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Fri Jun 5, 2020, 09:13 PM

Friday Talking Points -- The Battle Of Lafayette Square

This week, an American president ordered the violent removal of peaceful protesters -- who were doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government for redress -- from a public park so that he could then walk across the park and hold up a borrowed Bible for a photo opportunity with both the Secretary of Defense and (clad in battle fatigues) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Afterward, the Trump White House immediately issued a propaganda video of the event. Later that evening, a military helicopter clearly marked with a red cross took offensive action against the protesters (which is banned by the Geneva Conventions, and is now under investigation). Later still, the president and all his enablers in the White House lied through their teeth about the entire incident, repeatedly. At week's end, we learned of another affront to the Constitution by the Trump administration, when it was revealed that federal law enforcement had unconstitutionally seized a shipment of cloth face masks created by a Black Lives Matter affiliate, and the only possible reason they did so was that the Department of Justice apparently didn't like the messages displayed on the masks (which read: "Stop killing black people," and: "Defund police" ).

We can't help but think of an old bumpersticker, which used to be popular a few decades ago: "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention."

Many have speculated that Trump's new campaign focus on being "the law-and-order president" harkens back to Richard Nixon's successful bid in 1968. But this week reminded me of another president, from further back. Here are excerpts from the Wikipedia article on the "Bonus Army," by way of explanation:

The Bonus Army was a group of 43,000 demonstrators -- made up of 17,000 U.S. World War I veterans, together with their families and affiliated groups -- who gathered in Washington, D.C. in mid-1932 to demand early cash redemption of their service certificates. Organizers called the demonstrators the "Bonus Expeditionary Force", to echo the name of World War I's American Expeditionary Forces, while the media referred to them as the "Bonus Army" or "Bonus Marchers". The demonstrators were led by Walter W. Waters, a former sergeant.

Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression. The World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 had awarded them bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1948. Each certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment with compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.

On July 28, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shot at the protestors, and two veterans were wounded and later died. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the U.S. Army to clear the marchers' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded a contingent of infantry and cavalry, supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.

. . .

On July 28, 1932, President Hoover ordered the Secretary of War to disperse the protesters. Towards the late afternoon, cavalry, infantry, tanks and machine guns pushed the "Bonusers" out of Washington. When the veterans moved back into the camp, police drew their revolvers and shot at the veterans, two of whom, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, died later.

. . .

At 1:40 pm MacArthur ordered General Perry Miles to assemble troops on the Ellipse immediately south of the White House. Within the hour the 3rd Cavalry led by [George S.] Patton, then a Major, crossed the Memorial Bridge, with the 12th Infantry arriving by steamer about an hour later. At 4 pm Miles told MacArthur that the troops were ready, and MacArthur (like Eisenhower, by now in service uniform), said that Hoover wanted him "on hand" to "take the rap if..."

Although the troops were ready, Hoover twice sent instructions to MacArthur not to cross the Anacostia bridge that night, both of which were ignored. Shortly after 9 p.m., MacArthur ordered Miles to cross the bridge and evict the Bonus Army from its encampment.

At 4:45 p.m., commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, the 12th Infantry Regiment, Fort Howard, Maryland, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, supported by six M1917 light tanks commanded by Maj. George S. Patton, formed in Pennsylvania Avenue while thousands of civil service employees left work to line the street and watch. The Bonus Marchers, believing the troops were marching in their honor, cheered the troops until Patton ordered the cavalry to charge them, which prompted the spectators to yell, "Shame! Shame!"

After the cavalry charged, the infantry, with fixed bayonets and tear gas (adamsite, an arsenical vomiting agent) entered the camps, evicting veterans, families, and camp followers. The veterans fled across the Anacostia River to their largest camp, and Hoover ordered the assault stopped. MacArthur chose to ignore the president and ordered a new attack, claiming that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the US government. 55 veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran's wife miscarried. When 12-week-old Bernard Myers died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack, a government investigation reported he died of enteritis, and a hospital spokesman said the tear gas "didn't do it any good."

