A Union Broken With a Senate Surrender

By Jamie Stiehm

February 5, 2020 5 min read

WASHINGTON - "The state of the union is fractured, and the reason is all me, folks. I made it my job to tear America in two and did it better than anybody, better than Lincoln."

That's what we won't hear when President Donald Trump delivers the annual State of the Union speech to the assembled Congress, Cabinet, Pentagon brass, chief justice and others.

Tuesday's ritual is a Washington scene in full dress, sure to give Trump psychic healing from his impeachment trial vote, set for Wednesday afternoon. As a guest in the House of Representatives, will he taunt the Democratic House with the Republican Senate's forthcoming acquittal? Will he poke fun at the Iowa caucuses?

After the trial, then begins "Trump Uncaged," the show up next till the end of his time: venom, threats, savage mockery, bigotry — un-American stuff. Or so we thought.

Let me, as a witness to the impeachment drama, offer my State of the Union in advance of the president's crowing narrative. Remember, he's completely unconstrained now.

The real rub is that the president is changing us Americans, giving light to a dark crevice in our character. He embodies — and emboldens — baleful defiance. The great presidents, like cheerful, sunny Franklin D. Roosevelt, bring out the best in us.

America has not changed Trump — "perfect" while pressing Ukraine to interfere in our elections, he said. His brand of fury has spread like fever to half the body politic. That's all he needs to win.

"Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. ... They want to destroy our country as we know it," Trump declared.

It's no secret Trump hates challenges to his authority. He can't even handle limits, such as global treaties with allies or criticism from courageous Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Oddly, the height of white male privilege always sounds aggrieved, like a victim. Trump also lashes out at the top echelon of his government: generals, ambassadors, Cabinet officials, the intelligence community. No president in civil society has openly insulted individuals and institutions in such a way before.

That's bad. What's worse, he now knows there's no price to pay — thanks to the Senate's tragic turn.

So, the Senate Pledge of Allegiance should change its wording from "one nation under God" to "one nation under Trump." The Senate once had pride, dignity and a sense of itself as the last bastion of law, liberty and checks and balances in the Constitution.

Yet the Republican majority acted deaf to the House managers' deft case against Trump for abuse of power and obstructing Congress.

The Senate fall and surrender of its own power to check the president would roil its giants, like Sens. Edward Kennedy and John McCain. Rows of lesser senators — from the South and rural states like Kansas and North Dakota — sat like stones, unmoved by mountains of evidence.

Trump's claim that Article 2 gives him "the right to do whatever I want" was not laughed off the Senate floor; it was pretty much the verdict. Clear as day, the Republican majority fears him like Caesar. They serve at his whim.

Robert C. Byrd, a late Senate giant, once told me in an interview: "Caesar did not seize power. The Roman Senate ceded power to Caesar." That always stayed with me. Now I know why. It's not just a history lesson anymore.

Trump's political talents are shrewd. Governors and seasoned senators who underestimated him in 2016 were vanquished. While he lost the popular vote in a perfect storm with Russian meddling, he nonetheless became president.

Remarkably, Trump never reached out to the other half of the nation that opposed him. American presidents usually seek to heal and unite us. On the contrary, Trump has forcefully split us apart, polarizing friends and families and furthering the divide between coastal cities versus the rural center and the Old South.

We are "us and them." That's the state of the union.

Trump spoke of "carnage" his first hour in office. He declared war on the press his first day. He declared war on Muslim travelers his first week. He defended white nationalist violence in Virginia his first summer. And so on.

The Roman Senate made Caesar dictator for life.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit the website creators.com

Photo credit: NakNakNak at Pixabay

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