National Commentary

Trump & Mueller Vie For America’s Soul

A singularly unique late night exchange occurred on Don Lemon’s watch on CNN Tuesday night, when Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, author of a column in Sunday’s Washington Post entitled, “Trump Vs. Mueller is a Battle for America’s Soul,” squared off with Mike Shields, a Republican National Committee hack.

CNN has had more than a few of these highly watchable late night moments recently, including one on the Anderson Cooper hour when author Tom Friedman went ballistic in his criticism of President Trump’s avoidance of the Russian election meddling issue. In addition to saying that Trump should be on national TV announcing a grave national crisis represented by what Russia did in 2016 and has underway for the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, he said very aggressive retaliatory measures should be undertaken against the Russians, things akin to saying, “Hey, how do you like this fire, scarecrow?

That very “Friends of Dorothy” moment, an allusion of course to the bad witch’s threat in The Wizard of Oz, raised more than a few eyebrows, perhaps in deference to a singe.

But in the case of the Boot-Shields exchange, Boot juxtaposed the life, culture and personalities of Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with similar circumstances in their youths but who went in very different directions growing up. “The war between the two men is not just a struggle over the fate of this presidency. It is a battle for the soul of America,” he wrote.
“Mueller embodies the ideals of probity, service and self-sacrifice that trace back to the Pilgrims,” he wrote, then went on, “Trump is Mueller’s opposite in every meaningful respect,” saying he “combines the hedonism of the 1970s with the bigotry and sexism of the 1950s, the worst of both worlds…a product of the ‘me decade,’ Trump is a ‘me first’ – not ‘America first’ – president.”

“Mueller is the best of America; Trump the worst. All you need to know about the diseased state of today’s Republican Party is that it reviles Mueller and reveres Trump,” he concluded.

He shared these views on Don Lemon’s show, to which Shields retorted with the current GOP position, defending Trump because, he said, he’s brought a tax reform that allegedly helps people, and all Americans care about is the size of their paycheck.

(He might have clarified that he was referring to all the richest Americans).

He ridiculed Boot for saying nothing of “substance,” nothing that speaks to practical policy.
As such, he embodied the pathetic, soulless decay of principles that is what’s become of the tired, old, white, despicable Republican majority in Congress, the Republicans who will do nothing, once again, of substance on gun control in the wake of the latest mass slaughter of our nation’s youth at a Florida high school.

His vapid shallowness was in stark contrast to the moral suasion brought by Boot, and was completely oblivious to the ground that is moving right under his feet.

In his column this week entitled, “The Force of Decency Awakens,” Paul Krugman has been more perceptive, identifying “a powerful upwelling of decency” in the wake of the indecent Trump regime. Citing the mass women’s marches just after the Inauguration last year, the “MeToo” movement against the sexual abuse of women and most recently the unprecedented surge among American youth in the wake of the Parkland killings, as part of one and the same movement. “It’s not just about ideology, but that far too much power rests in the hands of men who are simply bad people,” he wrote.

Back in school a week after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took the lives of 17, students remain strident and uncompromising in their opposition to the NRA, its defense of assault weapons and a president whose “solution” is more, not less, guns. On CNN, Junior Alfonso Calderon called the NRA “toxic, vile and not in support of the right to live.”

The NRA has turned an entire generation against it, and the same goes for all in the GOP who remain beholden to the NRA.

But, behold, three to five million youth will turn 18, old enough to vote, this year alone.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at