During the military operation, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 34th president of the United States, served as one of MacArthur's junior aides. Believing it wrong for the Army's highest-ranking officer to lead an action against fellow American war veterans, he strongly advised MacArthur against taking any public role: "I told that dumb son-of-a-bitch not to go down there," he said later. "I told him it was no place for the Chief of Staff." Despite his misgivings, Eisenhower later wrote the Army's official incident report that endorsed MacArthur's conduct.

Please note that 1932 was a presidential election year. Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Will this history repeat itself? It's just as valid to speculate about 1932 as 1968, after the events of this week.

Because so much happened so fast, we're going to have to speed through the timeline, and provide links for further reading (such as this one, with a full timeline of the Battle of Lafayette Square).

Last weekend, Trump attempted to call the family of George Floyd, probably after hearing that Joe Biden had already called them. It did not go well. Floyd's brother:

The call with Trump was "so fast," [Philonise] Floyd told the Rev. Al Sharpton on "Politics Nation."

"He didn't give me the opportunity to even speak," Floyd said, as his son Brandon sat beside him. "It was hard. I was trying to talk to him, but he just kept, like, pushing me off, like: 'I don't want to hear what you're talking about.'"

Floyd said: "I just told him I want justice. I said that I couldn't believe that they committed a modern-day lynching in broad daylight. I can't stand for that. I can't. And it hurt me."

Also during the weekend, both Trump and Attorney General William Barr issue threats to protesters. Both seem fixated on "antifa" (with Trump even attempting a legal impossibility by threatening to label antifa a "domestic terrorist organization" ), even though neither has shown the slightest shred of evidence to back up such claims. Meanwhile, right-wing agitators have indeed been arrested trying to use the cover of the protests to launch their own war against the police. These groups are never mentioned by Trump or Barr.

Last Friday, Trump was hustled to a White House bunker after protesters breached the White House security perimeter. This is a normal occurrence when such breaches happen (remember all the previous "fence-jumpers"?), but Trump got plenty of ridicule for "hiding in a bunker," most of which was well-deserved, since he's spent the past few weeks taunting Joe Biden for "hiding in his basement." Because Trump knew he looked so weak, he decided to stage a strongman display on Monday.

First, he called up the nation's governors to insult them directly, calling them "weak" and "fools." He also told them: "If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you -- you're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate." Trump offhandedly said he wanted to make flag-burning illegal, even though the Supreme Court has ruled twice that this is constitutionally-protected First Amendment free speech.

Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker pushed back during the phone call with Trump:

I wanted to take this moment -- and I can't let it pass -- to speak up and say that I've been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that's been used by you. It's been inflammatory. We have to call for calm. We have to have police reform called for. We've called out our national guard and our state police, but the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse. And I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we're addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order.

Trump responded with the classic "I know you are but what am I?" defense: "I don't like your rhetoric much either. I think you could've done a much better job, frankly."

Some of Trump's own White House staff seemed to agree that some sort of unity message would be helpful: "The White House's top domestic policy adviser on Monday said President Donald Trump is exploring a range of bipartisan initiatives intended to unify the country amid a nationwide eruption of racial unrest and protests that have ravaged major American cities." Of course, no such proposals will ever see the light of day. Because Trump had a different idea about what would be helpful.

A half an hour before the announced 7:00 P.M. curfew in D.C., Barr ordered federal troops to clear Lafayette Square, even though neither the mayor nor the D.C. police had requested such a move. They used chemical weapons (gas) and non-lethal projectiles (rubber bullets) on the protesters, which was filmed live by the media who were in attendance. On the steps of the church in question -- on their own property, in other words -- ministers were peacefully handing out drinks and energy bars to the protesters. All were swept aside by the advancing federal troops.

Seminarian Julia Joyce Domenick told HuffPost what happened to her:

"The irony, the sickening, sacrilegious irony is that we were being driven off in order for a photo opportunity to show the president and his commitment to religion ideas," Gerbasi said. "It's grotesque and offensive and sacrilegious."

She said she was acting out her religious beliefs by serving protesters at the church and that her religious freedom was violated when she was forced off church property by tear gas.

. . .

"No warning... Screaming, flash grenades, and tear gas came at us. People ran as fast as they could around the corner of the church. Within minutes all of the church volunteers were met with a crowd running from the police and the police swarming the church property," she wrote on Facebook.

"We were gassed for a photo op," Domenick added. "Is ANY life valuable to him? Is it all about ratings?"

