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Vail Daily column: A nation built on words

The United States is a nation built on words.

When the first English settlers arrived in North America they drafted the Mayflower compact. Those words organized the colonists into a “civil body politic” for the purpose of drafting “just and equal laws, ordinances, acts …” Belief in those words ensured the colony did not descend into chaos or tyranny.

The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence 156 years later — words that announced to the world the colonists’ intention to sever their ties to the British crown as well as the reasons why.

As important as those two documents are, they are eclipsed by our Constitution. At 4,543 words it is the shortest constitution of any major government in the world. Every word counts. The Constitution established three branches of government, attempted to balance the desires of the majority with the rights of minorities and codified the concept of checks and balances. Most importantly, it emphasized that the source of power in the United States originates with the people.

Not religion, or race or ethnicity, but words bind us together.

“I know words, I have the best words.” Trump boasted about his vocabulary. Your dictionary.com tracked Trump’s most frequently used words during the campaign. They included insults such as moron, stupid, weak and loser that he used to describe his opponents, media outlets, sitcom writers and even the State Department. Win, winning, terrific, classy, smart and tough are words he used to describe himself, his properties and people who support him. Words were important to him, until they weren’t.

“It’s just words folks. Just words.” Trump dismissed his own comments when he was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.

During the campaign it is estimated that Trump made more than 600 promises. More words, usually wrong. Consider this gem from a campaign rally in Las Vegas: “You’re going to end up with great health care for a fraction of the price and that’s gonna take place immediately after we go in. OK? Immediately. Fast. Quick.” Of course this did not happen and resulted in the obtuse claim by Trump, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Yes, we did.

When he wasn’t insulting his opponents during the campaign, Trump cast his aspersions globally. One of his favorite targets was China. “I’m going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator.” No such directive was sent to Steven Mnuchin. No one knowledgeable claims China has manipulated their currency in years. During President Xi’s recent visit to Washington where he schooled Trump on the geopolitical realities of the Korean peninsula, Trump never once brought up currency manipulation.

Hypocrisy and lies are Trump’s bosom buddies. He attacked President Obama for vacationing and golfing. However, in 84 days in office Trump has already visited Mar-a-Lago 23 days and golfed 16 times.

In 2013 he repeatedly warned against military action in Syria and demanded Obama consult with Congress before taking action: “The president must get congressional approval before attacking Syria — big mistake if he does not!” On April 6, 2017, without congressional approval, Trump ordered U.S. warships to launch 59 cruise missiles on a Syrian airfield.

More meaningless words — building the wall, releasing his taxes, bringing back coal jobs and draining the swamp. Trump’s administration contains six Goldman Sachs executives — precisely the Wall Street ties he criticized Hillary Clinton for. With Jared and Ivanka maintaining offices down the all from daddy, nepotism is a pertinent word to associate with the Trump White House.

During the campaign the writer Salena Zito made an observation that the Trump camp adopted as its own, “… the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

Since the election, Jonah Goldberg has called this out for the nonsense that it is: “This seriously-not-literally thing … is fairly ridiculous hogwash as a prescription for how to treat an actual president … of the United States.”

Republicans engage in the “soft bigotry of low expectations” when they excuse the inaccurate, petty and made-up utterances by Trump. Americans deserve better. We will not get it from Trump, whose words are now worthless.

We need elected officials who respect the truth, facts and the Constitution — not ones that kowtow to Trump. Words matter to us, even if they don’t to Trump.


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