Bad News. Great News.

During the past week there were several news events coming out of the White House that in another time might have caused a much bigger stir. But in this “time of the Trump,” startling news that used to merit days of discussion is now met with little more than a shrug. I will now mention three of those items.

On Thursday, Trump fired his National Security Advisor General H. R. McMaster, one of the better qualified and respected members of the President’s staff. McMaster, a three star general, clearly holds strong feelings about the importance of speaking truth to power. His book, “Dereliction of Duty,” is an analysis of how years of lies, carefully selected facts and willful denial of reality led us into the disastrous quagmire of the Vietnam War.

So in his White House job, it’s not surprising that McMaster insisted on presenting candid judgments and detailed appraisals to the President. Unfortunately such candor often didn’t fit President Trump’s worldview (or his attention span). Bye, bye, general – and one less steadying voice in the Oval Office.

Trump immediately replaced McMaster with someone more to his liking. A man he admired for his commentary on Fox News, John Bolton. An attorney and sometimes diplomat, Bolton has held jobs in past Republican administrations, from Reagan to George W. Bush. “W” appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations even though Bolton pretty much admitted he hated the entire concept of a United Nations organization that lessened the world-supremacy of his U.S.A.

John Bolton’s appointment as Trump’s new National Security Advisor hasn’t received an outpouring of praise. Many observers spanning the political spectrum were shocked, pointing out Bolton’s predisposition toward war whenever dealing with an international opponent. He has advocated attacking Iran and North Korea and he continues to praise the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush invasion of Iraq as brilliant. The announcement of Bolton’s newest ascent to influence did not brighten my week. 

The third news event had nothing to do with our international security (unless the Russians somehow attained a video of our amorous President in action. – My apologies for implanting that image.) The event was the revelations presented on “60 Minutes” by pornographic film star Stormy Daniels.

Not so many years ago, the accusation that our nation’s president had had an extra-marital sexual relationship with a porn queen, would have had people buzzing for weeks. And that’s without adding the fact that Trump (indirectly?) had paid her $130,000 to keep quiet, and allegedly (indirectly) threatened her safety if she didn’t.

Will this news item keep resurfacing as new facts are discovered about the source of the funds or the identity of the threatening thug? Who knows? In this inglorious Trump era, predicting tomorrow’s events is nearly impossible, and what tomorrow brings is rarely reassuring.  It’s all so depressing, right?

On the other hand… last week also brought us one of the most inspiring news events to occur in decades. The student-led “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington and in many other cities and towns across the United States, and the world, was incredible. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington. Some estimate it was the largest D.C. rally in history.

And what is most encouraging is that the event was conceived by and organized by student survivors of Parkland Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings. In just weeks since that tragedy, these young men and women have successfully assembled support for a movement to reduce and eventually eliminate the dangers of gun violence against children (and adults) everywhere.

These kids have appeared on national and local news shows and talk shows, they’ve been interviewed by major newspapers. Each time I’ve seen or heard them speak, they have come across as intelligent, articulate, focused, informed spokespersons for their cause. They are not strident in their demands – although they have every right to be, having recently seen friends die of assault rifle wounds in their school hallways.

They do not resort to hyperbole. They don’t need to. They simply present facts and common sense arguments. And they carefully, and wisely, avoid partisan language. They come across as flawlessly prepared. Watching them share their talking points is like watching the Loyola basketball team play defense. — The NRA and their Republican apologists will continually have a tough time scoring against them.

The truth is, I have rarely seen adults on any news show present their positions with such honest self-assurance. What wonderful leaders these young people will become someday, as public servants or teachers or doctors or jurists or simply parents… whatever they choose.

These dedicated youths say they have no intention of walking away from their cause. They plan to stay in this battle until they get results. At their young age they’ve recognized that great things can happen when people stay united, focused on an irrefutably worthwhile goal.

If there was ever a time when we needed that reminder, it is now.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973