Other faith leaders were just as harsh:

The president hoisted the holy book "as if it were spiritual validation and justification for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and to the God of justice," the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, told ABC News.

Jesuit priest James Martin argued on CNN that the use of violence "to remove peacemakers from in front of the church -- so you can hold up a Bible and say how great America is while you're promising military action against peaceful protesters -- seems to me to be the complete opposite of what Jesus taught."

Ahead of Trump's scheduled visit Tuesday to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory called it "baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles."

The late pope, Gregory said in his statement, "was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings," and "certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."

As flash-bang grenades could be heard by the media in attendance, Trump delivered a bellicose speech in the Rose Garden:

Trump, speaking at the White House, said he "strongly recommended" every governor fully deploy the National Guard in response to the riots. If a city or state refuses, "I will deploy the U.S. military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said, citing his authority under the Insurrection Act of 1807.

"I am your president of law and order," Trump said.

. . .

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property," Trump said.

He ended his speech by mysteriously promising: "And now I'm going to pay my respects to a very, very special place."

Trump then went on his walk to the church, awkwardly held up a borrowed Bible, turned around and walked back to the White House.

Despite all of this being caught on multiple cameras, Trump and everyone around him has repeatedly lied about what happened ever since. Barr claims his order to clear the park had nothing to do with Trump's staged photo op. He also claimed (just as laughably) that he didn't "necessarily view" the photo op "as a political act." Mark Esper later said he "had no idea" where they were going, and just followed along with the president. Trump has even now claimed that he was never hustled to the bunker in the first place (what set all of this off), and instead made a "tiny little short" visit that was "much more for an inspection." The White House has also tried to bait the press with some truly moronic hair-splitting over what constitutes "tear gas."

The reactions have been harsh, all across the political spectrum. So many people are now turning on Trump, in fact, it is hard to keep track of all of them. Trump's polling is sinking like a stone, pretty much across the board.

This even includes a few Republican senators -- the ones who haven't been hiding from the media ever since Trump's disastrous photo op:

"It was painful to watch peaceful protesters be subjected to tear gas in order for the president to go across the street to a church that I believe he's attended only once," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). "I thought that the president came across as unsympathetic and as insensitive to the rights of people to peaceful protest."

"There is a fundamental -- a constitutional -- right to protest, and I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop," added Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who also decried rioting and looting. "Every public servant in America should be lowering the temperature."

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski even told a reporter that she wasn't even sure if she could support Trump in November, which earned her a petulant and nasty tweet from Trump.

Trump is pretty peeved by all of this, and when today's unemployment numbers turned out to be much better than expected, he gave a press statement that was even more disjointed than usual, where he astonishingly claimed that George Floyd was happily up in heaven beaming down on Trump and the unemployment figures. Earlier in the week, Trump claimed (once again) that he had done more for black people than any president since Abraham Lincoln -- a claim which is downright ludicrous (most historians would put L.B.J. in second place on such a list, and put Trump way down towards the bottom).

In other downright laughable lies from the Trump White House this week came Kellyanne Conway trying to denigrate all those who had questioned Trump's religious sincerity during the photo op:

"It's very unfortunate that people of faith would call into question what is in anyone's heart, including the president's, [and] what compelled him to go over to St. John's and hold up his Bible," she said. "The politicization of that by people of faith is very unfortunate."

Here's a flashback to explain why this is nothing short of hypocritical horse manure, from a prayer breakfast Trump attended with many faith leaders. Trump slammed Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi during his remarks (after Romney voted to convict Trump after giving a speech about how his faith mandated such a vote, and after Pelosi said she regularly prayed for Trump):

"I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong," President Donald Trump said during his speech at the breakfast.

"Nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that that's not so," he added, taking an obvious shot at Pelosi, who often says she prays for the president.

So much for "calling into question what is in anyone's heart" when it comes to religion, eh, Kellyanne?

Also vying for most-hilarious-lie was Mike Pence, who sanctimoniously tweeted:

We believe in law and order in this Country. We condemn violence against property or persons. We will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard.

