Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

You may well have heard of the story in the news lately about the big rock? It seems that on May 24, a big rock, estimated to weigh 8.5 million pounds, fell down a mountainside near Dolores. The rock rolled down to and right through Colorado highway 145. Don’t get me wrong, this is a big rock. It’s the size of a house. We’re talking really big, big hunk o’rock. It’s so big, in fact, that it’s too big to blast and haul off and it’s way too big for a bulldozer to push it the rest of the way down and past the highway.

And in a great example of cooperation across the aisle and across agencies, the smart civil engineers, elected leaders, and other folks figured out it would save $200,000 to build a new road, going around the rock, rather than blowing it up. Because the rock came rolling down the mountain during the Memorial Day weekend, it’s been named “Memorial Rock,” and it will become a “feature” of the highway, not a roadblock thereof. This is clever and fiscally responsible.

I’m assuming that you, like me, immediately thought of Donald Trump when you heard about the memorial stone? No? Just me? (Ed: yes, just you). 

When a president does something that has never, ever been done before, only one of two things can be true: either that POTUS is smarter and cleverer than all previous presidents, or he’s not. Mr. Trump has offered ample opportunities to apply this lesson. For example, this past Memorial Day, we found our president, not only sitting on foreign soil, but literally with a backdrop of thousands of American WWII graves, chosing to do what no, at least modern, president has ever done — inject partisan politics into an interview conducted outside the U.S. In that remarkable chat with Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, sitting on soil that was sanctified by the blood of thousands of young Americans, Mr. Trump attacked Robert Mueller and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as his political enemies. Again, every previous president has presented at least the appearance of American unity when overseas. So, is Mr. Trump smarter than every previous U.S. president? I have my doubts.

When asked to comment, Pelosi simply said “I don’t talk about the president while I’m out of the country,” she told CNN’s Jim Acosta. “That’s my principle.” It’s also the right thing to do, especially in a cemetery.

That left the field open to Mr. Trump to declare that Mueller had made a fool out of himself and that Pelosi was a disaster. No one at Fox News, of course, challenged the president for making such comments, because that’s what Trump does — he’s his own man, so to speak, and says what he wants to, apparently not morally bound to the truth.   

So, the president, a man who wants you to think of him as a great communicator and deal maker, is obtuse to the need to respect our American dead from D-Day. That’s just the way he is, you know, like it’s a “feature.” Our president is deliberately obtuse. You know what else is obtuse? 

Big rocks.

In Trump, we have a president who honestly believes a free and open press is a danger to democracy and more importantly, to him. I think this may be, at least in part, why he won in 2016 — everyone on the Democratic side thought it would be a “fair fight” so to speak, and thus campaigns could be run as they nearly always were. But Trump tapped into a gold mine of anger, the same right-wing angst that argued that John Kerry’s third Purple Heart was not really well documented. As a retired military officer myself, I found it deeply disturbing, but not that surprising, that a man who avoided military service due to “bone spurs” would dishonor our hallowed dead. 

If the Democrats hope to win in 2020, they must abandon the “old” way of doing things. Just as a giant rock can become a “feature” along a highway, Trump’s profound dishonesty, lying, bloviating, and his lack of respect for things like cemeteries is also a “feature” of Trump. Perhaps there is a path to “build a highway” around Trump and his minions that can communicate effectively to the American people. But the Dems should stop trying to deal with Trump as they have all previous presidents. Mr. Trump is, well, an obtuse boulder, and we are better off looking at paths around rather than blasting through.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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