By Richard Hébert
Excuse me, Mr. Trumpster. Are you accusing me of being an “enemy of the American people”? You have done it over and over again this past week or so, seemingly seizing every public opportunity to heap scorn on what I always considered a noble profession dedicated to the public good.
For me, sir, this is personal. I take great umbrage at your flippant scorn. But more than that, we of the press are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We are the “Fourth Estate.” Our mission as the eyes and ears of the public watching every step you make is protected by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the First Amendment of that founding document. That, sir, is no small matter. When you malign and attack us, you malign and attack the U.S. Constitution.
Yes, I confess: I’m a member of the news media you so enjoy maligning. At least I was for most of my career, in one fashion or another. Although mostly retired now, I still consider myself a journalist-for-life. Still reporting – yes, and commenting – but always based on demonstrable facts.
I was an active newspaper reporter for the decade of the 1960s with the then Atlanta Constitution (now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Back then, we dealt only in facts, not opinionating, as seems so common these days in some media circles.
But, methinks thou doth protest too much, painting the media with far too broad a brush. I know and follow far too many fine reporters today who still confine themselves to known, provable facts, even if they must get them from “anonymous sources,” some of whom you yourself dispatch to “leak” facts to the media, others of whom work “for” you but are stressfully uncomfortable about the facts they see in your government. Indeed, you yourself engaged in anonymous sourcing in the past.
“Fake news?” You, Mr. POTUS, are the most egregious purveyor of fake news – “alternative facts,” your chief adviser calls them – on the scene today in the Western World.
Another confession. Once – I stress, only once – early in my career as a newspaper reporter, I committed false news. Unknowingly. At a contentious county commission hearing I was covering, a member kept repeating that a “Mr. Big” would not be pleased by a decision that was being contemplated.
I thought I knew that said unnamed “Mr. Big” was a certain local businessman, and I said so in print. When I arrived for work the next day, I was summoned into the managing editor’s office and told in no uncertain terms that I would have to write a retraction. Said businessman had called and denied he was “Mr. Big,” and that information was corroborated by the commission chair.
Shamed, even mortified, I wrote the retraction and apologized – immediately. It never happened again.
When, Mr. POTUS, have you ever – ever – apologized for any of the too-numerous-to-count demonstrably fictitious public statements by you and the minions around you? The size of your inaugural crowd in the face of contrary video evidence, the “record” size of your electoral college victory, and the “3 to 5 million” illegal votes you claim were cast for your opponent: all “fake news” in the service of pure self-aggrandizement.
Those “thousands” dancing on rooftops in New Jersey as the Twin Towers came down – a lie. The “terrorist attacks” in Atlanta, in Sweden, in Bowling Green – all lies. The 30 million illegals – rapists and drug dealers, all – in the U.S. from Mexico – just another “alternative fact”?
In my career at the newspaper, neither I nor my fellow journalists ever engaged in “alternative facts.” I investigated the rise of the racist John Birch Society. I witnessed civil rights demonstrations and, yes, race riots, and probed their origins. I used my investigative skills to defend the weak and un-served – police harassment of prostitutes; police harassment of gays; police nightly round-ups of the city’s destitute. homeless “Skid Row” men and women to be herded into a prison farm that could only be described as a concentration camp, forced to work on chain gangs, to eat food crawling with maggots, with no medical attention at all.
In those days, if you were a well-dressed lawyer on your way home inebriated, the police would escort you home. Not so the denizens of the street. What they desperately needed was attention to their chronic health problems. I joined them on the streets, in the prison, and on the chain gangs. And yes, I reported what I saw.
Before writing about such matters, I always witnessed them firsthand. What have you witnessed firsthand, Mr. POTUS? Other than those non-existent cheering thousands in New Jersey on 9/11?
No sir, I am quite proud of my chosen profession. We aren’t the purveyors of “fake news.” Look around you, sir. You are surrounded by the real liars. Heck, look in the mirror. Exaggeration, of the kind you specialize in, especially vilification of anyone who dares cross or defy you. Your chief strategist earned his stripes running Breitbart, the “platform for the alt right.” That platform, I should point out, is manufactured of racist and xenophobic lies, exaggerations and stereotypes as bold as any propagated by the Nazis.