Many on Twitter reminded the world of the facts -- that Mike Pence had spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on security for an Indianapolis Colts football game, only to immediately stand up and leave when some of the players took a knee during the National Anthem -- to protest exactly what all those protesters are now in the streets protesting. Hypocrisy, thy name is Pence.

On the heels of Trump's Bible video (filmed in the classic Leni Riefenstahl style), Team Trump hasn't been having a great week with their propaganda efforts. They released a video purporting to show that protesters were "pre-staging" piles of bricks to throw at cops, but it was quickly debunked (the videos showed random construction sites, some of them miles from the actual protests). Then they tried to use the SpaceX launch in a campaign ad, but the wife of one of the astronauts loudly complained that she hadn't given permission for images of her and her son to be "used in political propaganda without my knowledge or consent." The ad has now been taken down. Another Trump ad was also pulled by Twitter for unspecified "copyright issues."

It's easy to make fun of Trump's idiocy, but please don't lose the larger picture when doing so. The president of the United States repeatedly violated the Constitution this week for purely political and self-serving purposes. He also, according to his critics, defiled both the Bible and the church he used as a backdrop. He has ordered medical helicopters to use offensive tactics against protesters, in violation of the international rules of warfare. His Justice Department -- who halted all Department of Justice civil rights oversight of police departments very early on in his term -- has now seized harmless cloth masks because of the messages printed on them. All of these things violate the Constitution or international law. And they all took place within the span of a single week. While it is easy to get exhausted by Donald Trump, at times we all need to pay close attention -- even if it leads to outrage. Because when the president is being outrageous (in the absolute worst sense of the word), then outrage is the only possible response.

We have to give Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, although Joe Biden was certainly a runner-up for giving a wonderful and downright presidential speech in Philadelphia in response to the protests. But Schumer's rhetoric was more memorable, at least to us (it's where we got this column's subtitle):

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer painted an ugly image of President Donald Trump "descending the dictatorial ladder" as he lay in bed at the White House Monday night with military helicopters flying above after having his photo taken at St. John's Episcopal Church.

"He probably wore out his remote control watching the clips of General Barr's victory over the unarmed in the battle of Lafayette Square," Schumer, D-N.Y., scoffed. "Then he reveled in the sounds of Black Hawks flying overhead joyously retweeting scores of preening sycophants."

. . .

With reports that law enforcement used tear gas to disperse peaceful protestors in advance of Trumpís visit to the church, Schumer also called on the Pentagonís inspector general to lead an investigation into how the military was used at Lafayette Park in tandem with the presidentís photo opportunity.

"After the gas, came the horses -- a modern-day cavalry was clearing the battlefield. The purpose, so that President Trump could wave a Bible, not read a Bible, not even his Bible, as a prop," Schumer said. "It was appalling. It was an abuse of presidential power. It may well have been illegal and it was blatantly unconstitutional."

We don't know if anyone else will begin using the term, but "The Battle of Lafayette Square" seems entirely appropriate to us. That bit at the end was pretty classic, too -- "wave a Bible, not read a Bible, not even his Bible, as a prop."

Schumer's right -- this is blatantly unconstitutional. It is indeed an abuse of presidential power. We've all gotten so used to Trump's regular antics that it's hard at times to differentiate when he does something not just truly awful but constitutionally awful. Schumer made that distinction better than anyone this week, which is why we're giving him the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

This is mostly unrelated to the other events of the week, but we felt it was more than worthy of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. See if you agree:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) drew criticism Tuesday after he repeatedly asked to speak at a Bronx news conference on protests over the killing of George Floyd, then said near a live microphone, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is serving his 16th term in the House. He is facing a competitive June 23 primary, and his leading challenger, middle-school principal Jamaal Bowman, cited the statement as a sign that it's time for Engel to leave Congress.

Bowman has been endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who rose to fame by primarying another Democratic House member who out outstayed his New York welcome.

Engel tried to walk his "hot mic moment" back, without much success:

Engel clarified his remarks Tuesday afternoon, saying in a statement that he had wanted to convey that he cares "deeply about what's happening in this country."

"In the context of running for reelection, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that's why I asked to speak," Engel said. He added: "I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the borough president if I didn't think it was important."

None of which really addressed the whole callous "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care" remark, you'll notice.

For admitting to his own constituents the level of his own hypocrisy, and for quite obviously only caring about his own political future in the midst of a crisis, Eliot Engel is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, by far.

