Tag Archives: John Lewis

‘I don’t know John Lewis’

Donald J. Trump’s narcissism was on full display when Axios.com reporter Jonathan Swan asked him to comment on the life and legacy of the late John Lewis, the beloved civil rights icon and congressman.

This is a brief compilation of what five U.S. presidents said about Lewis, concluding with what Trump told Swan:

George W. Bush: “He always thought of others. He always believed in preaching the gospel, in word and in deed, insisting that hate and fear had to be answered with love and hope.”
Jimmy Carter: “Throughout his remarkable life, John Lewis has been a blessing to countless people … His enormous contributions will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.”
Bill Clinton: “John Lewis hoped for and imagined and worked and moved for his beloved community. He took a savage beating on more than one day. He fought the good fight, he kept the faith.”
Barack Obama: “America was built by people like John Lewis. He, as much as anyone in our history, brought this country a little closer to our highest ideals.”
Donald Trump: “I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration.”
Umm, Lewis didn’t attend President Bush’s first inauguration, either, but the 43rd president was one of those who eulogized him. Donald Trump’s narcissism is flat-out evil.

Obama goes political? So what?

Alyssa Pointer / alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Right-wing media have been having the time of their lives chastising former President Obama over the nature of his eulogy in memory of the legendary civil rights leader, the late John Lewis.

The 44th president was just too damn political in that moment, they say. To which I respond: Big … deal! So what?

Obama is getting set to join former Vice President Joe Biden in the effort to unseat Donald Trump in November. That has been known for a long time.

So, the former president weighed in during his time saluting John Lewis to remind the nation of the damage being done by the Trump administration to the very institution — voting rights — that Lewis sought to build and strengthen. He pointed out correctly how “those in power at this moment” are seeking to suppress the rights of African-Americans and other minorities. It would have been horrible in the extreme for Obama or any of the other eulogists to ignore that real-time reality.

In fact, though, Obama’s remarks weren’t in any way out of bounds. They sought to honor the legacy that John Lewis left after dying this past week of cancer at the age of 80. Indeed, Lewis shed blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 while marching on behalf of voting rights and human rights.

And while we’re on the subject of political speeches — and please forgive this dose of “what about-ism” — can you imagine Donald Trump eulogizing a politician without tossing out a barrage of political epithets? In an election year, no less?

The right-wing media pundits are entitled to their opinions, for sure. I get that and I honor the U.S.  Constitution that provides them their liberty to speak their mind.

Their right-wingers’ criticism of President Barack H. Obama in this context, however, is off base.

Trump’s absence: the ‘new normal’?

As I have sought to process the day’s big event, the funeral of civil rights hero/icon/legend John Lewis, I pondered the absence of one individual who one could have presumed should have been there.

Donald J. Trump was not in Atlanta today to pay tribute to John Lewis, the former congressman and human rights activist who died at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. Oh, no. Trump was in Washington, tweeting messages seeking to undermine the voting rights gains for which Lewis fought, and bled.

It’s becoming something of a “new normal” in this Age of Trump as president of the United States. He was disinvited to the funeral of U.S. Sen. John McCain. Trump attended the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, but we didn’t hear a word from him. Now, the Lewis funeral. Trump declared he had no intention of honoring Lewis while he lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

I thought about past funerals of high-profile political figures. I recalled the presence of President Lyndon Johnson at the funeral of a man he hated beyond measure, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. I remembered the funeral of President Richard Nixon and recalled one of the tributes paid to him by President Bill Clinton, who told us that we must not judge his predecessor’s public life by just one episode, but by its entire history. I remember, too, when former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower patched up their bitter differences while attending the funeral of their successor, President John F. Kennedy. The two old war horses realized in that moment that life was too short and too precious for them to continue hating each other.

Donald Trump clearly would not have been welcomed at John Lewis’s funeral. He once chided Lewis for supposedly being “all talk and no action.” Trump ignored the beatings that Lewis endured while seeking to guarantee the rights of black Americans to vote in free and fair elections.

