Amer­ica re­pu­di­ates her pres­i­dent in in­cre­ments

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - BALANCED VIEWS - Leonard Pitts Jr.

A re­mark­able thing happened last week.

You might have missed it, be­cause while it happened in plain sight, it also happened in in­cre­ments. You had to put the pieces to­gether to ap­pre­ci­ate the mag­ni­tude of it.

Last week, you see, Amer­ica re­pu­di­ated its pres­i­dent.

This, of course, was in re­sponse to that pa­thetic per­for­mance in the wake of the tragedy in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, when he sug­gested moral equiv­a­lence be­tween white su­prem­a­cists and those who protest them. In re­sponse, Amer­ica — a pretty broad swath of it, at least — has con­demned him.

The ref­er­ence is not to the shel­lack­ing he took from pun­dits or the re­provals of GOP lead­ers. These things were to be ex­pected.

But you did not expect the chair­man and CEO of Merck to quit the pres­i­dent’s Amer­i­can Man­u­fac­tur­ing Coun­cil. And Ken Fra­zier’s de­par­ture, which he framed as “a mat­ter of per­sonal con­science,” was just the open­ing salvo. He was fol­lowed through the door by mem­bers of that panel and oth­ers. By week’s end, two pres­i­den­tial busi­ness ad­vi­sory groups had ceased to ex­ist and plans for a third had been scrapped.Mean­time, Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club and de facto pres­i­den­tial getaway in Florida, saw a rash of char­i­ties can­cel­ing their fundrais­ing events. The Wash­ing­ton Post listed the Sal­va­tion Army, the Amer­i­can Red Cross, Su­san G. Komen and the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety among those who have cho­sen to hold their galas else­where.

And there is yet more. Bob Corker, a re­spected Repub­li­can se­na­tor who has hereto­fore sought to en­gage with the pres­i­dent, raised sharp ques­tions not just about Trump’s com­pe­tence, but also his “sta­bil­ity,” and called for “rad­i­cal changes” in the White House. Five mil­i­tary chiefs also spoke out against the big­otry in Char­lottesville, in a strik­ing re­proach of their com­man­der.

Grad­u­ates of Lib­erty University called on fel­low alumni to re­turn their diplo­mas to protest LU pres­i­dent Jerry Fal­well Jr.’s sup­port for Trump. And on Satur­day it was an­nounced that the pres­i­dent would not be at­tend­ing the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors in De­cem­ber, nor host the tra­di­tional White House re­cep­tion for the five hon­orees after three of them had spo­ken of boy­cotting the event.It seems that a great many Amer­i­cans reached a mo­ment of de­ci­sion last week and re­acted as you would have hoped. Trump and his apol­o­gists and en­ablers should take note, be­cause this does not bode well for them.

For all its pow­ers of law­mak­ing, war mak­ing, bud­get draft­ing, and diplo­macy, the pres­i­dency also em­bod­ies the power of moral sua­sion. A pres­i­dent uses what Theodore Roo­sevelt called “the bully pul­pit” — the honor and pres­tige of his of­fice — to stand for what is right and re­mind us to do like­wise.

Prob­lem­at­i­cally, that of­fice is oc­cu­pied now by a man with no moral com­pass, a man whose only true North is self. So what happened last week was sadly pre­dictable.

What was not pre­dictable was this cho­rus of cas­ti­ga­tion from such a wide spec­trum of Amer­i­can life. The stun­ning re­buke of­fers heart­en­ing ev­i­dence that we have not yet com­pletely aban­doned who and what we are sup­posed to be.

Those who chose to sep­a­rate them­selves from Trump de­clared their val­ues — and char­ac­ter.

Those who sup­ported him did, too.

Sooner or later, and the later the bet­ter, the pres­i­dent’s wan­der­ing at­ten­tion will flit, how­ever briefly, to the sub­ject of trade. So, let us try to think about the prob­lem as he seems to: Wily cos­mopoli­tans beyond our bor­ders are in­sin­u­at­ing across our bor­ders goods that Amer­i­cans, per­haps mis­led by Bri­tish econ­o­mist David Ri­cardo, per­sist in pur­chas­ing.

Ex­actly 200 years ago, Ri­cardo pub­lished “On the Prin­ci­ples of Po­lit­i­cal Econ­omy and Tax­a­tion,” ex­plain­ing the doc­trine of com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage. Paul Sa­muel­son, a lead­ing 20th-cen­tury econ­o­mist, cited this doc­trine when chal­lenged to name a so­cial-sci­ence propo­si­tion Do you have a sub­mis­sion for View­points? Have some­thing to say about pol­i­tics, his­tory, arts, tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness, de­vel­op­ment, pop­u­lar cul­ture, sci­ence or other is­sues af­fect­ing Cen­tral Texas? Please send it to views@states­man.com along with a photo of your­self and a short bio. Submissions should not ex­ceed 650 words.

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