No matter how difficult it may be to keep in mind, always, always, always remember that no matter how bad the Trump administration gets, no matter how low it goes, it has further to fall, and it will get far, far worse. Put another way: The Trump administration is always worse than you can possibly imagine, even after taking into account the fact that the Trump administration is always worse than you can possibly imagine.
The latest data point in favor of this sad and sorry proposition is the latest instance of the Trump administration’s effort to engender racial and cultural strife by politicizing the playing of the national anthem at sports events. For those of you who–like me–were raised to belief that we have a right to decide, on an individual basis, whether we want to participate in commemorating the national anthem, and that this right of free expression is entirely in line with the American tradition and the American experience, well, the Trump administration has a surprise for you. It will use whatever moral force and tools of political coercion it has at its disposal to force you to commemorate the rendition of the national anthem in a way that is pleasing to the president of the United States.
If this sounds authoritarian, that is because it is. And rest assured that it is in no way, shape or form a coincidence that the Trump administration chose to pick this fight because the first athlete in recent times to popularize a refusal to commemorate the rendition of the national anthem is Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, who just happens to be African-American, and because a host of other African-American athletes chose to support Kaepernick and follow his example, by either sitting or kneeling during the rendition of the anthem. If this reads as though I am stating that the Trump administration is filled with racists who are willing to openly encourage racial hatred and resentment, that would be because I am stating that the Trump administration is filled with racists who are willing to openly encourage racial hatred and resentment–starting with the president of the United States himself.
Today, the race/culture war over the anthem was revealed to be especially cynical, and especially pathetic. That would be because today, on a day that the Indianapolis Colts chose to retire the jersey of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, during a game against the 49ers, the vice president of the United States–who just happens to be the former governor of the state of Indiana–appeared at the game. Now, the 49ers have been one of the most prominent teams around in supporting and emulating Kaepernick’s example by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem–Kaepernick was on their team, after all. So anyone, everyone, their parents and their pets had to know that there would be a lot of kneeling at the beginning of the 49ers-Colts game, when the anthem was played. No one should have been surprised in any way, shape or form, whatsoever, by all of the kneeling. Kneeling would not have been news; to the contrary, not kneeling would have qualified as news.
This didn’t stop the vice president of the United States from huffing and puffing in is best Claude Rains imitation that he was shocked–shocked–that there was kneeling going on in the football game, and making a big show of getting up and leaving. Not to be caught ceding the spotlight to anyone, not even for a nanosecond, the president then tweeted that he had ordered the vice president to leave. Yes, you read that right; we are to believe that Donald Trump, alarmed and totally taken by surprise by all of the kneeling, got Mike Pence on a secure phone and used the powers granted to Trump by Article II of the Constitution of the United States to order Mike Pence to leave the Niners-Colts game.
If you think that Mike Pence did not attend that game knowing what would happen, and knowing that he would walk out moments after the game began, then you must still be waiting for the award of your degree from the faculty and administration of Trump University:
The pool of journalists accompanying the vice president was not allowed into the stadium and was asked to stay in their vans. They were told by a staffer that “there may be an early departure from the game,” but were not given any further details.
Some criticized Trump and Pence for the walkout, with Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz tweeting, “Wait. This was orchestrated to make a point? That’s not an inexpensive thing to do.”
Eric Reid of the 49ers properly calls out this bulls*** for what it is:
My honest reaction … Does anybody know the last time [Pence has] been to a football game?” Reid said, via a video from Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation. “With that being said, he tweeted out a three-year old photo of him at a Colts game so with the information I have the last time he was at a Colts game was three years ago. So this looks like a PR stunt to me. He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I’ve made.”
And so does Indiana media:
Two weeks after President Trump decreed that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after about 20 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the anthem. The 49ers were in town to play the Indianapolis Colts.
Pence was in town to upstage Peyton Manning.
What, you think he didn’t know the 49ers would kneel on Sunday? Pence knew. The 49ers are the one franchise, the only franchise, that have had at least one player kneel before every game since Colin Kaepernick was the first to do it in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick played for the 49ers, of course. Last week, following Trump’s unpatriotic assertion that he would fire someone for exercising their First Amendment rights, more than half the San Francisco roster knelt.
Hell, the media members that follow Pence were told before the game not to bother leaving their vans and enter Lucas Oil Stadium, according to a tweet from NBC News Vaughn Hillyard. They wouldn’t be there long, because Pence wouldn’t be there long. Trump, as Trump is wont to do, took credit in a tweet for Pence’s walkout by saying he’d asked Pence to leave if anyone knelt.
This was planned.
[. . .]
As an aside, how much taxpayer money did Pence waste to make this grandiose statement of political oppression, anyway? He traveled here with his usual contingent of aides and bodyguards, and he didn’t fly standby on Delta. Chew on that for just a minute.
As another aside, what was Pence thinking, doing this on a day the Colts franchise thought he was in town to honor Peyton Manning and celebrate his induction into the Ring of Honor? As VP of the country, and as Indiana’s former governor, Pence has a standing invitation to come to a Colts game and watch it from a suite. A few weeks ago he accepted that offer. He claimed a suite just off mid-field.
The presence of the U.S. Vice President is a disruption, anywhere he goes. Colts fans were urged in an announcement by the team – and by IMPD – to come early to navigate the expected delays . . .
Of course, the Trump administration’s willingness to waste taxpayer money in the furtherance of a political stunt is of a piece with other manifestations of high-level travel-related corruption. And of course, it is important to note in the midst of all of this what the Trump administration’s priorities aren’t. Here are but two non-priorities, which in any sane administration, would have commanded more attention than whether or how many football players stand for the rendition of the national anthem:
- Helping Puerto Rico recover from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Maria. While reading this story, take note of the fact that “FEMA Administrator Brock Long confirmed the agency was ignoring Cruz’s ‘noise.’ He told This Week ‘[w]e filtered out the mayor a long time ago.'” As others have noted, in any sane administration, this kind of disgusting talk would have constituted a firing offense;
- Speaking out against Donald Trump’s conception of “very fine people,” as racists marched again in Charlottesville–plainly hoping to further stoke the racial and cultural war that the Trump administration is intent on waging.
The short version of this rather long blog post is this: Bob Corker is almost right to call this White House “an adult day care center.” Note that I wrote “almost right”; for Corker to be entirely correct, there would have to be actual adults in charge at the Trump White House. As things stand, it would be an insult to infants and toddlers to compare the president and vice president of the United States to them.
As an aside, I was told long ago by Trumpkins that I overreacted to the election results of 2016, and that I ought to give our new president a chance. Not one of these people have had the intellectual courage and maturity to confess that they were oh-so-incredibly-wrong to support or excuse the actions of this president. Tribalism is a hell of a drug, as far as Trumpkins are concerned. And cowardice is all too common a trait amongst them.