That’s one gi­ant leap back­ward for Amer­ica

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Greg Dobbs Greg Dobbs of Ev­er­green is an au­thor, pub­lic speaker, and former for­eign cor­re­spon­dent for ABC News.

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

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