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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 4:08 am | Fog/Mist 53º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Jamie Stiehm: Washington’s Calvin Coolidge Christmas Nothing to Get Excited About

Our little town of Washington is missing Christmas cheer this year. The Capitol dome and the Mall green are under repair, but that’s not the only reason. 

Many are melancholic about Donald J. Trump’s un-American idea to ban Muslims from entering the country. Especially, in the Joy and Peace season of Lights, when we’re hurting from the San Bernardino and Paris  tragedies.

When a somber President Barack Obama addressed the nation in the wake of the attacks, did he meet the moment?

I was looking for a blast at the National Rifle Association or Congress for blocking legislation that would halt gun sales to the FBI’s terrorist no-fly watch list.

Frankly, Obama lacked spirit. Nor did he bring comfort, as merry gentleman President Franklin D. Roosevelt did in his Fireside Chats.

The White House is decked out for Christmas, but you have to laugh at the 2015 tree ornament. It honors President Calvin Coolidge, a flinty Vermonter famous for saying nothing at all. It’s hard to get excited about Coolidge. Come on.

By contrast, Obama was once the young president with the golden voice. Now he seems like King David shorn of his harp and songs he composed to inspire his people. While I remain in his camp, sweet reason is not going to lull the NRA or ISIS.

Some Republicans rebuked their 2016 presidential front-runner, saying they are shocked, shocked at Trump’s hate talk.

On the Hill, one pithy voice struck me. New House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Trump’s religion ban “is not what this party stands for, and more important, it’s not what this country stands for.”

Well-said by the man from Wisconsin.

Belatedly, there’s an awakening among us that Trump plays with perfect pitch to an anxious, angry constituency that feels left out of the political equation. They are the angry folks — white men — who listen to Rush Limbaugh rave on talk radio by day and watch Fox News by night.

They may be working class or wealthy. They are not locked out of political ownership, given a Republican Congress, but they feel aggrieved against Obama and Hillary Clinton makes them see red.

Trump speaks directly to their discontent. The economy in wartime, with the Wall Street crisis, has not been kind since. It has been a bleak recovery, as most millennials know in their bones.

Washington’s wise men and women say he can’t win, but I’m not so sure. He’s textbook demagogue.

Up the road, things stay tough in Baltimore, where April race riots over Freddie Gray’s hard death in police custody won’t soon be forgot on the streets. One police officer is now on trial; there will be more.

“Ain’t nothing changed out here,” was how the story went in The Washington Post.

The Washington Post is leaving its own building. Granted, the city block look was getting old, but great and good journalism happened within those walls. The “Nixon Resigns” headline as the culmination to the Watergate burglary is the paper’s pride and joy.

Bob Woodward, 72, had a hearty laugh with his old partner, Carl Bernstein, at the fare-thee-well.

David Maraniss, the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author, told me: “When I arrived there in 1977, it had the smell of ink and paste pots and cigarettes, and we wrote on typewriters with carbon paper between the sheets and signed 30 at the end of our stories, and it was all noise and controlled chaos, and the operators Mary and Joyce would field and place calls for you, and the floor would start shaking when the presses started running a few floors below. It was a newspaper, and there was such a visceral deeply enjoyable feeling to it all.

“That all disappeared long before the building move. The journalism is in many ways the same, but everything else has changed, some for the better, some for the worse. It was time for the move.” 

Bittersweet. I turned into Martin’s Tavern on N Street in Georgetown. The rumble seat, perfect for reading the newspaper, was open and so I sat where Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., often came for Sunday breakfast. He proposed to the ravishing Jacqueline Bouvier in a nearby booth.

Martin’s opened in 1933 and still serves meatloaf. How sweet it is, with festive holiday lights and all, when time stays a while.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. The opinions expressed are her own.

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