I haven’t lived in Baltimore for 35 years. But, born and raised in Easton, I will always consider Baltimore my hometown big city. After graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park, I lived in five different places within what is now Rep. Elijah Cummings’ 7th District. I lived in Columbia, where we started a weekly newspaper that employed a grand total of five. I lived in Woodlawn practically next door to Social Security Administration headquarters. I lived in Bolton Hill and on Preston Street just north of the Sunpapers building, where I worked for 12 years and, finally, on Walker Avenue just off Loch Raven Boulevard, where my wife and I first lived after our marriage in 1984 before moving to Long Island.
Donald Trump, in his usual attack mode—ignorant, hateful tweets ignited by a three-minute segment (matching his attention span) on “Fox & Friends”—smeared Cummings’ district as a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” Cummings’ district encompasses on its fringes Johns Hopkins Hospital, regarded as one of the top three medical institutions in the United States, and University. Also in his district: University of Maryland Medical Center and Law School. Also, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the stadium that changed the character of ballparks all across the U.S. Also, the Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art Museum. Ever heard of Harborplace, Mr. President? Maryland Science Center? The National Aquarium? Or the Baltimore theater district, including the Hippodrome, Centre Stage and Everyman? And that’s just in the city. Cummings’ district stretches nearly to Pennsylvania, deep into Maryland horse country, as well as south and west of Baltimore, including the planned city of Columbia, born of the imagination of the late Easton native James Rouse.
Trump dares to call Cummings “a brutal bully for shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE. . . . His district is considered the Worst in the USA.” Trump went on to admonish Cummings to spend more time in his district to “clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.”
As we’ve seen again and again, Trump knows next to nothing about his tweet targets. Elijah Cummings comes home every night to Baltimore and his district. The day before the president’s vile and vicious attack on the congressman and an entire American city, Cummings held a hearing on lowering the cost to his constituents and all Americans of prescription drugs. In his own tweet in response to Trump’s serial assaults on Cummings and his city, the congressman wrote respectfully of his only one-on-one meeting with the president in which he asked his support on using the power of the federal government to negotiate prescription prices to consumers. He says the president agreed to work with him to that end. “I took him at his word,” Cummings wrote. That was his only mistake.
(By the way, Trump has insulted American cities before, calling Baltimore native and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district “disgusting.”)
But let’s look at what provoked Trump’s wrath. Cummings, in his constitutional role as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, challenged acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan about conditions at the border, carrying out a policy that separates children, including toddlers and babies, from their parents, leaving them literally in cages where they have no room even to lie down on a concrete floor and are left in some desperate cases to drink out of toilets. Some have died. All have suffered.
Cummings had the temerity to question the Trump administration’s inept and inhumane policy of victimizing refugees for no better reason than that they are Latino. There is, no doubt, a crisis at our border. And Trump created it. At the end of the Obama administration, migrant crossings at our southern border stood at a 50-year low. But Trump campaigned on building a Mexico-paid-for wall and vilifying brown immigrants as rapists, murderers, drug dealers and disease-carriers. As a result, migrant herders took out ads proclaiming “last call”—your last chance to get to America before Trump slams the border shut. As a result, the leading recruiter for “caravans” aimed at our border is Donald Trump.
And for this, for the courage of Elijah Cummings to call out the administration for its child-abuse crimes against humanity, Trump trashes Baltimore. But Trump will never call out the filth in a neighboring district, where his son-in-law is slumlord over decrepit housing in Essex. That’s in the 1st district, including all the Eastern Shore. Rep. Andy Harris has nothing to say about “Kushnerville.” He and almost all Republicans in Congress are Trump sycophants.
Citizens of Baltimore and others who are outraged by this racist jerk—this lazy ignoramus who doesn’t read, doesn’t listen; this compulsive liar, Putin puppet, Kim boyfriend (“we fell in love”) and co-conspirator in covering up the Saudi prince’s order to murder an American journalist—should fill the streets surrounding the White House to demand resignation. Forget impeachment. Republican toads—I’m looking at you, Mitch McConnell—will “exonerate” him in the Senate. Let’s take a page from the Puerto Rican playbook, led by other Americans mocked by the bigot-in-chief. I have no illusion that Trump will resign. To do so leaves him open to indictment. Instead of a second term he might face a jail term.
But we should make it clear to the world what America stands for—and what it stands against. If Democrats are socialists, then Trump is fascist. He’s said it out loud and proud that as president “I can do anything I want.” But a real president is sworn to uphold the constitution. Trump has brazenly failed his oath of office.
A real president represents all of America, not just those who genuflect to him. That’s a fake president.
Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.