So it fell to three of Trump’s predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to speak of their friend and a man who will be remembered as a legend in his own time … and beyond. 

Donald Trump? He was left to sulk in the background.

Master of Hideous Timing

Leave it to Donald J. “Master of Hideous Timing in Chief” Trump to demonstrate once again how low he can go even in a moment of national mourning over the death of a civil rights icon.

While Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama today were eulogizing the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis for the struggle he waged to obtain equal rights and justice for all Americans, Trump took to Twitter tell us how he intends to do all he can to suppress people’s right to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The juxtaposition of those two things — the farewell to Rep. Lewis and Trump’s Twitter tirade — is unspeakable in its hideousness.

Trump’s tirade tells me all I need to know — as if I didn’t know it already — about the how callow, callous and crass the president can get, even as the nation says farewell to a hero of the civil rights movement.

John Lewis’s friends and family bid adieu to the champion, reminding us how he sought to create “good trouble” for the cause of freedom and liberty. He fought — quite literally, I should add — for the right of all Americans to have equal voting rights. Lewis paid for that struggle with his own blood, shed in that Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

Donald Trump once chided Lewis as being a man of “all talk and no action.” That such a ridiculous criticism would come from someone who avoided military service during the Vietnam War simply illustrates the president’s utter shamelessness.

And so Donald Trump was at it again today, blasting out Twitter messages seeking to denigrate the voting rights struggle led by a man who was being laid to rest in that very moment.

As they say, timing is everything, for better … or for worse.

No honor for Lewis from Trump … and no salute to his greatness

Donald Trump won’t pay his respects to the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The president detested the civil rights icon. I suppose it’s fair to point out that Lewis felt likewise toward Trump.

However, it boggles my noggin that Donald Trump cannot even muster up any semblance of decency to make a statement saluting the sacrifice Lewis made in the fight for equality and justice for all Americans.

Lewis bled in Selma, Ala., while marching for voting rights for African-Americans. Alabama police beat Lewis to a pulp, cracking his skull. He fought a valiant — and ultimately successful — battle to obtain equal rights for African-American citizens. He engaged in “good trouble, responsible trouble.”

The president of the United States cannot offer a statement to salute this good man’s history-changing legacy?

Reprehensible!

What will happen when that time comes?

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

I have a number of clever, astute and erudite Facebook friends who are unafraid to comment on political matters.

Les is one of them. He writes today:

President Trump declared today that he was not going to pay respects to John Lewis, lying in state at the Capitol, and then left for a tour of a North Carolina factory and another COVID briefing. I hope he understands that he has set a no-show precedent for when he is on display in the Rotunda and no one visits.

There you go. Donald Trump will not physically honor the life and contributions of one of the final great civil rights titans to pass from the scene.

The late John Lewis is lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the first African-American lawmaker ever to receive the honor.

Trump won’t stand before Lewis’s flag-draped casket. He won’t pretend to say a prayer in Lewis’s memory. He won’t pose for pictures that no doubt would be snapped by photographers gathered to watch the symbolic act.

I know that Trump and Lewis were enemies. Indeed, Trump sees every political foe as an enemy. They aren’t just opponents in this clown’s view. When someone makes a critical remark on the way Trump is doing his job as the nation’s top elected public official, he takes it personally. Lewis certainly offered his share of critical remarks. Therefore, Trump won’t do what is right.

What’s more — and this cannot be ignored in this political season — Trump is sticking a proverbial political dagger in his own heart by enraging black voters who expect the president to pay his respects to a man of such heroic stature. Then again, Trump the Politician likely figures, to borrow a phrase: What do I have to lose?

My friend, though, makes note of what might lie ahead when Donald Trump no longer is with us. He would be a former president of the United States. He would be entitled to lie in state as many former presidents have been honored since the founding of the republic.

Surely, a former president such as Trump would be able to attract someone — anyone — who would pay their respects to him once he has departed this good Earth?

No surprise that POTUS would be muted in honoring this icon

I am not surprised in the least that Donald Trump has been so reticent in honoring the life of the late civil rights icon John Lewis.