Yes, at the end of the 1960s, I crossed over, with a little help, I might add, from what was considered Atlanta’s “establishment elite” at the time, those behind-the-scene power brokers of the business world who, I believed were meddling in the newspaper’s journalistic mission.
Without looking back, I moved to Washington, D.C., and became an “activist.” Instead of observing the ills and foibles of society, I joined forces with those seeking to ameliorate them. So, yes, I traded in my badge of objectivity for one of change-agent, using my journalistic and investigatory skills to help the Urban Coalition counter the “long hot summers” of race riots; reporting on and assisting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety design and promote safer cars and highways; promoting behavioral health sciences with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Psychological Society, and the Center for the Advancement of Health, among others.
Me, the enemy? Gimme a break!
The hole you are digging for yourself with such accusations, Mr. POTUS, is only getting deeper by the day. More and more frequently we hear the “I” word – Impeachment – bandied about. That, of course, would require a vote by a simple majority of the House of Representatives followed by a trial in the Senate and a vote of two-thirds of the senators, a challenging course of action, to be sure.
But there’s another route: the 25th amendment to the Constitution, enacted after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It states:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments [i.e., the Cabinet] or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. [Emphasis mine.]
And, if the President objects? He must submit a “written declaration that no inability exists.” And if the vice president and Cabinet insist that he (or she) is incapable of serving, for whatever reason? Then, “Congress shall decide the issue…by two-thirds vote of both Houses.” A high bar, to be sure, but probably more likely to be crossed than the “high crimes and misdemeanors” bar of impeachment.
George Will, a true conservative voice at Fox News, left Fox the day after the inauguration. He also publicly quit the Republican Party last June when even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) endorsed the Trumpster’s presidential candidacy. Here are just some of the things Will has said recently about the Trumpster on Fox News, as aired on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: the POTUS believes “apoplexy is a substitute for arguments…,” that “he’s a one-trick pony…,” “he’s a con artist…,” “a clown act….”
But, of course, Will is just another “enemy of the American people,” a purveyor of “fake news,” so let’s ask the experts whether the Trumpster is fit to be President.
It turns out, psychologists and psychiatrists are speaking out about Trump en masse because of what is called their “duty to warn.” O’Donnell interviewed two such specialists on MSNBC’s The Last Word.
First up, John Gartner, PhD, a widely-published Baltimore psychologist whose online petition of mental health professionals had more than 26,000 signatures at last report:
“If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not construct a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump. This paranoid, psychopathic narcissist is divorced from reality and lashed out impulsively at his imagined enemies, and this is someone who is…handling the nuclear codes.… I would argue to my colleagues that those who don’t speak out are being unethical, that if we have some knowledge and understanding about the unique danger that Donald presents…and we don’t say something about it, history is not going to judge us kindly.”
Next up, Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired analyst with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. O’Donnell asked him about the Trumpster’s debate claim that he had lost “hundreds” of friends on 9/11, when in fact he had lost none.
“He lies because of his sociopathic tendencies,…he scams people that he’s trying to sell an idea.… He has a loose grip on reality. We can say that because he lies about things that aren’t even that important to him, like the electoral college majority. And he’s been told that it’s not true, but he keeps doing it…. He can’t stand an aspect of reality that he doesn’t want. So, he rejects it. His grasp of reality, his attention to reality is loose, an extremely dangerous trait in a president, and (which) actually makes him unqualified.”
“This is literally the worst-case scenario…. You have someone who handles the nuclear codes who is not in touch with reality and who’s paranoid, who has actually imagined that he’s under attack by people who are not actually attacking him. Then what you have is a very dangerous combination of someone who can act on his paranoid fantasies in a way that can have catastrophic consequences.”
Please, Donald. Next time you go in search of “enemies of the American people,” do the world a favor: go and consult a mirror. As for me, can an everyday news guy like myself sign Dr. Gartner’s petition? If so, where do I sign?
Richard Hébert, Donald Trump, POTUS, George Will, Lawrence O’Donnell, John Gartner, Lance Dodes, Fake News, Steve Bannon, Atlanta Constitution, civil rights,