One of the topics many of you will see flooding your news-feeds on Facebook and Twitter this week be the fury against (and elated support for) the recently-announced 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ campaign Nike launched featuring (among others) Colin Kaepernick, the face of the NFL anthem protests.
The world waited in vain yesterday for President Trump to weigh-in with a Twitter-stream of nonsense and ignorance screamed in ALL CAPS. Surprisingly, that did not happen. Perhaps he was too busy lining-up statements from people refuting on-record statements they made about Trump for the recently published Bob Woodward book about the inner-workings of the Trump West Wing?
Late yesterday afternoon, however, Trump turned to the current darling of the ‘lunatic fringe’ wing of the Republican Party (The Daily Caller). In addition to a Trump interview yesterday, the outlet also published a piece by Mike Huckabee blaming Barack Obama for ALL the current issues facing the Veterans Administration. In the interview with The Daily Caller, Trump said of the Nike campaign,
“I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it.”
Actually, Mr. President, the Nike campaign sends a wonderful message, and that you do not understand the ‘reason’ for the message speaks volumes if you were not too tone deaf to hear it.
Trump did weigh-in this morning on Nike and the NFL. And of course, he got is all wrong as he usually does. NFL rating might be down, but they (and other live sporting events) were seeing ratings declines before the anthem protests, but profits keep going up, consistently setting new records. Odd that Trump the Business Genius does not understand that? And Nike stock dropped a few percent yesterday, hardly “getting absolutely killed” and unlike Trump’s approval rating the stock is still near a 52-week high. But why would Trump ever let facts get in the way of a good lie, right?
I want you all to watch the video below. A member of the audience at a town hall style campaign stop asked Congressman Beto O’Rourke to give his opinion (on the record) of the NFL anthem protests. O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz for a United States Senate seat from Texas this November.
Those of you who regularly read what I write certainly know that I rarely miss a chance to work in a West Wing reference when the political circumstances fit, and this time is no different. In the premier episode of the second season (In the Shadow of Two Gunmen), the show’s major characters flashback to the moments they joined the “Bartlett for America” campaign:
At a small New Hampshire campaign stop, presidential candidate Josiah Bartlett (the former New Hampshire Congressman and Governor) is asked by a constituent (a dairy farmer) about Bartlett’s repeated votes over the years that restrained milk prices and effectively took money out of that farmer’s pocket. Bartlett could have given a weaselly non-answer. He could have lied. He could have made promises he had no intention of keeping. But he did not. He agreed with the farmer that the votes “screwed” him, hurt his wallet, and likely hurt a lot of farmers just like him. But then he explains WHY he voted that way, and the balance that needs to be struck by elected officials between advocating for farmers (so they can support their families) and advocating for children (who might have a more difficult time affording the more expensive milk). As Congressman and Governor, Bartlett explained, he made the choices that would do the most good for EVERYONE even if that mean some very deserving and hard working people would benefit less. He assured voters that, like it or not, that was how he would govern as President of the United States as well. The video of that scene can be watched below.
When you watched the video of Beto O’Rourke answering the question about the NFL anthem protests, just try to tell me you do not see a little bit of Josiah Bartlett shining through? Or, even more poignant, a little bit of Barack Obama?
There is so much history in the fight for equality in America.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in 1955.
The Greensboro Four (David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil) refused to leave the Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960.
Four precious little girls (Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair) were murdered in a church bombing in 1963, just months before President John Kennedy was assassinated. It would be nearly 15 years before the first of the KKK members (nicknamed Dynamite Bob for his actions that day and in other bombings) would be tried and convicted.
John Lewis and others marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965.
Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968. Robert Kennedy as well.
Every one of those events happened more than 50 years ago.
Yet today, men (and boys) of color are slaughtered at an astonishing rate by police officers and by each other, are incarcerated at an astonishing rate, are stripped of the rights others fought and died for JUST BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN.
Rosa Parks protest had nothing to do with the bus. It was about her RIGHT as a human being and an American citizen to sit where SHE chose, even if that meant the front of the bus.
The Greensboro Four protest had nothing to do with Woolworth’s, or food. It was about their RIGHTS as human beings and as Americans to eat side-by-side with other Americans, to share a mean together like at that first Thanksgiving centuries before, instead of being forced to eat on the curb like dogs.
