“We are both better people than Donald Trump, Dave,” my cantankerous neighbor said last week. “We have proven character and responsibility. Trump has neither.
“Put that in your column!”
The Reader’s Digests I read when I was a kid had a regular feature called “My Most Unforgettable Character.” I’ve had several of those characters in my life. There was the guy in college who invented an automatic cat box that sifted out the byproducts of Little Kitty automatically. (Problem was, it was so loud and dusty the cat wouldn’t get within 10 feet of it.)
Then there was the news editor in Nebraska who would fight you to the death over any issue she felt strongly about, but had such a kind heart that she always had a pack of rescue dogs at her house. The windows of her van were covered with nose prints.
Then there’s this old guy up in the mountains. Very well-educated, independent as a pig on ice, and so ornery that most of our neighbors wrote him off as a curmudgeon years ago.
The first year he was up there, he was working frantically to get his cabin done by winter, so he could snowmobile there. Folks would come by to talk, but he didn’t have time, and he was pretty blunt cutting off conversations. Word got around that he was a tough old boot.
So I didn’t bother him. Then one evening, at the height of mosquito season, he showed up at my place, asking what to do about the swarms of blood-sucking predators. I lent him a lantern gizmo that repels bugs, and we’ve been friends ever since.
He sometimes doesn’t bring enough food. (He forgot most of his food at home last week, arriving with just a package of brats and an orange.) So I invite him to dinner at my place. He’s a whiz with mechanical issues, and he fearlessly cuts down trees for me, even though he’s five years older than I am. When we get to talking, about all kinds of stuff, an entire evening goes by in a flash.
He told me a year ago, when the COVID disaster was hitting a peak, that Trump would lose the election. I thought he was just being pessimistic. But he said presidents in that scenario don’t get re-elected.
Darned if he wasn’t right.
Lately, since the election, he’s decided that even though – like me – he liked much of what Trump accomplished, he has decided that as a person, Trump just doesn’t measure up. A few weeks ago he called my attention to a story about Wyoming’s U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the Wall Street Journal, which described her favorably as a feisty, fearless westerner standing up to the flawed leader of her party.
And I thought, “Jeez, another guy with a burr under his saddle about Trump.”
As we sat on the porch last week, staring into the campfire, he said Trump’s just not like us. He said he never liked the side of Trump that couldn’t resist pouring gasoline on any raging fire, and never could separate his ego from any discussion.
Yes, I replied, but you surely can’t dismiss the booming economy until COVID hit, the low unemployment, the (then) encouraging signs of peace in the Mideast, the improvement in border security, the development of multiple vaccines, and the reductions in mindless regulations that occurred during Trump’s watch.
He couldn’t, however, forgive Trump’s frequent rudeness, and his focusing on himself when those two Georgia seats in the Senate were up for grabs.
I maintained, however, that results are more important than manners. We’ve had plenty of pretty good presidents who were guilty of mistakes, misdeeds, even philandering. It seems to come with having an ego so huge they think they should lead the free world.
What I want, and I think my ornery neighbor agrees, is a president who can match Trump’s accomplishments (unlike the mess we have in Washington today) while outmaneuvering the ferocious opposition that awaits any Republican president.
Two old guys staring into the fire, trying to make sense of politics.
I suspect it’s happening all over the country.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at email@example.com