BALTIMORE – As Congress debated millions of us into auditory numbness last week on the way to impeaching President Donald Trump, there was an unsettling word that kept coming up like an acid reflux.
The word was “hate.”
Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, made repeated reference to Democrats’ alleged “hatred of Donald Trump.” Trump himself called Democrats “the party of hate.”
And a reporter asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “Do you hate the president?”
“Don’t accuse me,” Pelosi shot back. “As a Catholic, I resent using your word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always pray for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
As the smarty-pants lawyers like to say in court…Can we stipulate here?
Can we stipulate, first, that you don’t have to be Catholic to be uncomfortable with the word “hate.” The word demeans us, whatever our religion (or lack of one.) It implies a previously-hidden darkness in our souls that’s liable to take us into dangerous and destructive places.
But, can we stipulate one thing more – that, while we shouldn’t “hate” an individual, it’s certainly possible to “hate” the things that such a person does or says.
For example, there are many Republicans who say they “hate” specific things Donald Trump has said and done. But they stick by him. They’re “stipulating.”
So, let’s stipulate here…
You don’t have to hate President Trump personally, but…
You can hate his bullying last week of Greta Thunberg, who was named Time’s “Person of the Year” for leading the fight against the dangerous climate changes that Trump somehow finds imaginary.
“Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill,” Trump tweeted. Democrats criticized Trump for attacking Thunberg, a 16-year old girl who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
Maybe we can tell the president to pick on somebody his own size without explicitly hating the man himself.
We can “hate” the diversion of $2 million Trump quietly shifted from eight charities over to his last presidential campaign and to various business expenses. Trump has now been court-ordered to pay back that $2 million.
We can “hate” his remarks about the racist, anti-Semitic marchers in Charlottesville. By claiming there were “good people” among those expressing such clear, blind hatred, Trump gave courage and validation to every bigot in the country.
We can “hate” his order to separate innocent immigrant children from their parents. Never mind legal technicalities here – who doesn’t hate cruelty toward even a single child?
We can “hate” the Neanderthal sexual attitudes of Trump. If it was enough to impeach Bill Clinton for his sexual predation, it’s certainly enough to go after Trump. We know Trump’s thoughts about women from his own tape-recorded words. We also know about the $280,000 in hush money to two women.
Sexual indiscretion should be a matter for the Clintons, or the Trumps, to settle in private. Except, in Trump’s case, he paid all that hush money to two women in an effort to swing a presidential election.
We can “hate” the phony Trump University cheating all those students out of their money. Or hate the phony Trump charities and pity the poor donors who never imagined their money being spent on an expensive painting of Trump himself.
We can hate the racism behind Trump’s phony birth claims about Barack Obama and his accusations about the Central Park 5 – and his failure to apologize for either outrage.
And we can “hate” that murderous deal Trump wanted with Ukraine. Yes, “murderous.” Let’s not forget, the $391 million Trump withheld was money to help Ukraine hold off Russians, in a war that’s already taken about 14,000 Ukrainian lives.
You can love Trump, or regard him as a bully or a buffoon without hating him. But his actions and his words have roused such hatred in so many millions of us that they’ve carried America toward impeachment.
Hate his actions, hate his language. We can stipulate the rest of it.
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of five previous books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.