We need a hero, America. After a week of killings, retribution, broken hearts and breaking spirits, our country needs leadership larger than the problems in front of us. We need someone to hold us together when we’re only falling apart, to spark hope in a world descending into darkness. But even a glimpse of the events on Capitol Hill Thursday showed us what we’re about to get instead.
Donald Trump was in town to meet with congressional Republicans, ostensibly in an effort to unify the party behind his presidential nomination. Instead he took the opportunity to press House Republicans to say nice things about him in the press (“It would great if you could say we had an unbelievable meeting,” he coached. “‘Trump loves us. We love Trump.’ It’s going to be so good. Okay?”
Um, okay. On the Senate side, Trump made time to settle scores , lashing out at those who haven’t or won’t support him. He called Sen. Mark Kirk, the only disabled member of the Senate if anyone’s keeping score, a loser and predicted Sen. Jeff Flake would also lose his re-election in November after Flake asked him to stop disparaging Mexicans. (Flake is not up for reelection in November).
At the very time Trump was feeding his grievances, the director of the FBI was sitting in front of the House Oversight Committee explaining why he had recommended that the Justice Department not prosecute Hillary Clinton for the DIY email server she kept for her sometimes-classified email communications. James Comey directly contradicted the lawyerly line we’ve been hearing from Clinton for more than a year, that she never sent or received email that was marked classified at the time she sent or received them. “That is not true,” Comey said.
Clinton’s response, as it has been for the last year, is that it’s time for everyone to move on. And in those two portraits, you’re looking at your next president—an egomaniac who looks for unity only when it comes to singing his praises and a woman, however qualified, who is incapable of recognizing the gravity of the fact that when she speaks, many, many Americans don’t believe what she’s saying.
One of these two will win the election, but it’s hard to see how either will have the moral authority to truly lead the nation, especially when genuine, moral leadership has never seemed more important.
It’s still not too late for Trump or Clinton to be better than the people they’ve been so far. Trump needs to stop basically everything he is doing, but mostly stop dividing, insulting and belittling people in the name of standing up to “political correctness.” There’s a difference between being politically correct and not deliberately robbing people of their dignity.
Clinton has to be open and honest about the questions dogging her, starting with making herself available to the media, which she has inexplicably failed to do for more than 200 days. A majority of Americans do not think she is honest and trustworthy. She can never be an effective president until they do.
The one bright spot in the last week of horror has been the response of local leaders who have never sought the national spotlight, but were thrust into it by chaos and terror. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has been visible and open about the failure of political leadership that has gotten us to where we are today. “This is on my generation of leaders,” he said at a press conference in the hours after the Dallas police ambush. “It is on our watch that we have allowed this to continue to fester, that we have led the next generation down a vicious path of rhetoric and actions that pit one against the other.”
Likewise, the city’s police chief, David Brown, has been a strong, steady voice of reason and guidance. He spoke of the heartbreak for Dallas and the police who protect it and called on people’s better instincts to respond to the senselessness. ““All I know is that this must stop — this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” he said.
Trump and Clinton could learn from those examples of frank, courageous leadership. Right now we have two deeply flawed politicians running for president, but what we’re going to need is a hero.