No * on You Can Count On Me

Thanksgiving dinner is going to be less populated at the Trump family table. In the “might be-fiction” area of the bookstore this week is at least one addition. First Lady Melanie Trump’s former “best” friend’s has published, “Melanie and Me.” She probably shouldn’t expect an invitation for dinner. Nor should President Trump’s niece or sister, or John Bolton.

Goodreads says there are 291 tell-all books about Trump—that was before this week. Two more drop next week. Mary Trump’s book sold 1.3 million copies its first week. 

Much has been made about Donald Trump’s loyalty requirements. Do you blame him? Obviously, he has not done a very good job vetting those around him. I’m guessing that Barron has signed a non-disclosure agreement. (JOKE)

Nothing about the past four years of politics has been more nauseating to me than the leaking from people with access to the Oval Colander and the absolute betrayal by those who were trusted with state secrets and personal conversations. Observing this practice of spewing privileged information has been sitting like vomit in the back of my soul for three years. 

I am appalled by the video of Ms. Nancy Pelosi at the hair-dressers walking across the salon floor with wet hair. That is invasion of privacy to say the least and an indictment of the leakers and publishers.  It is not political, it is lack of humanity and character. 

The former daughter-in-law of a famous evangelist said the family Thanksgiving dinner ended with the famous man chewing a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. How was the reader supposed to react to that revelation? I erased her from my invite list.

Who is better after knowing these “secrets” or personal idiosyncrasies? Are people’s souls enriched? Are they smarter? Did their empathy grow or their IQ blossom? How about their emotional quotient? It feels like the land of the free is populated by hordes of voyeurs.

I’ve been slow-reading my way through Pulitzer Prize winning American Lion by Jon Meacham, the history of Andrew Jackson’s days in the White House. Jackson’s vice-president, John C. Calhoun attempted to publicly slander the president and fight him on almost every action. Then there was Henry Clay who devoted his life to winning the presidency; watching all this was John Quincy Adams who spoke publicly against Harvard’s decision to bestow an honorary doctorate on Jackson. All these men were in Jackson’s Cabinet. Trying to mend fences and pave his own path to the presidency, Mr. Calhoun went to visit Adams. This is the former president’s reaction:

“I meet Mr. Calhoun’s advances to a renewal of the intercourse of common civility because I cannot reject them. But once I had confidence in the qualities of his heart. It is not totally destroyed, but so impaired that it can never be restored.”

What is left when insurrection, usurping of position, insubordination or betrayal is obvious? Trust is gone. Credibility and trustworthiness is questioned. On his death bed, Jackson said he was sorry he didn’t hang Calhoun for treason. Reputation as a betrayer on one’s resume is not a plus.

The blood sport of politics cannot be teaching citizens, especially the young, the value of honoring and trustworthiness. In the day of shaming, the impact of betrayal should be glaringly evident for the betrayed and the betrayer. Is betrayal worth it—perhaps virtuous—just because dollars, position or social standing can be improved? Or book sales?

The psalmist said in Psalm 54:12-14,

…For it is not an enemy who insults me; that I could endure. It is not a foe who rises against me; from him I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion and close friend. We shared sweet fellowship together; 

It is betrayal by family and/or friends that is most brutal. Confidences leaked through gossip or prayer requests exposed without permission cuts the cable. The agony of that is cried out by King David who was betrayed by his son:

“The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

Harry Hopkins has intrigued me. This paragraph describes him:

“During the years when Harry Hopkins lived as a guest in the White House, he was generally regarded as a sinister figure, a backstairs intriguer, an Iowan combination of Machiavelli, Svengali and Rasputin. Hostility toward him was by no means limited to those who hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were many of Roosevelt’s most loyal friends and associates, in and out of the Cabinet, who disliked Hopkins intensely and resented the extraordinary position of influence and authority he held. He was unquestionably a political liability to Roosevelt, a convenient target for all manners of attacks directed at the President himself, and many people wondered why Roosevelt kept him around.” (Roosevelt and Hopkins, Robert E. Sherwood, Harper & Brothers, ©1948) Page 1.

Wendell Willkie asked FDR,

“Why do you keep Hopkins so close to you? You surely must realize that people distrust him and they resent his influence?”

Willkie quoted Roosevelt as replying:

“I can understand that you wonder why I need that half-man around me.” (The ‘half-man’ was an allusion to Hopkin’s extreme physical frailty.) “But—someday you may well be sitting here where I am now as President of the United States. And when you are, you’ll be looking at that door over there and knowing that practically everybody who walks through it wants something out of you. You’ll learn what a lonely job this is, and you’ll discover the need for somebody like Harry Hopkins who asks nothing except to serve you.”

Does fidelity seems sparse today? Loyalty cannot be a one-way commitment. It seems to me that honor, respect, fidelity, loyalty and trustworthiness are markable and remarkable personal traits.

General Jeb Stuart signed all his letters to Robert E. Lee…

Yours To Count On,   

©2020 D. Dean Benton

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