The Fourth of July holiday dawned cloudy in Washington, DC with a threat of rain.
It’s not exactly the kind of weather you want for a holiday where most celebrations — including fireworks displays, of course — are held outside. But somehow, it seemed very fitting.
For on this Independence Day, one of our cherished freedoms is threatened, and there is a cloud over the presidency.
In the days leading up to America’s 241st birthday, Donald Trump ratcheted up his attacks on the news media. With a G-20 Summit looming, and controversial Republican healthcare legislation pending in the Senate, the president devoted most of his postings on Twitter to his feud with the hosts of a morning television cable show, and attacks on CNN.
Apparently angered by a segment on the “Morning Joe” — a political talk show on MSNBC — the president posted the following two-part tweet about hosts Joe Scarborough (a former Republican congressman) and Mika Brzezinski:
“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
Even in a capital city that considers itself used to the president’s tweets, this personal attack was over the top.
But it was only the beginning.
A few days later, President Trump posted a short video to his Twitter account in which he portrayed wrestling and pummeling a man with a CNN logo superimposed over his head.
“It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters… Instead of preparing for his first foreign trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.”
The president’s supporters just chalked it up to “Trump being Trump” and there is every indication that his assault on the media — especially CNN — continues to be very popular with his political base.
But has he gone too far this time?
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet spoke for many in the news business when he said: “I think it is unseemly that the president would attack journalists for doing their jobs, and encourage such anger at the media.”
CNN commentator (and longtime Republican) Ana Navarro was even more blunt: “He is going to get somebody killed in the media. Maybe that will stop him.”
Even the Committee to Protect Journalists, which usually focuses on threats against the press in authoritarian countries, spoke out.
In a written statement, CPJ said these comments create an environment where harassment is acceptable and encourage “autocratic leaders around the world.”
But there is a sign of hope — call it the blue sky just peaking out now and then among all those Fourth of July clouds.
A new poll suggests most Americans have had enough and are not happy with the tone in Washington.
Seven in 10 of those surveyed say the level of civility in Washington has worsened under President Trump, according to the nationwide NPR/PBS/Marist survey. Interestingly, this is one opinion that seems to cut across party lines.
So where do we go from here? Maybe we should all take a minute and remember what happened in a DC area ball field just a few weeks ago, when a gunman fired on a practice session for a congressional baseball game.
The number-three Republican in the House of Representatives — Steve Scalise — was severely injured and remains hospitalized. At the time, the president called for national unity.
Unity is what the founders of this country dreamed of. And it is their promise — enshrined in the Declaration of Independence — that we should remember on this Fourth of July:
“…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Our sacred Honor.
They call on us rise above pettiness and personal attacks.
They call on us to fulfill that promise.