SAN DIEGO - We’re taught to look for the good in all people, and to allow for the possibility that people can change their ways and redeem themselves — both to their fellow man, and in the eyes of God.
Isaiah 44:22 reads: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
Fine. But, if that’s how you want to go, let me suggest that — when choosing a profession — you steer clear of journalism.
I cover politicians for a living. That tribe is not big on redemption, because you can’t redeem yourself until you accept that you’ve done something wrong. Politicians rarely do that.
This line of work can be a zoo, one where tigers don’t change their stripes.
President Trump is an odd cat, isn’t he? Even those of us who didn’t vote for him, find much to criticize about him, think he’s been bad for the country, and look forward to his return to private life can be forgiven for wanting to find some good in the man. If for no other reason, then for the good of the country.
We tell ourselves that Trump will grow into the office and start acting presidential. We hope that he will do the right thing, and pursue policies that have a positive effect on the country. We think that he’s capable of redemption, and that his conscience will win out and he will overcome his worst instincts. Finally, we trust in the idea that, if human beings fail us, divine providence will intervene and God will protect the vulnerable, downtrodden, and oppressed.
We are good people. Or rather, we try to be good people. And so, we wait for Trump to do the right thing. And sometimes, it seems like a long wait.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, we’ve recently heard horror stories — from lawyers, journalists, and advocates — about the deplorable conditions that young people are being kept in during their detention by U.S. immigration officials.
Infants, toddlers, children and teenagers don’t have enough food and water. There is poor sanitation to the point where there is an unbearable stench and guards wear face masks. There is no soap, showers, toothpaste, or fresh clothes. Children as young as 7 or 8 are caring for infants they just met, while toddlers are soiling their pants over and over again.
Vice President Mike Pence has been quick to pass the buck and blame Congress for this mess, and so has Trump. But this is the doing of the executive branch, and the White House has to clean it up.
You read enough of these stories, and you start looking for good anywhere you can find it. You’re so starved for any scrap of good news that, if Trump tosses you a crumb, you’ll call it a steak dinner.
Supporters of President Obama did the exact same thing. No matter what the story was about their guy, they always preferred tell it sunny side up.
When we read that Trump has put off for two weeks a series of planned deportation raids that were supposed to occur over the weekend and result in the rounding up at least a couple thousand people in a dozen U.S. cities, we rejoice. Maybe he’s re-discovering his humanity, we say.
When we see that Trump has called off, apparently at the last minute, a planned retaliatory strike against Iran after that rogue state shot down a $150 million drone that was flying about 10 miles from Iranian air space, we breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe he’s got the maturity the job calls for after all, we say.
Trump claimed in a tweet that the U.S. military was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate when he asked how many people were likely to die as a result of a strike. When he was told that the number was 150, he flinched and called it off.
What are watching here? Is this Trump being a grown-up? Has he finally put away his childish toys — his Twitter battles with Hollywood movie stars, personal attacks on journalists, his criticism of his own Cabinet secretaries etc? Is he ready to get serious about the serious office he occupies?
Or is this just more of Trump being Trump? Whether the issue is deportations or tariffs — or now planned military strikes against hostile foreign powers — this president seems to enjoy practicing a kind of brinkmanship. He pushes things right up to the edge, then he backs down. And then he tells us that, unless he gets his way, he’ll go back up to the line and, this time, he’ll cross it.
When it comes to Trump finding redemption, we should keep an open mind. But we should also keep our eyes open.
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