Clarence Fanto: Shake me, wake me when this Trump presidency is over
"One bit of collateral damage from the president's choice of adjectives," he wrote, referring to Donald Trump's outburst the previous day. "'S---thole' will be all over America's schoolyards tomorrow."
I was on the way to one of those schoolyards, to participate in a career workshop event for eighth-graders. While there, much to my relief, I didn't hear the profanity, wasn't asked about it and was very pleased to chat with a dozen or so very polite, articulate students interested in learning about the work of journalists.
They all wanted to know what the most challenging part of the job might be, and whether a typical day involves some stress.
After explaining that no day is typical, I allowed as how the element of surprise is a constant in my line of work.
Out of respect for this admirable group of students, the examples I gave did not include the most obvious one — that the president trashed immigrants from African nations and Haiti with a vulgarity that shocked even Trump's sternest critics.
Now that Trump has revealed the essence of his racist beliefs and then lied via Twitter by suggesting he didn't use the language others at a meeting with lawmakers heard, has the time come to figure out how to peacefully, lawfully remove this impostor from the presidency that he undermines and trashes on a daily basis?
Maybe that still depends on whether special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation turns up evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to help him win the Electoral College, and/or obstruction of justice to undermine the Mueller probe — in other words, high crimes and misdemeanors.
But it's hard to get past the outrage many people felt over this remark: "Why are we having all these people from s---thole countries come here?" Trump said during a White House meeting with at least a half-dozen lawmakers that was supposed to close a deal on immigration and protect 800,000 "Dreamers." He suggested that Norwegians would be most welcome.
Friday was one of those ultra-surreal days. It's not pleasant to have to explain to the teenager who lives at our house that there's a word uttered by the White House inhabitant that I can't repeat. Of course, within seconds, he had it on his iPhone. Disgust was the reaction.
When I saw The Washington Post's news alert about its exclusive story around 4:40 p.m. Thursday, I was surprised and shocked — especially since the expletive appeared in full.
As the paper's renowned editor Marty Baron explained, "When the president says it, we'll use it verbatim. That's our policy. We discussed it, quickly, but there was no debate."
On NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt urged us, in effect, to cover our kids' ears. The report that followed used "The Word." It was all over cable news that evening.
CNN's Anderson Cooper cut through the fog, declaring: "The president of the United States is tired of so many black people coming to this country. Tired of immigrants from Haiti and Africa being allowed in."
But one commentator on Fox claimed "this doesn't move the needle at all" and another assured viewers that Trump supporters will remain steadfast and loyal.
Fox host Tucker Carlson delivered the ultimate whitewash and spin, telling viewers, "President Trump said something that almost every single person in America actually agrees with. An awful lot of immigrants come to this country from other places that aren't very nice. Those places are dangerous, they're dirty, they're corrupt, and they're poor, and that's the main reason those immigrants are trying to come here, and you would, too, if you live there."
It was especially painful on the eve of the eighth anniversary of Haiti's devastating earthquake to hear Trump single out that nation. "Why do we need more Haitians?" Trump told the lawmakers. "Take them out." Though he once stated that all Haitian immigrants have AIDS, presumably he wasn't including those employed at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Naturally, while campaigning in Miami in September 2016, Trump told a group of Haitian-Americans: "Whether you vote for me or don't vote for me, I really want to be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion."
U.S. Rep Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, summed up the disgraceful episode best when he described the president's sentiments as "racist and a disgrace. They do not reflect our nation's values."
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat and head of the Congressional Black Caucus, pointed out that Trump's remark "reinforces concerns that we hear every day, that the President's slogan Make America Great Again is really code for Make America White Again."
The late-night comics had a field day — Jimmy Kimmel, for example: "It really is unfathomable! You just can't believe that this is the guy running our country."
Even some conservatives were enraged. Erick Erickson, on Twitter, pointed out: "We live in a world where we shouldn't directly quote the President of the United States in front of our kids."
It was encouraging to see what House Speaker Paul Ryan told students at the University of Wisconsin on Friday about his reaction to the Trump tirade: "First thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful ... I thought about my own family. My family ... came from Ireland on what they called coffin ships then. ... We've got great friends from Africa in Janesville who are doctors who are just incredible citizens."
But unless more Republicans in Congress develop some backbone, the occupant of the White House most likely will still be there Jan. 19, 2021. That's the nightmare to be endured.
Shake me, wake me when it's over.
Clarence Fanto writes from Lenox. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @BE_CFanto. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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