pictures, quasi-inspirational offerings and vacation pictures of people I barely knew.

But I had my reasons.

It was quite simply an attempt to mute the din of the political bar brawl that has spilled into the streets of our country. There is just so much tweeting, insults, bluster, and bull you can absorb before you snap.

So I sought shelter in Netflix, hoping for a few moments of tranquility. I figured somewhere in its vast library of movies and TV shows, I could get in touch with some emotions other than annoyance and angst.

I wasn’t ready to get lost in “Mary Poppins.” But I wasn’t in the mood for “Hitler, the Rise of Evil” either.

So I watched a little of this, a little of that, before I settled on an episode of what I believe is the finest TV series ever made, “The West Wing.”

Which proves that if you’re a political junkie, you can run but you can’t hide.

The episode was broadcast in 2002 and while the battles for power and glory were more understated than today’s mouth-to-mouth combat, the end game is much the same as we’re seeing now:  crush the other guy.

In this particular script, the President, played by Martin Sheen, is facing an investigation for withholding critical information from the American public. He has MS and kept it a secret when he ran for the presidency.

His opponents offer him a deal:  submit to a Congressional censure and the investigation will be called off.

I didn’t stay up half the night to see how this crisis played out in subsequent episodes because (1) it was past my bedtime and (2) this is exactly the kind of ongoing political catastrophe, even if it was a fictional one, I was seeking to forget for a few hours.

But there’s no escape. You can confine yourself to watching the Cartoon Network but the sound and fury of the real world will break down whatever barriers you erect.

So I retrieved the tablet from the trunk and restored the phone aps.  My head was removed from the sand.

I’m certainly no millennial but I do Facebook and Twitter finding it a good way to stay up with family, friends, former and current colleagues and to stay abreast of current events.

But Facebook in particular has become inundated with anti-Trump rants. I would guess 75 per cent of the posts I receive involve hand-wringing and angst over the president and his actions.

OK, I get it. And I share your concerns.

But it seems everyone feels a need to personally express their dismay with the President on a daily basis and they all end up saying the same thing:  that he’s unstable, dishonest, thin skinned and dangerous.  His actions could cause irreparable harm to the nation if not the world that could take decades to repair.

To the barricades!

But, of course, we knew that before he was elected.

I’m all for dissent.  I’m all for activism. They are the cornerstones of democracy.  And I believe the president --- any president --- should be called out if his actions run contrary to the values of the people he serves.

But posting on Twitter isn’t an act of activism. Neither is placing goofy pictures of Trump on Facebook. There’s good chance you’re merely preaching to the choir. If you want to express yourself, call an elected official and unload. Believe me, they listen.

Besides, nobody is doing a better job of making himself look foolish than Trump himself.  And the American people know it.

The daily Gallup tracking poll conducted this week found that just 40% of Americans approve of President Trump's job as president so far, compared to 55% who say the disapprove. The negative 15-point spread is the highest recorded in the poll since Trump took office January 20.

Trump's low approval rating is atypical for a new president. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all enjoyed approval ratings in the high 50s in Gallup tracking. 

His own party, which never warmly embraced his candidacy, is getting nervous. They understand that government by chaos is not a known recipe for success. Inquiries are being made.  Investigations are planned.

And all the alternative facts are not going to explain it away.

Stay calm. And stay tuned.  It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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