By Peter F. Stevens
It’s over, at least for now. As of this writing, the partial shutdown/presidential temper tantrum ignited by Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall or bust is over until Feb. 15. Still, as the president is already making noise that another shutdown or his declaration of a national emergency to strip defense spending to finance his wall is in the offing, his currently preferred mouthpiece is an Irish-American enabler who is serving as the quintessential “yes man” for his erratic boss. Mick Mulvaney, Acting Chief of Staff at the White House, has embraced his role as White House lackey, eager to please the president and never, ever to question any of his actions or comments, no matter how questionable.
Even the former White House chief of staff, the retired four-star general John Kelly, who has seen his hard-earned military reputation tarnished by his own obeisance and constant support of Donald Trump’s antipathy toward immigrants and anyone who fits the Nativist description of the “other,” joined fellow former secretaries of Homeland Security in signing a letter imploring the president to end the Federal shutdown for reasons of national security.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday,” Mulvaney chirped that Trump is ready, willing, and able to shut down the government again if Congress refuses the approximately $5.75 billion he is demanding so he can start on his border wall. More to the point, the president is reportedly seething at how Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi forced him to back down and reopen the government without a cent for the wall, barrier, steel slats, or whatever other fluid description escapes the lips of Trump or the new “Baghdad Bob,” aka Mick Mulvaney.
With the president’s other oh-so-pliable and cowardly boyo, erstwhile Speaker Paul Ryan, having slinked out of Washington, Mulvaney is left to contend with Pelosi, who has served notice that she understands Trump and will not hesitate to buck him when she needs to. He is accustomed to the likes of Mulvaney, Ryan, and Kellyanne Conway not only bending to Trumpian will and whims, but also twisting his tweets and other utterances into a political knots. The president’s Irish-American acolytes do possess varying dollops of the proverbial gift of gab, but their skillfully garbled “translations” of what Trump “really meant to say” grow increasingly tortured.
One fact that they are unlikely to raise with Trump is that the GOP, the very party that has cringed in fear from his incendiary tweets and from his hard-right- base, went along with his recent shutdown but faced heavy and ominous opposition from a majority of Americans in virtually every reputable poll from the left and the right. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell hid from the shutdown for weeks, but he knows that he faces a rebellion from his caucus if the president is going to unleash a second shutdown round. Additionally, McConnell understands full well that if Trump invokes a national emergency over the border, he is setting the stage for a future Democratic president to declare the same over the climate-change crisis or other issues that are toxic to the hard right.
What Speaker Pelosi grasps is that if her side ever allows the president to get his way by closing parts of the government, he will use the tactic again and again.
In Politico, Nancy Cook wrote about the shutdown “that began before he [Mulvaney] took on the role, an overworked skeleton crew in the West Wing, and a newly empowered Democratic majority — people can try their best to blame these things on Mick, but he cares about one thing: executing the president’s agenda,’ said Jonathan Slemrod, one of Mulvaney’s former top aides at the Office of Management and Budget…”
Those words reveal that even in attempting to defend his former boss, Slemrod acknowledges that Mulvaney cares only about serving his president with blind and compliant allegiance—no questions asked.
At the moment, the likeliest bet for Feb. 15 is that Mulvaney will prepare the ground for a manufactured national emergency over a second shutdown. It’s a lose-lose proposition for the nation as a whole. This fine broth of an Irish-American lad will carry the deceitful verbal weight of President Donald J. Trump with shameless and spineless loyalty.
“Men and Women For, and With, Others”
As February ushers in Black History Month and the nation grapples still with the omnipresent issue of prejudice in all its forms, the above words that infuse the Jesuit principles that founded Holy Cross College resonate in the improbable saga of Bishop James Healy, a landmark figure in both African-American and Irish-American annals.
Healy, who became both the first ordained African-American Catholic priest and first African-American Catholic bishop, was born on a plantation near Macon, Georgia, in 1839 to Co. Roscommon immigrant Morris Healy and “Mary Eliza, a mixed-race domestic slave.” James was the couple’s tenth child. Because Georgia law prohibited interracial marriage, the Irishman, who was deeply in love with Mary Eliza and flouted convention by treating her as his wife, sent his children north to be educated.
In 1844, James was sent to Worcester, Mass., to begin his education. He went on to fledgling Holy Cross College and graduated as valedictorian in the school’s first graduating class in 1849. He earned a master’s degree there and decided to enter the priesthood. With the sponsorship of Boston Bishop Bernard Fitzpatrick, Healy was ordained on June 10, 1854, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to serve in Boston. Twenty one years later, Pope Pius IX appointed Healy as the bishop of Portland, Maine, in 1875.
Throughout his life, Healy, the son of the Irish plantation owner and the slave he loved, revered Holy Cross as the place where his entire career took shape. Instead of burial in the vault of the Portland, Maine, cathedral when he died in 1900, Healy had specified that he be buried in a simple graveyard at Holy Cross. At the school he so loved, a building fittingly bears his name today.
By Peter F. Stevens