That’s one giant leap backward for America
July 20 should be important to all Americans. It is the day — 48 years ago now — that Neil Armstrong planted man’s first foot on the moon. His eloquence was no exaggeration: “One giant leap for mankind.”
Virtually every American that transcendent day was electrified. None more, though, than in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Neil Armstrong’s hometown, where as a young producer supervising live coverage for ABC News, I watched his first lunar steps.
Never in my lifetime have I seen Americans so proud. Never in my lifetime have I seen Americans so respected. In Wapakoneta and everywhere else.
But the pride has dimmed. And the respect is dwindling.
No one factor, no one war, no one president is single-handedly responsible. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote, our presidents all have “bent the truth to varying degrees,” and “had a vanity that sometimes ran contrary to the public good.”
But none more than Donald Trump. And because this July 20 is a milestone of a different kind — the six-month anniversary of his presidency — it must be noted that when it comes to our pride in our nation and others’ respect for it, we are at a new nadir.
Not everyone feels that way. Although Trump’s 36 percent approval rating (and 58 percent disapproval) at the six-month mark is the worst of any presidency ever, there are still diehards in denial. They applaud Trump for “shaking things up,” as if it doesn’t matter where the pieces fall or who they hurt.
What is this world coming to? Overseas, despite the president’s protests that he and his global peers have “beautiful” relationships upon which America’s foundation is fortified, those leaders’ actions, and sometimes their inactions, speak louder than his empty words. Respect for American supremacy is slipping, although because fellow leaders play the president like a fiddle, he doesn’t seem to see it.
He pays more praise to our dictatorial foes than our democratic friends. But to what advantage? Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t budged an inch in Ukraine or Crimea and still strives to neutralize NATO. And how about the naive notion of an “impenetrable cybersecurity unit” with Russia (which Sen. Marco Rubio caustically compared to a chemical weapons partnership with Syria’s Bashar Assad)? Trump doesn’t grasp that Putin’s only goal is to make Russia, not America, great again.
And China? Although our great negotiator had great expectations for relief from trade imbalances and North Korean threats, China’s President Xi Jinping didn’t do squat. His goal? Make China great again. Yet Trump is still sucking up, which NPR’s Scott Simon illuminated last weekend in an incisive commentary. Simon observed that right after the death of oft-imprisoned Chinese human rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, President Trump joined with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, but “the two leaders who met to celebrate their nations’ shared principles of liberty did not mark the loss of a man who gave his life to the struggle for liberty in his country. In fact, President Trump paused to salute the man who heads the regime that imprisoned Liu Xiaobo.” (Trump called Xi “a great leader” and “a very special person.”)
Here at home, Republican lawmakers still want to slash health insurance for tens of millions. They threaten the time-honored separation of church and state. And environmental degradation notwithstanding, they move with resolve toward regulation-lite. JP Morgan chief Jamie Dimon, no fan of regulations, lamented last week, “Some regulations quite clearly create a common good — like clean air and water.”
If all that isn’t enough, some on Trump’s team are culpable of cooperation, if not collusion, with a foreign antagonist’s attempts to affect the American election. Of course Trump, who campaigned against politics as usual, justified this in a Monday tweet as, well, just politics.
All this, between Jan. 20 and July 20, 2017. We’ve come to all this in just six months.
July 20, 1969, was a giant leap for America. But this July 20, the supreme spirit of Wapakoneta is gone. And there’s no evidence that this “buck stops somewhere else” president can make the leap to fully restore the pride of most Americans, or the respect we long possessed. Mac Tully, CEO and Publisher; Justin Mock, Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer; Bill Reynolds, Senior VP, Circulation and Production; Judi Patterson, Vice President, Human Resources; Bob Kinney, Vice President, Information Technology