Amid the chaos and wreckage of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, a group of Connecticut politicians has emerged in an attempt to display some leadership. This is welcome. After all, we’re all dealing with a chief executive who is at best extremely erratic and, at worst, corrupt to his core.
Even as Trump was preparing to travel this week to Connecticut to deliver the commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were busy questioning the president’s moves at every turn.
But first, Trump’s speech to the departing cadets in New London. A commencement speech, as executive speechwriter Anthony Trendl correctly observed, is quite “simply is an opportunity to share your experience, values and advice.”
And common sense tells us commencement speeches are not supposed to be exercises in self-indulgence. While Trump spent some 15 minutes trying to be humorous and dispensing advice, he quickly reverted to his favorite mode — that of the candidate at a campaign rally.
“Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine,” Trump told the graduates. But he quickly added, “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately — especially by the media. No politician in history —and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down.’’ I can hear JFK rolling over at Arlington National Cemetery.
This is why Trump is no general — though he evidently admires them. And this is why I am baffled that anyone in the military admires Trump.
Real leaders take responsibility when things go wrong. Trump blames the media, or his communications staff. Real leaders make everyone around them better. From Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to Kellyanne Conway to Sean Spicer, Trump makes them worse — much, much worse.
Only a blind narcissist or a reality-challenged fool would use a commencement speech to wallow in self-pity, especially when it was Trump’s own reckless behavior that has brought his presidency to the brink of destruction. So the applause Trump received from the cadets in New London, after deflecting the blame for his own failures, leaves me speechless.
Trump has had a busy and turbulent 154 days in office. And Blumenthal isn’t going to make the ensuing days any easier for the mouth that roared. The former Connecticut attorney general wants Senate investigative panels to subpoena any recordings made of the meeting Trump had with now-fired FBI director James Comey, in which Comey alleged the president asked him to back off of the investigation into the ties former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had with Russia (Trump foolishly tweeted that he might have recorded the conversation).
In other regions of Connecticut’s political landscape, the five members of the state’s congressional delegation — all Democrats — have weighed in on Trump’s misdeeds. Most prominent among them is 4th District Congressman Jim Himes, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Himes pronounced himself “deeply troubled.”
For his part, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has fired a few rockets Trump’s way over the course of the last year or so, made nice with Trump during his visit to the Coast Guard Academy — though Trump did get in a jab about Connecticut’s budget woes.
And Trump criticism came not only from active pols in the state, but from has-beens as well. Former Gov. Lowell Weicker, who as a freshman senator sat on the Senate Watergate Committee, penned an op-ed in the Courant this week calling for a “a special counsel to separate fact from fiction. Or, to be more specific, truth from lies.”
Then, on the heels of learning that the Justice Department had heeded Weicker’s advice and appointed a special prosecutor — in this case, former FBI Director Robert Mueller — to oversee the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, guess who has been interviewed to replace Comey. That’s right: none other than former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.
I knew his tedious farewell tour of 2012 — dubbed “Joe-verload” by yours truly — was too good to be true. Just when I thought we were rid of him, we must now brace ourselves for the possibility that Pious Joe will once again be on television every day of the week. Where is J. Edgar Hoover when you need him?
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.
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