Year-end trifecta: Churchill, Trump, Obama

Britain's Prince Harry, right, interviews former U.S. President Barack Obama

Britain's Prince Harry, right, interviews former U.S. President Barack Obama in Toronto in September 2017 for BBC Radio 4's 'Today' program, which was broadcast on Dec. 27. (Kensington Palace courtesy of The Obama Foundation via AP)

Let’s ring out the old year by cleaning out the cupboard.

If you can handle one last blast of hilarity from the loon squad, check out Mike Huckabee’s tweet-review of “Darkest Hour,” the new film about Churchill during the Dunkirk crisis:

We need not tarry long on this episode; it’s no surprise that the father of Trump’s propaganda minister would insult our intelligence by trying to equate her boss with Britain’s savior.

It’s sufficient, in response, to simply point out that Churchill became prime minister after devoting 40 years to public service, never having wasted a minute on beauty queens, never having declared multiple bankruptcies, never having screwed small contractors out of their money. Churchill in his youth volunteered for war and emerged as a hero, never having pleaded bone spurs. Churchill spotted the threat of foreign totalitarianism six years before the rest of his party and relentlessly inveighed against it (a big reason why many in his party hated him) — and that’s a far cry from the current admirer of totalitarianism, a useful idiot who makes excuses for it and virtually welcomes it to our shores.

But perhaps this is the best way to slam-dunk Huckabee’s alternative fact:

Trump couldn’t hold Churchill’s pen if it was taped to his hand.

Speaking of Trump (as we must), he bestowed a year-end interview upon The New York Times, which he often describes as “failing” despite craving its approval. It’s replete with the usual lying nonsense — the Russia electoral scandal is “a hoax,” and “virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion” (virtually no Democrat has said that) — but this was the best part:

“I’m going to win another four years [in 2020] because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there, because without me their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

Right, because “newspapers, television, and all forms of media” care far more about ratings and subscriptions than they do about the First Amendment, checks and balances, democratic norms, and holding presidents accountable. As a myopic narcissist with no feel for our enduring American values, he simply assumes that everyone else is like him: solely motivated by money, and forever fixated on him.

I’ll go way out on a limb and predict that if or when he runs for re-election, the media (aside from the cheerleaders at Fox News and other Trump organs) will not “let” him win or conspire to do the opposite. They — we — will simply do the hard job of measuring the gap between truth and fiction, promise and performance. And when the day comes that he is gone, be it distant or not, we will sweep up the damage he has wrought and move on.

After a hard year, we’ve earned the right to end on a note of optimism. So I’ll yield the floor to Barack Obama, who has earned the right to instruct us, having been chosen (via Gallup) as the nation’s most admired man of 2017. In a podcast released by the BBC, he looked ahead to 2018:

“If we take responsibility for being involved in our own fate, if we participate, if we engage, if we speak out, if we work in our communities, if we volunteer, if we see the joy that comes from service to others, then all the problems that we face are solvable despite all the terrible news that we see, despite all the genuine cruelty, pain, and hardship that people are experiencing around the world at any given moment. If you had to choose a moment in human history in which you wanted to be born … the fact is the world is healthier, wealthier, better educated, more tolerant, more sophisticated, and less violent than just about any other time in human history.

“You think about the history of the United States. It was only a few generations ago when someone who looked like me was in bondage, or if not in bondage, then in servitude … It was just a few generations ago that women couldn’t aspire to anything beyond caring for their children — the most noble thing you can do — but I want my daughters to be able to do other things, and they can do other things, while still raising a family.

“It was just a few generations ago [when] half the world was aflame and 60 million people were killed in a great global war. And when you think about the strides we’ve made just in my lifetime — I have some gray hair, but in the scale of human history, I’m a blink of an eye — you think about how much things have changed and gotten better. That has to make you optimistic, as long as you don’t think that any of us can sit back passively and assume progress continues. History doesn’t just run forwards, it runs backways and sideways, and it requires us to continually push.”

Push we must in 2018.

As Winston Churchill was fond of saying, “Keep buggering on.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal