When my children were little, we had a policy of calling a “timeout” when they were unruly. Once a timeout was called, they retreated to their rooms and didn’t emerge until it was time for dinner. If I could make such a call, I’d use it on President Trump, Congress and all of the 2020 presidential candidates.
To simplify the issue, we, the voting public, need the politicians to take a long timeout, at least until Labor Day. To start with, someone should grab the president’s cellphone and prevent him from sending any more tweets. America is exhausted by daily tweets on the simplest subjects and on issues that pertain to the world’s survival. Twitter was never meant to be a place where presidents issued threats about wars and conflict.
To add to the public’s confusion, cable news treats every presidential tweet as if it were a pronouncement from Moses after he came down from Mt. Sinai. I’m not interested in the president’s spat with a member of the women’s World Cup championship team, because we have more challenges with the homegrown neo-Nazi movement than any star on the soccer field. I’m exhausted by Trump’s use of tweets to threaten China and Iran. In the old days, ambassadors who carried confidential messages in diplomatic pouches made these threats.
Happily, the two Democratic candidate debates are over, but unhappily, we’ll have to deal with another one later in the summer. It’s tiring to watch two dozen men and women desperately trying to capture the public’s attention with a memorable sound bite when no one is very attentive. The Republican debates in 2016 should have taught both political parties that having multiple candidates competing for the chance to sit in the White House is the equivalent of a circular firing squad. There may be a hidden star in the competition, but right now most Americans feel that it can wait until September. Both parties should have rules that bar candidates from declaring their availability before a certain date, and the bar should be set very high as to who gets to stand onstage.
I’m equally exhausted by watching President Trump wage war on innocent people seeking political asylum. It’s true that there have to be limits on the number of people admitted to this country, but it’s un-American to tell the world that we no longer give asylum to people who have been physically and mentally abused because of their desire to live as free people.
One of the biggest sources of my weariness is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I have never seen a better example of what a leader shouldn’t be than this pompous Kentucky politician. His shabby treatment of the 9/11 first responders is a blemish on our American flag. Instead of passing a law requiring that all responders who have proven 9/11-related diseases are eligible for compensation, he taunts them with temporary extensions of aid that require Congress to return every few years to renew the program.
As the father of four daughters, I’m tired of watching Republican politicians sit on their hands every time a woman comes forward with a complaint about sexual harassment that involves some prominent politician. None of the Senate leadership is willing to question the actions of a president who has more allegations of improper conduct than any other in American history. They are so intent on getting re-elected, and avoiding primary contests in the process, that they’ll remain mute even if the focus of the accusation is one of their congressional seatmates. At the very least, pass a bill preventing such conduct in Congress.
We know that the country is badly divided, and it may take decades for the tension to subside. We know that the political system is fractured, and no one appears to be trying to fix it. But it’s summer, and we Americans are entitled to a political timeout. We work hard all year, and we need a break from the insanity around us.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.