Donald J. Trump is clearly the most thin-skinned, self-centered and self-aggrandizing man ever elected president of the United States. This explains why he became so unnerved and unhinged last week after watching women gather in cities around the world to greet the first day of his presidency with jeers, not cheers.
According to the Washington Post, “More than 1 million people gathered in Washington and in cities around the country and the world…to mount a roaring rejoinder to the inauguration of President Trump. What started as a Facebook post by a Hawaii retiree became an unprecedented international rebuke of a new president that packed cities large and small – from London to Los Angeles, Paris to Park City, Utah, Miami to Melbourne, Australia.”
Myriad causes animated these marchers, which turned their gatherings into Tower of Babel-like spectacles. But there’s no denying what NPR reported as their galvanizing aims: opposition to Trump’s agenda and support for women’s rights.
Nothing betrayed how much they affected him quite like the way Trump behaved during a visit to CIA headquarters the same day. He went there ostensibly to make amends for spending much of his transition impugning the intelligence and integrity of its agents.
Instead Trump spent much of his speech – which he gave in front of a memorial wall that honors the 117 CIA officers who have fallen in the line of duty – focusing on the size of the crowd size at his inauguration, his appearance on magazine covers and saying he “has a running war with the media.”
Citing CNN: “Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes,’ [Brennan’s spokesman] Nick Shapiro said in a statement. ‘Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.”
With all due respect to Director Brennan, expecting Trump to be ashamed of himself is like expecting a ghost to be afraid of itself. Apropos of which, his “despicable display” is just the umpteenth reason why we should be afraid that this insecure buffoon is now the most powerful man in the world. He makes North Korea’s nuke-crazy boy dictator, Kim Jong-un, look like a seasoned statesman.
I mean, if Trump would use the solemn space of the CIA’s Memorial Wall to try to convince us that the size of his “crowd” was bigger than Obama’s, imagine what portends.
A dangerous man
After all, it’s bad enough that this new president is a pathological liar. But it’s certifiably dangerous that he and his spin doctors seem intent on continually challenging us to believe the lie we hear from them, instead of the truth we see with our own eyes. And it’s self-evident that it does not matter to Trump if that lie is about a matter as petty as his crowd size or as grave as his collusion with foreign enemies – like Putin’s Russia.
To be fair, his congenital insecurities are probably such that he cannot help telling big lies about the size of everything from his small crowds to his small…hands. Size literally matters to him.
On the other hand, his cunning is probably such that he thought throwing a tantrum about the media’s coverage of his inauguration on Friday would draw coverage from the women’s protests on Saturday. And he was right, which speaks volumes about the media’s Pavlovian reaction to everything Trump says (or tweets).
A terrible speech
He probably also thought it better to have the media running down this rabbit hole than analyzing his dystopian inaugural speech, which paid homage the American isolationism that led to World War I, discarding the American exceptionalism that has prevented another such conflagration for over 65 years.
His speech made a mockery of his universal acclaim as leader of the free world – an acclaim every US president has honored for more than 100 years. Frankly, I see no reason to dignify it with any further comment.
Incidentally, CIA personnel gave him a polite reception – complete with perfunctory applause and canned laughter on cue. Never mind reports that Trump boosters – who were bused in for the occasion – egged them on. But I suspect Brennan expressed how most agents really feel about his visit.
Seen this before
That said, I was overcome with a foreboding sense of déjà vu as I stood among the mammary hordes on the Mall on Saturday, listening to speaker after speaker declaim on issues as varied as unequal pay, reproductive rights, and that infamous wall.
My foreboding stemmed from the fact that I stood among “a million Black men” on that same Mall in 1995, listening to speaker after speaker fulminate against everything from predatory lending to police brutality and White supremacy.
As was the case with this march, organizers of the Million Man March talked about harnessing the surge of activism on display into a movement to redress their concerns. Yet they had so little to show in this regard that I vented my disappointment and decried their shortcomings: first, 10 years later in “Millions More Movement (and That’s Millions More Dollars, Not People … Fool!),” October 17, 2005; and again 20 years later in “Farrakhan’s ‘Justice or Else’ Ponzi Scheme,” October 13, 2015.
In fact, it speaks volumes that Black men are still fulminating against all the injustices that inspired their original march. Granted, they’re marching these days under the newfangled banner, Black Lives Matter!
A better job
Nonetheless, it does not require a leap for me to have faith that the organizers of this Women’s March will do a better job of turning their moment into a movement. I found it particularly encouraging that, instead of focusing on raising money to fund their organizing efforts, they issued marching orders.
Most notably, they urged women to get involved in politics – from voting in elections at every level (even if only for local dogcatcher) to bombarding congressional representatives with issue-oriented phone calls to running for office at every level (even if only for local dogcatcher).
Written about it
I’ve been in the vanguard of those urging women to do just that in such commentaries as “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” December 12, 2005, and “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013.
In “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, I wrote the following:
“We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.
“Indeed, it’s arguable that there’s a direct correlation between the fact that Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women, and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.”
This explains why, for me, Hillary losing to Trump was more about opportunities lost than fears realized. (Of Trump’s top 21 cabinet picks, 17 are White men. Obama had 8; Bush, 11.)
Yet hope springs eternal. And given our celebrity-obsessed culture, here’s to Hollywood stars like Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, and America Ferrera – who happened to be three of the more inspiring speakers – emulating the likes of Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Donald Trump someday soon.
I won’t hesitate to vent disappointment and decry their shortcomings if, 10 years from now, the organizers of this Women’s March have little to show for the unprecedented activism.
Voted for Trump
Finally, I’ll comment on the meme about this activism being a day late and a vote short. Trump himself tweeted, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?”
The problem is that, like so many viral memes, this one has no basis in fact. It’s entirely possible, if not probable, that the eligible women who marched on Saturday DID vote in November.
How do you think Hillary ended up with 65,844,954 votes – almost three million more than Trump? That›s a fun fact that gets under his thin skin like no other.
The challenge now is for these women who marched to help their March-For-Life sisters who voted for Trump to come to their senses. But it hardly helps in this regard to tell them that their stance on one issue – abortion – precludes them from marching in solidarity with women on all other issues, as organizers reportedly did in this case.
It behooves all anti-Trump activists to bear in mind that 53 percent of White women voted for him.
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.