With Fresh Eyes: Living in The Twilight Zone

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by Rich Nelson

With Trump at the helm, this past year could be likened to being trapped in the fog of an episode of The Twilight Zone, unable to find an exit from which to escape.  Rod Serling, mastermind of this classic television series, penned the words “Submitted for your approval” used in his lead-in narration for some of the episodes.  Let me submit, then, for your approval, the following proposition: The Trump Administration is a soulless entity void of humanity that does not understand or represent us.

The respected actor and Michigan resident Jeff Daniels said in a recent interview, “We lost, as a country, respect, decency, civilized behavior, integrity, class, accountability, responsibility.  He’s (Trump) got none of that.”  Daniels said this not out of any vindictive agenda but of sorrow and concern for the nation.  The unplugged Trump was once again on full display at a March 10 Pennsylvania campaign rally, during which he resorted to schoolyard taunts against members of Congress, among others, and recycled his tired assaults on the free press. The partisan crowd exchanged their cheers for boos as they turned, on cue, to the reporters in attendance as Trump reiterated his fake news platform.  Trump is our contemporary P.T. Barnum who lives for bigly ratings, raucous applause, and unadulterated approval.  Hosting Celebrity Apprentice prepared him well for this latest role as “Showman in Chief.”

Beyond the character flaws of this man and the daily controversies to which we are subjected, other disturbing elements of this administration should be elevated to a higher public discourse.  Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was interviewed on the March 11 edition of 60 Minutes, an appearance that has been described as a “train wreck.”  One exchange with Lesley Stahl proved particularly troubling:

Stahl: “Have you seen the really bad schools?”                                                                                                               

DeVos: “I have not.  I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.”

I ask readers to go online to watch the entire interview.  From her confirmation hearing last year to this recent interview, Betsy DeVos has demonstrated that she does not possess the qualifications, nor has she done the necessary homework, to be the voice of public education.

The call to “drain the swamp” in Washington, frequently uttered by Trump, has fallen on deaf ears by several members of his Cabinet, and Trump himself.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s  department is spending nearly $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double doors in Zinke’s office.  The office of Housing and Urban Development, under Secretary Ben Carson, was set to spend $31,000 on a new dining room set until media exposure forced the cancellation of the order.  Tom Price, former Health and Human Services Secretary, resigned last September after reports that at least $400,000 of taxpayer money was spent on private jet travel for Price and his staff.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been under fire for flying first class and for several questionable and costly office improvements.  And, according to a study by USA Today, Trump spent more than 130 days in his first year in office at his personal properties, most often at his Mar-a-Lago (Fla.) estate. His travel expenses have cost the U.S. taxpayer $13.5 million. The president’s proposed military parade on Veterans’ Day has a cost estimate of up to $30 million.  And all this amid the proposed funding cuts in the administration’s 2019 budget, impacting such vital programs as the Supple-
mental Nutrition Assistance Program and Meals on Wheels, and the Community Development Block Grant Program, slated for complete elimination.  Heartless.

These proposed cuts and other regressive actions advocated by this administration deserve diligent scrutiny and vigorous challenge. I plan to do just that in future columns. Truth matters, and it is the truth that will find the way out of this twilight zone.

Contact Rich at richmskgn@gmail.com.
 

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