[Contact Representative Eliot Engel on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 577 (6/5/20)

We are pre-empting our usual talking points section this week, because the constitutional threats are so great that the moment requires more than partisan sniping. We did consider just reprinting Barack Obama's essay on the situation, which was (in a word) presidential in nature.

Instead, though, we've selected two of the growing number of high-ranking military leaders who are forcefully speaking out about how wrong Trump's photo op truly was. The first was little noticed when it appeared, but it may actually have been instrumental in convincing Mark Esper to drastically change course midweek. It is a letter of resignation from James N. Miller, who served as undersecretary of Defense for policy from 2012 to 2014, and was (up until this week) a member of the Defense Science Board. It pointedly takes Esper to task for his role in the fiasco. He handed in this letter on Tuesday evening, and the next morning Esper changed his tune and openly disagreed with Trump about using the Insurrection Act. Reportedly, Esper's own job is now on the line for showing such independence. But this letter may have been instrumental in getting Esper to realize how wrong he had been to participate.

Hon. Mark T. Esper
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C., 20301

Dear Secretary Esper,

I resign from the Defense Science Board, effective immediately.

When I joined the Board in early 2014, after leaving government service as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, I again swore an oath of office, one familiar to you, that includes the commitment to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same."

You recited that same oath on July 23, 2019, when you were sworn in as Secretary of Defense. On Monday, June 1, 2020, I believe that you violated that oath. Law-abiding protesters just outside the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets -- not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path for a presidential photo op. You then accompanied President Trump in walking from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church for that photo.

President Trump's actions Monday night violated his oath to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," as well as the First Amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble." You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it.

Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do? Secretary Esper, you have served honorably for many years, in active and reserve military duty, as Secretary of the Army, and now as Secretary of Defense. You must have thought long and hard about where that line should be drawn. I must now ask: If last night's blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?

Unfortunately, it appears there may be few if any lines that President Trump is not willing to cross, so you will probably be faced with this terrible question again in the coming days. You may be asked to take, or to direct the men and women serving in the U.S. military to take, actions that further undermine the Constitution and harm Americans.

As a concerned citizen, and as a former senior defense official who cares deeply about the military, I urge you to consider closely both your future actions and your future words. For example, some could interpret literally your suggestion to the nation's governors Monday that they need to "dominate the battlespace." I cannot believe that you see the United States as a "battlespace," or that you believe our citizens must be "dominated." Such language sends an extremely dangerous signal.

You have made life-and-death decisions in combat overseas; soon you may be asked to make life-and-death decisions about using the military on American streets and against Americans. Where will you draw the line, and when will you draw it?

I hope this letter of resignation will encourage you to again contemplate the obligations you undertook in your oath of office, as well as your obligations to the men and women in our military and other Americans whose lives may be at stake. In the event that at least some other senior officials may be inclined to ask these questions after reading this letter, I am making it public.

I wish you the best, in very difficult times. The sanctity of the U.S. Constitution, and the lives of Americans, may depend on your choices.


James N. Miller

The second letter we thought demanded as wide an audience as possible is the full text of what James Mattis wrote in The Atlantic this week, under the title "In Union There Is Strength." Mattis is just as upset as Miller, and again takes Esper to task. This letter appeared after Esper's change of heart, however. Mattis saves most of his condemnation for Donald Trump, however, who is much more at blame in a larger sense. Mattis ends with a plea for the country to "unite without" Trump, since Trump is obviously never going to unite anything. Both this statement and Miller's letter are extraordinary and historic rebukes to President Trump, which is why we chose to run them this week rather than our talking points.

I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words "Equal Justice Under Law" are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand -- one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values -- our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens -- much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a "battlespace" that our uniformed military is called upon to "dominate." At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict -- a false conflict -- between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in "Federalist 14" that "America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat." We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that "The Nazi slogan for destroying us... was 'Divide and Conquer.' Our American answer is 'In Union there is Strength.'" We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis -- confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people -- does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln's "better angels," and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path -- which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals -- will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

Chris Weigant blogs at: [link:http://www.chrisweigant.com/2020/06/05/ftp577/ChrisWeigant.com]
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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