Home » Book Biz » JACK WEATHERLY — Trump and the ‘battle for our better angels’

JACK WEATHERLY — Trump and the ‘battle for our better angels’


What better time than now to discuss, as historian Jon Meacham titles his latest book, “The Soul of America”?

After all, we now have the completion of the report from special counsel Robert Meuller on the Trump administration regarding widespread speculation that the president conspired with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Meuller found no conspiracy and thus no indictments.

Meacham’s book, subtitled “The Battle for Our Better Angels,” which was published in 2018, decidedly did not include Trump as one of the presidents, who in the historian’s opinion, listened to the heavenly choir.

But what about his foes in the past two years — the “loyal opposition” and the Fourth Estate?

Many Democrats have fallen in love with socialism, an admission that even during the Obama years would have given them the heebie-jeebies – not to mention a cudgel for the GOP to beat them with.

But that radical departure from the history of that party gives them the freedom to attribute the worst of all intentions to Trump.

Trump said early in his term that some of illegal aliens crossing the porous U.S. southern border were rapists and murderers – and that the solution was a substantial wall.

That was interpreted by political foes that he was saying all such people were of that ilk.

Conclusion? Trump is against brown people. Rebuttal: “Trump derangement syndrome.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last June to allow the Trump ban on travel in the United States by citizens of five majority-Muslim countries, whose security apparatuses left something to be desired, plus North Korea and Venezuela.

Timing is everything. Special counsel Mueller’s investigation of Trump and his camp has concluded that the president did not work with the Russian government to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential. Now what?

Assurances by Democratic leaders and virtually all major news organizations that Trump was a scoundrel, if not a traitor, were not proven.

So who is seeking “the better angels of our nature,” as Lincoln put it, in this drama that has consumed the nation’s attention for nearly two years?

The New York Times and Washington Post were awarded national reporting Pulitzers in 2018 for their “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”

Can that be considered a deeper “understanding” in light ot the Mueller report?

That may have to await the full report, and that may not happen.

Attorney General William Barr has released a summary of the Meuller report. Democrats have urged him to release the whole thing, which could happen with certain redactions to protect the innocent and preserve national security. Even Trump said he would welcome the fuller release.

But fearing the worst, the Trump haters (the Democratic Party) preemptively launched their own “truth” campaign that they hope will, at the least, consume the last two years of Trump’s term.

Meacham was loaded for bear when he set out to write this book.

The author’s note tells the tale.

“The roots of this book can be traced to a Sunday afternoon call I received from Nancy Gibbs, then the editor in chief of Time, who reached out to ask me if I had anything to say about the terrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.”

You recall. The march of white supremacists, their clash with protesters. The death.

The president, making matters worse, initially did not roundly condemn the supremacists and the violence, though he did shortly thereafter.

One thing is known about the impulsive, flawed Trump — he does not say anything he does not believe. The hard thing is resolving the contradictions in what he says in his continuous addresses, including his 140-word Twitter missives and other brief but often baffling communications to the American people.

Yet, his broader decisions have unarguably played a major role in the strengthening of the national economy and kept us free of new military entanglements.

A major source of his political conflicts is the fact that he is seeking to protect our southern border from incursions of people who in many cases seemingly have nothing but contempt for the country that has for nearly 250 years been the light of the world.

No other president has given his enemies so many chances to take political shots at him.

Meacham refrained from cheap shots, yet decided he had ample time to judge Trump as president, after getting an eyeful during the campaign.

But let’s not say Meacham was unfair. Just guardedly pessimistic as he refrained from addressing Trump’s record – even though he was the reason for the book in the first place.

He doesn’t give the usual list of presidents a free ride. He shows them when they are faced with a soul-wrenching dilemma that will change the course of the ship of state for better or worse.

Abraham Lincoln, a prime example, was willing at first to merely limit the spread of slavery rather than abolish it.

In his first inaugural address he invoked the “better angels of our nature” a month before the beginning of that terrible war. And Meacham’s book took that as its subtitle.

But less than two years later, he issued his Emancipation Proclamation and went “all in,” as they say in poker – when the survival of the nation was at stake.

Our better angels can be hard task masters.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.


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About Jack Weatherly