On Friday, January 20, 2017 Donald Trump strode to the microphone, looking out over a sea of citizens who had dreamed of this day, some for thirty years, and spoke directly at them.
Behind President Trump sat the elites of Washington, the most powerful array of political strength in the world. In the sixteen minutes President Trump, he only mentioned them once, when he told the millions who watch and listened, that their day was over. And that once again, after a generation at least, we are back in charge of our country and own destinies.
For succinctness and sincerity, it will go down as one of the greatest, and most memorable, speeches ever made. If you don’t believe me, listen to it again today. And then tomorrow. And next week. With each rehearing the pride and relief…Thank God, at last…will well up deep inside your soul…as you often have when hearing the Star Spangled Banner sung or the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Peggy Noonan, no fan of Donald trump, was brought to her knees by the speech’s power, a “Declaration of Independence“.
Bill Kristol and George Will were not, Kristol implying he never thought he’d live to hear an American president say “America First” and Will, “a most dreadful inaugural address.”.
But Trump’s speech was not only a victory speech, but also an apology to the American people.
And it does have a precedent.
You may recall, in the film “Patton” with George C Scott in the title role, Gen Patton had a meeting with one of his commanders, Maj Gen Lucien Truscott, (played by veteran actor John Doucette), commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, in Sicily. In a race to beat British general Montgomery to Messina, just to be first, Patton chose to run his group up the coast road and ordered Truscott to attack up the mountainous center of Sicily where territory was gained yards at a time, not miles.
Truscott’s men took the brunt of the casualties in that campaign, and his reputation was thus that he was given a corps and asked to do the same thing in Italy during the next race to Rome.
You may not know the battles on the road to Rome, but you know the men who wrote about them, as Ernie Pyle did. His Memorial to Captain Waskow was as poignant an obituary ever written. Bill Mauldin, the “Stars and Stripes” cartoonist created his Willie and Joe characters in those same campaigns.
Just three weeks after VE-Day, on Memorial Day, 1945, General Truscott was asked to make the dedicatory address at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial at Anzio-Nettuno, Italy, where it all began. The nearly 20,000 fresh graves held the remains of soldiers who had died in Sicily, Anzio, and on the struggle for Rome.
Bill Mauldin, who was covering the event for “Stars and Stripes” reported that members of Congress, various senior officers, and a multitude of other VIPs were in attendance. General Truscott walked to the microphone, nodded to those seated before him, then turned his back. He held no speaking notes. He faced the fresh graves before him and spoke only to his fallen soldiers.
He apologized that they were there. He then asked their forgiveness if any mistake by him had caused their deaths.
Donald Trump apologized to the American people for the mistakes made by the people sitting behind him. And I am sure it stung.
Peggy Noonan understood this and had her “Road to Damascus” moment about the true meaning of independence because of it, just as my professor friends in the old Soviet Union when they first heard Jefferson’s words, “life, liberty and happiness”. I am sure many others did as well. Many will even pretend that they did as shallow people often do.
But there will always be others, like George Will and William Kristol, and those tens of thousands Harrowers from Hell who descended on Washington the following day, who cannot see beyond their own vanities, and all I can say is….
…God damn their eyes.