Donald Trump, the National Lampoon and a Humbler Me
Because the world doesn’t have enough people stating opinions about Donald Trump and the 2020 election, I decided to add some of mine.
So, I realized I have three things in common with Donald Trump.
1. We’re both white American men in the fourth quarters of our lives who have been pretty darn blessed.
2. We both have children who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the Class of 2004. (Fun fact: U2’s Bono was the graduation speaker.) And, no, my son Jon didn’t hang with Ivanka.
3. We both know what it’s like to lose a job we wanted to keep.
Let’s focus on that third point.
In 2004, I finished my 13 years as editor and publisher of the York Daily Record in Pennsylvania. The paper was changing owners from Buckner News Alliance to MediaNews Group. First the new owners wanted me to leave. Then they said they wanted me to remain as editor after the candidate to succeed me withdrew.
So, we talked. I was interested. We had a great team and a well-earned national reputation as one of the country’s best mid-sized dailies. I had lifelong friends in York County and didn’t want to move my family across the country with a middle-school daughter and another son at Penn State.
I asked, not unreasonably, to see the terms in writing. I learned that was stupid since these were people who didn’t like to put anything in writing. A day or so passed. When I called to inquire, I was told, oh, they had decided to give the job to the paper’s managing editor, who had been a great partner for those 13 years.
The most memorable moment came on the day when the new owners came to our newsroom for the formal handoff. I was sitting to the side. In the picture that ran in the Daily Record the next morning, all you could see was my elbow. That seemed to say it all.
“I’m the black kid in the National Lampoon high school yearbook parody,” I told my wife, referring to the humor magazine’s classic satire creation of the 1964 yearbook of the mythical Estes Kefauver High School. (The parody also planted seeds that became the movie “Animal House.”) The senior class had one black student. Outside of his head shot, you rarely saw evidence of his existence, even though he was active in multiple sports.
I kept my bitterness mainly to myself, though my wife might disagree. I said positive things publicly and did everything I was asked to do and beyond to smooth the transition for those succeeding me.
It’s what professional people do.
Things worked out fine for me, and it must be added that my path has always been easier than it is for far too many black people in this country. That didn’t keep it from hurting for a long time. I left York County for Cincinnati as a humbler and hopefully wiser man, though I still have much distance to cover.
I freely offer these life lessons to the outgoing President as he departs the White House.
What disturbs and befuddles me is that a substantial number of adult Americans won’t hold the Leader of the Free World to the same standards they would apply to themselves, their families and those with whom they work. Nothing that happened on Election Day should be surprising to anyone paying attention other than that Mr. Trump ran a bit better than expected.
Here’s why I say that:
· Everyone in politics knew the turnout would be huge.
· Everyone in politics knew that mail-in and absentee ballots would skew to the Democrats because Dem voters were more likely to be sensitive to the pandemic.
· Everyone in politics knew that on Election Night that vote counting in battleground states would look better for Mr. Trump in early returns.
· Everyone in politics recognized that Mr. Trump had been purposely throwing shade on election procedures, without evidence, to plant seeds for exactly what we’ve watched unfold since the election. “Throwing Shade” could be the title of his biography. It’s how he rolls, and it has always worked.
To believe that he won, you must believe that this massive conspiracy now includes Bill Barr, the entire Supreme Court, other Republican judges and Republican governors who voted for him. Somehow, this international cabal to help Joe Biden and the Democrats managed to lose seats in Congress and not gain clear control of the Senate. Seasoned, respected Republican operatives like Karl Rove have said that a fraud of the magnitude required to flip the election is unfathomable. Even the conservative editorial page editors at the Wall Street Journal have said it’s time to move on.
Still, I know the feeling. It sucks to lose something you really want. I understand why Mr. Trump doesn’t want to be the black kid in the Kefauver High School yearbook, though there’s some rough, poetic and ironic justice in that, don’t you think?
Postscript: P.J. O’Rourke, who edited the yearbook parody with the late Doug Kenney, is a fine author and one of America’s funniest and most iconoclastic conservative political commentators. When I was working on a project with his wife, Tina, a few years ago, I told her my yearbook story. A few weeks later, I received an autographed copy of the “reunion edition” of the yearbook parody. It’s one of my favorite keepsakes, pictured here. Note that P.J. signed it just the way so many of us did back in the day.