How long will Trump’s stain on Amer­ica last?

Toronto Star - - THE POLITICS PAGE - Robin V. Sears Robin V. Sears is a prin­ci­pal at Earn­scliffe Strat­egy Group and was an NDP strate­gist for 20 years. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @robin­vsears.

We are now al­most half­way through Don­ald Trump’s first and — God help us — only term in of­fice. It is tempt­ing to think al­ready of how the dam­age he will have left as a legacy, will be re­paired. One of the sad­dest costs is per­haps the end of Amer­i­can unity, amity, even part­ner­ship among former lead­ers.

One can­not imag­ine a Don­ald Trump seated be­side Barack Obama and Ge­orge Bush at a fu­ture Kennedy Cen­ter gala hon­our­ing Tony Ben­nett, or an event such as Lady Gaga did for the hur­ri­cane vic­tims in Texas, where she ser­e­naded four pres­i­dents and their wives along with tens of thou­sands. One can­not imag­ine an African Aids mis­sion where Trump and Obama work as a team united, as Clin­ton and Bush did. He would sim­ply not be wel­come.

This is per­haps the core of the Trump tragedy for Amer­ica. He is a clear breach with a cen­tury’s long tra­di­tion that, when the shout­ing dies down, when the ba­ton is passed, the na­tion’s el­der states­men do work for the na­tion to­gether. It is not a uniquely Amer­i­can at­tribute, but one they do far bet­ter than we do.

Paul Martin will never be in the same room as Jean Chré­tien, as Stephen Harper will to his grave shun Brian Mul­roney. Th­ese are not states­man­like stances, they do in­jury to the power of the of­fice. Harper’s new mem­oir merely re­opens old wounds rather than of­fer­ing an el­der’s wis­dom.

In the post-Trump era, one sus­pects he will be “ghosted,” as to­day’s jar­gon has it. Repub­li­cans will re­vere the two Bushes and Rea­gan in their shared mythol­ogy; Democrats, the Clin­tons and the Oba­mas. Each side will pass quickly over this sad in­ter­reg­num.

For the Trumps, for its younger gen­er­a­tion es­pe­cially, it will be ex­ceed­ingly poignant. Whether he leaves by res­ig­na­tion — his wis­est choice — or im­peach­ment or de­feat, the stain that grows daily on his name and his be­hav­iour will fol­low him to the grave. More even than Nixon, any ame­lio­ra­tive ef­forts at good works will al­ways live in the shadow of his po­lit­i­cal, le­gal, fi­nan­cial and sex­ual trans­gres­sion.

It’s too soon to tell what of his pack­ing the Supreme Court, un­der­min­ing in­ter­na­tional al­liances, fo­ment­ing racism, push­ing Amer­ica down the path of rogue state will en­dure. The op­ti­mist will say the Amer­i­can Repub­lic has en­dured worse and pre­vailed, and that would be true. The pes­simist will say th­ese sup­pu­rat­ing wounds in­flicted on do­mes­tic and global har­mony will ooze their poi­son for a gen­er­a­tion, with many lives lost as a likely cost.

Amer­i­cans are fa­mous for sec­ond chances, for a restart. A woman GOP leader, vig­or­ous in her de­nun­ci­a­tion of Trump’s de­viance could quickly re­store the party’s glory. The Democrats could over­reach in their con­tempt, by again blam­ing those se­duced into his huck­ster’s tent.

Even Brett Ka­vanaugh, seared by the near de­struc­tion of his care­fully planned ca­reer, could achieve wis­dom and grace, be seen as a jus­tice of great fair­ness, more than any­one would be­lieve pos­si­ble to­day.

Amer­ica, more than any na­tion, has al­ways been ca­pa­ble of th­ese as­ton­ish­ing turns, seiz­ing an im­prob­a­ble vic­tory from cer­tain hu­mil­i­a­tion. Few com­mu­ni­ties on Earth could have gone from the blood and hor­ror of the civil rights strug­gle to an Obama pres­i­dency in less than a gen­er­a­tion. Fewer still could have passed through 9/11, from mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity pol­icy ex­cess, to an in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity lead­er­ship act­ing in una­nim­ity as the de­fend­ers of demo­cratic prin­ci­ple against a mod­ern mad king, in less than two decades. And yet … As you watch in awe at the majesty of the cul­tural, dis­as­ter re­cov­ery, and na­tional cel­e­bra­tion events at which Amer­i­cans ex­cel, where each liv­ing pres­i­dent joins in a star­ring role, we will sigh sadly at the first post-Trump oc­ca­sion.

His ab­sence will for­ever be a pow­er­ful re­minder of what was lost when such a man was given such a role.

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