Thoughts on the circus. Not the Ringling Bros Circus that is folding its tents. Rather the Inauguration. Which is erecting the big top of a new administration.
Rep. John Lewis and a few dozen other congress people boycotted the inauguration of President Trump. Lewis said “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president.” He made sure he said this before the cameras.
In doing this he and the others went far beyond their disrespect for Mr. Trump. There is nothing wrong with disliking or disrespecting Donald Trump. We are fortunately free to like or dislike anyone. For any reason we choose. (It does seem unfair to call Trump illegitimate without genuine proof of such.)
But with their actions they showed contempt for the office of the president. The institution of the president. And, ironically, they showed contempt for the offices to which they were elected. Their own offices. And to the institution of which they are members – Congress.
When Harry Truman was President he flew to a Pacific island to confer with his general, Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur thought of himself as a god. And he hated Truman. When the plane landed, stubborn Gen. MacArthur did not walk onto the tarmac to greet Truman. Truman was more stubborn. He remained on the plane until MacArthur came out.
Truman later explained that he did not care if MacArthur did not respect Harry Truman. But as an officer in the U.S. Army he was damned-well going to show respect for the rank of Commander-in-Chief. He was going to show respect for the institution of the presidency.
Truman loved to study history. History told him how important it is for such respect. And how dangerous it is when major figures show disrespect for a country’s institutions.
Congressman Lewis shows disrespect for our presidency. And for the institution of the inauguration. It is a nation’s ceremony to honor the tradition of the passing of the reins of power from president to president.
He also showed disrespect for the office he holds. He took a solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” Respect for the office he holds includes showing respect for other offices within the government of that document. If he were to turn his back on Supreme Court justices because he disliked them he would be showing, mostly, disrespect for the institution of the court.
Showing disrespect for a political opponent? Hey, it is among our most popular pastimes. Showing disrespect for the office of the President? When he is a Member of Congress? It is one of the lowest roads he could take. A pity he chose to take it.
In the House of Representatives I doubt he would rise to speak about Sam Jones from Detroit. He would show respect for the House and for Jones’s office. He would say something like “My honorable colleague representing Detroit.” Or “The Honorable Representative from the 55th district.”
In Britain’s Parliament, members attack each other viciously. But always refer to each other as “The Honorable Member”. Out of respect for the institution of Parliament.
They reserve a special respect for the Crown. Whether they like or hate the Queen, Duke and various members of the Royal Family. They show respect for the institution of royalty. The concept of the Crown.
It is too easy for us to forget that our Office of the President encompasses two reins of power. One is political power. The power of CEO of the country. The other is conceptual power similar to the power of the Crown. Such is the institution of the presidency.
It is not by accident that historians regard the royal crown as a symbol of legitimacy of the form of government that holds power. In many ways, our office of the president is a similar symbol. A symbol of legitimacy.
When John Lewis plays around with the word “legitimate” he plays with fire. Fire of which he may not be aware.
From Tom…as in Morgan.