As Iran Contra scandals washed off his back, Ronald Reagan had the honor of being dubbed the Teflon President (though he was not literally bulletproof). The Great Communicator’s smooth voice, folksy manner and sunny disposition were said to make him immune to criticism.
Barack Obama enjoyed no such immunity, perhaps because he made the mistake of being born black. Instead, the last true president was criticized for using French mustard, and, by this Commander-in-Cheese in particular, of playing too much golf and pretending to be born in America.
Reagan be damned, no politician has ever been as well-coated against disillusionment as this one.
Lest we forget, the current occupant of the White House lies at least seven times a day, cheats monumentally on his taxes, operated a fraudulent nonprofit, laundered money for thieves from an avowed enemy of the U.S., defames the innocent, defies due process, violates emolument bans, obstructs justice, threatens the freedom of the press, tortures children, alienates longtime allies, creates record debt and trade wars than could sink the nation, cozies up to dictators, and serially cheats with, pays off, and abuses women.
So how to explain Trump’s rock-solid support?
The truth is, as Pogo put it, “we have seen the enemy and he is us.”
Certainly, it can’t be that forgiveness by fellow sinners is sufficient to explain Trump’s resilience. The sum of women-abusers, obsessive golfers, self-obsessed 1 percenters, and taco bowl overeaters comes nowhere close to his 40 percent support.
But it’s easy pickings to blame Trump’s stain-resistance on Trump backers. Yes, he’s gotta have that base, even if he has lost all the treble of suburbanites, self-respecting women and most anyone who reads.
It should be no secret by now that all is forgiven Trump by those who like him for what he unabashedly is, and they have so long been uncomfortable admitting to being racist.
The Trump campaign, never organized, never coherent, took flight when he declared Mexicans in this country to be rapists. (The irony that Trump nominated a rapist to the Supreme Court should be lost on no one).
The one “bad hombre” signal was sufficient to coalesce the support of all the xenophobes and racists still thriving in this country. We mistake signs of racial progress — a black president only the latest — as barometers of wholesale changes toward tolerance. A country that denies evolution, a woman’s right to choice, health care for all its citizens, or the need for gun control can hardly be called advanced.
In fact, racism is on the rise, and not simply because its fires are stoked by Trump’s rhetoric and policies. We are witnessing the last stand of ignorant white men. They are being numerically overrun by a rainbow of faster-breeding and more recent immigrants, and they are fighting back.
Ignorant, fearful whites include Republicans still holding their tenuous grip on Congress. With Trump’s guidance they conspire with increasing fervor to suppress the votes of the majority.
So, unquestionably, Trump is bulletproof among his base — no sins are so significant as to tarnish his shining badge of prejudice.
But the sad truth is that Trump survives in large measure because he gets far too little criticism from the “mainstream media.” Journalism falls upon its own lance of truth, in its desire to show neutrality, when none is warranted.
There are no two sides to the truth, no matter what Kellyanne Conway avers. News media need to call out Trump for what he IS. Criticism of deceit is not the sole province of commentators.
This president is demonstrably unfit for the job. His impeachable offenses are numerous and well-documented. His word should not go unchallenged — anywhere, any time, whether in his “60 Minutes” interviews, impromptu press conferences, or brownshirt rallies.
Reporters need to challenge Trump’s lies to his face or refuse to cover him. Twitter could be fact-checking his tweets. Reporters could walk out en masse on Sarah Huckabee. And we could all be on the street and in his face — until this nightmare ends.
Teflon is after all, a carcinogen.