John Lewis and others were not protesting the bridge that bloody Sunday in March of 1965. There was no discussion of tolls, or toll collectors, and no disrespect was aimed at the steelworkers who built the bridge. They were marching from Selma (the capital of the civil rights movement) to Montgomery (the capital of Alabama) to rally and protest as is their RIGHT under the Constitution of the United States. The Edmund Pettus bridge was named for a Confederate general and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. The protesters trying to cross that aptly-named bridge were beaten BY POLICE with clubs and hit with teargas, forced to turn back. But two weeks later, they returned and finished the journey.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy never got the chance to finish THEIR journeys. They were murdered for what they believed, for what they said, for demanding that those without a voice be heard and that their demands (their RIGHTS) be accommodated. Some, like the little girls of the 16th Street Baptist Church just wanted to go to church and have their voices heard by God. These may be the most recognizable martyrs of the fight for civil rights in 1960’s America, but there are countless others who died in anonymity to advance the still-unattainable cause of equality.
As you watch the Beto O’Rourke video again (and you will), compare it in your mind to other speakers from history.
Compare it to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 promising to go to the moon.
Compare it to President Reagan’s 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate when he implored Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
Compare it to Barack Obama’s address at the 2004 Democratic convention.
Compare it to fictional President Andrew Shepherd’s press conference at the end of the film The American President.
Compare it to the straight-talk referenced earlier from fictional President Josiah Bartlett of The West Wing.
I am not implying that Beto O’Rourke is yet the equal of these men, or that his words from this and other speeches will become part of the verbal fabric of our national history. But THIS is what a LEADER looks like. This is a man not afraid to answer a difficult question on the record. Most importantly, given the current illiterate squatter occupying the White House, this is a man CAPABLE of answering a difficult question intelligently, a man capable of correctly citing historical precedent, a man seeking a way to unite instead of capitalizing on an excuse to divide.
As your listen to the thoughtful words coming from Beto O’Rourke’s heart, picture President Donald Trump blathering and bragging in stuttering speech patterns and stunning hyperbole that say NOTHING and serve only to divide Americans and darken the despair in America.
How many insulting nicknames would Trump have hurled out in his answer?
How many people would he have criticized, or blamed, or demonized as “the enemy”?
As you listen to the seriousness and depth of Beto O’Rourke, picture his opponent this November, Senator Ted Cruz, cozying-up to President Trump.
Trump nicknamed him “Lyin’ Ted.”
Trump accused Cruz’ father of being part of the assassination of President Kennedy.
Trump made unfounded accusations about Cruz’ wife.
Cruz fired back called Trump a “pathological liar,” and “utterly amoral,” and “a narcissist at a level I don’t this country’s ever seen” and “a serial philanderer.”
Cruz refused to endorse Trump while speaking at the 2016 Republican convention, suggesting people go to the polls and “vote your conscience”.
Now here comes Ted Cruz, pasty and pallid and sweating like Nixon, swallowing hard while he promises Texas voters he agrees with EVERYTHING Donald Trump says and does and that a vote for him in his re-election bid against Beto O’Rourke is an endorsement of Trump.
Imagine that Texas rally come October when Trump has to campaign for Cruz in an attempt to maintain a Senate majority? If it ever happens, of course. Trump is great at making promises but not so great at keeping them.
America might never return to the optimism of those Camelot days under Kennedy. Too much has happened, too much blood spilled, and our innocence has been lost.
America might never return to the Reagan days, with America as the world’s lone superpower and a President boldly pushing an “America first” agenda that was quite different from Trump’s version, which would be more accurate if described as “America ONLY”.
America may never return to the days of hope and change and the renewed promise of equality we felt during the early days of President Obama’s administration. Back then, we thought racism had finally been defeated. Now, we know it only retreated, regrouped, rearmed, and returned stronger than ever.
Things might never return to the ‘good old days’ which were probably not as good as we remember anyway.
But America deserves better than what we now have in office.
America deserves a better President than Donald Trump.
Texas deserves better Senator than Ted Cruz.
Texas (and America) deserve Beto O’Rourke.