Yes, he offered a brief statement via Twitter, offering thoughts and prayers for “he and his family.”

Other presidents have been much more, um, fulsome in their praise for the hard work and the blood that Lewis shed on behalf of justice and civil rights. Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama all spoke with heartfelt anguish at Lewis’s death. Trump? Well, he didn’t go there. He isn’t wired that way. Trump isn’t equipped with the rhetorical tools one can find even in politicians who disagree with other politicians.

Oh, no. Not this guy.

Indeed, Lewis and Trump did get into a nasty spat a couple of years ago. Lewis referred to Trump as an “illegitimate president,” because of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump called Lewis a man who is all talk and no action; I guess Trump forgot about the time Lewis had his skull fractured by the police during a civil-rights march in Selma, Ala.

This, I submit, is another failing of Donald Trump. A president who feels aggrieved by a political foe surely could set aside those grievances and offer a significant tribute that recognizes that foe’s contributions to the social fabric, not to mention the political life of the nation we all love.

Isn’t that part of the job, Mr. President?

Another icon passes from scene

Americans have been yanked into a long-held reality with the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police officers, which is that justice too often is applied unevenly in this country.

So now, here we are. The nation is mourning a giant of a great cause to bring equal justice, equal rights to all citizens. John Lewis has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years of age.

U.S. Rep. Lewis comes from an era of great struggle. It was a violent time and Lewis, tragically, was the victim of that violence. Police in Alabama beat Lewis to a pulp as he marched along with other black citizens for equal rights. He recovered. Lewis continued to stand tall alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young and other activists of the time seeking justice and liberty for all Americans … regardless of their racial makeup.

“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise,” former President Barack Obama wrote in his statement. “And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”

Lewis took his struggle to the floor of the U.S. House, where he served with honor representing the people of Georgia as a Democratic congressman.

Andrew Young also rose to prominence as well, becoming U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. He spoke today of his friend’s death and the belief that despite the deaths of so many great civil rights icons, their work and their legacies live on.

The live through their spirit that remains among us, Young said.

So it will be as the nation gets past its time of mourning the death of a real-life, authentic American hero.

Rest in peace, Rep. Lewis. You have done well, but the hard work will continue in your memory.

Yes, Rep. Lewis, your nation prays for you

If there is a politician in this country who is more revered than U.S. Rep. John Lewis, well … I don’t know who that would be.

Lewis is a civil rights icon and I use the term with all the heft that accompanies it. He stood with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He has been beaten nearly to death by police officers as he sought to mount “civil” protests for the cause of civil and human rights. He has served his congressional district in Georgia with distinction and honor for more than three decades.

He now is fighting Stage IV pancreatic cancer. He has drawn words of encouragement from House colleagues and two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Rep. Lewis said this when announcing his diagnosis:

“I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.

“This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis has been reconfirmed.

“While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance. 

“So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross. 

“To my constituents: being your representative in Congress is the honor of a lifetime. I will return to Washington in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks. I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon. 

“Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.”

Yes, Rep. Lewis, many millions of your fellow Americans will keep you in our prayers.

This is what one could call a ‘toxic’ relationship

So … just how toxic is the relationship between Donald Trump and the nation’s civil rights leadership?

Get a load of this: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., arguably the greatest living leader of the civil rights movement, plans to boycott the opening of a civil rights museum in Mississippi because the president of the United States will be there.

The ceremony will occur Saturday.

I am torn on this one. Lewis’s statement talks about the inflammatory rhetoric the president has uttered since taking office. He has taken extreme offense at Trump’s statements about race relations, not to mention his terrible initial response to the Charlottesville, Va., riot spawned by the presence of white supremacists, Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen.

The president’s participation in the museum dedication, though, is noteworthy. If only he hadn’t built up a disgraceful record of clumsy statements that many have interpreted as being overtly racist.

That’s the kind of history, according to Rep. Lewis, that the president cannot erase with a simple public appearance.