JFK created the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor a president can bestow.
The award is supposed to be for citizens who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Previous recipients included Aaron Copland, Helen Keller, John L. Lewis, Beverly Sills, Colin Powell, and Barbara Jordan.
But now, Donald Trump has, in effect, added a new category: “Presidential Lickspittle.”
The newest PMOF recipients are two of Trump’s two top toadies: Republican Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan. But what if Trump, his time almost up, got busy and made the PMOF retroactive back into history? What kindred spirits might he choose?
Here are some potential contenders right up this president’s alley:
Sen. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, home state of Trumpian Sen. Lindsey Graham. Before the Civil War, Calhoun was Dixie’s main mouthpiece for slavery and white supremacy.
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. Taney was a reactionary like Trump’s trio of court picks. A rich Maryland slaveholder, Taney wrote the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford, the notorious 1857 Supreme Court ruling that said African Americans, free or slave, could never be citizens (and that Congress couldn’t exclude slavery from the federal territories.) Taney claimed that since whites had always considered blacks “beings of an inferior order…and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Thus, he concluded “that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”
Trump likes the idea of U.S. Army bases named for Confederate brass hats whose troops killed, wounded and maimed tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in the Civil War. There’s not a base named for rebel Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest of Tennessee. But “Old Bedford” seems like a Trump kind of guy. Forrest was a slave trader before the war, oversaw the massacre of black troops during America’s most lethal conflict and, afterwards, was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. (Trump fans include David Duke, a former KKK grand wizard.)
Trump’s favorite sheriff was xenophobe and race-baiting birther Joe Arpaio of Arizona. Trump pardoned the bigot with a badge after he was convicted of criminal contempt connected to his zealous and unlawful pursuit of undocumented immigrants. Given Trump’s fondness for Sheriff Joe, Denver Deputy John Chivington might be a natural for a Trump PMOF. A colonel of Colorado volunteers during the Civil War, he ordered his men to attack defenseless Native Americans, mostly older men, women and children, at Sand Creek, Colorado, in 1864. Some of his troops objected to the attack, leading Chivington to rage, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians. Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.” His soldiers murdered nearly 200 people.
Nobody dotes on The Donald like conservative southern white folks. So he might present a Trumpian PMOF to one of Dixie’s most ardent 20th-century defenders of white supremacy, Sen. Theo Bilbo of Mississippi. An ardent Klan member and champion of segregation and white supremacy, he declared, “once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux.” In 1938, he helped lead a white southern Democratic filibuster against an anti-lynching bill, claiming that if the Senate passed the legislation (It didn’t), “you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate.”
State Rep. Carl Day seems like Trump’s ideal Kentuckian. Reflecting white outrage over Berea College, the state’s only integrated school, the Frozen Creek Democrat proposed “An Act to Prohibit White and Colored Persons from Attending the Same School.” Passed and signed into law in 1904, the Day Law remained on the statute books until after Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregated schools.
Texas businessperson Vance Muse would be a twofer for the race-baiting union-buster Trump. A Klan lover and union hater, he was “the Karl Rove-meets-David Duke brains behind the whole right-to-work movement,” wrote journalist Mark Ames. Muse “despised the doctrine of human equality represented by unions,” wrote journalist Roger Bybee.
Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society. The group which has long inhabited the country’s farthest right-wing fever swamps was founded on lies and conspiratorial flights of fantasy. Trump has made Bircherism mainstream Republicanism. The society called Republican President (and World War II Supreme Allied Commander in Europe) Dwight D. Eisenhower, “a dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.” Birchers declared that fluoridated drinking water was a communist mind-control scheme, and that the civil rights movement was really a covert communist plot to establish “a Negro Soviet Republic in the United States.”
Phyllis Schlafly. A closet Bircher and “Women for Trump” archetype, she founded the fiercely anti-feminist and far-right Eagle Forum, crusaded against the Equal Rights Amendment, and railed against gay rights and abortion. She argued that “consumer product engineers who have created labor-saving devices” did more to benefit women than the women’s rights movement, wrote Ginia Bellafente in the New York Times. She quoted a Schlafly email: “When I got married, all I wanted was a dryer so I didn’t have to hang my diapers on a clothesline. Now, mothers have paper diapers. Et cetera, et cetera.”
Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Wallace, who hated to see Jim Crow go, is the granddaddy of Trumpism. Trump reprised Wallace’s racist run for president in 1968. Writing in The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch quoted Dan Carter, a historian and Wallace biographer: “We can foresee that unless something changes in American political culture and civil life, we’re doomed to deal with Trumps, whether they’re this Donald Trump or future Donald Trumps, for the next generation.” “Thank George Wallace for that,” Rauch wrote. The base Wallace “mobilized has found a home in today’s Republican Party,” the article was headlined in part.
There are lots of other possibilities, but time is running out on Trump. So send your suggestions in before Jan. 20.What if Trump, his time almost up, got busy and made the Presidential Medal of Freedom retroactive back into history? What kindred spirits might he choose? Here's a Trumpian list.Click To Tweet
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