Toughness Isn’t Strength, Unless You’re a Brillo Pad

I’m seeing more about Trump’s new White House fortifications. See With White House effectively a fortress, some see Trump’s strength — but others see weakness at the Washington Post.  This was published last night:

The security perimeter around the White House keeps expanding. Tall black fencing is going up seemingly by the hour. Armed guards and sharpshooters and combat troops are omnipresent.

In the 72 hours since Monday’s melee at Lafayette Square, the White House has been transformed into a veritable fortress — the physical manifestation of President Trump’s vision of law-and-order “domination” over the millions of Americans who have taken to the streets to protest racial injustice.

The White House is now so heavily fortified that it resembles the monarchical palaces or authoritarian compounds of regimes in faraway lands — strikingly incongruous with the historic role of the executive mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, which since its cornerstone was laid in 1792 has been known as the People’s House and celebrated as an accessible symbol of American democracy.

Please take a look at the map that goes with the article. The new fencing isn’t just around the White House lawn. It looks as if the White House is attempting to fence in everything from the north side of Lafayette Square — right across the street from St. John’s Church — down to Constitution Avenue, south of the Ellipse. That’s a lot of territory that has always been open to the public.

This week’s security measures follow nighttime demonstrations just outside the campus gates last weekend that turned violent. White House officials stressed that Trump was not involved in the decision to beef up security

Oh, bullshit he wasn’t.

or to increase the fencing around the compound’s perimeter, with one senior administration official saying that the precautions are not unique to the Trump administration.

Trump has been crowing that such fortifications prove that he’s strong, or something.

“Washington is in great shape,” Trump said Wednesday in a Fox News Radio interview. “I jokingly said, a little bit jokingly, maybe, it’s one of the safest places on earth. And we had no problem at all last night. We had substantial dominant force and it — we have to have a dominant force. Maybe it doesn’t sound good to say it, but you have to have a dominant force. We need law and order.”

Others disagree.

Deborah Berke, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, said the White House barricaded as if it were a military base, with multiple layers of black fencing surrounding the limestone Georgian structure, conveys the opposite message and represents a physical violation of democracy.

“I think the need to fortify your house — and it’s not his house; it’s our house — shows weakness,” she said. “The president of the United States should not feel threatened by his or her own citizens.”

Of course, in Trump’s mind “his citizens” are only the people who vote for him. Everyone else is an alien.

Trump likes to talk about being “tough.” He praised the despotic Kim Jong Un for being “tough.” He likes to brag about how he has the “tough people” on his side. He clearly thinks to be “tough” — to be brutal, to dominate, to run roughshod over everything in your way — is a positive attribute. People who are not tough are “weak.”

Clearly, Trump sees toughness as strength. Some dictionary definitions agree. But is it?

Trump’s form of toughness has more to do with being armored against the outside world. It’s about having a big defensive layer between himself and anything that threatens him. That says nothing about personal fortitude. Fortitude, personal strength, comes from internal qualities and does not depend on how many bodyguards you have.

Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair wrote of the Bible Stunt:

Hard to imagine any other [president] having the guts to walk out of the White House like this,” former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker tweeted. And yet, having protesters cleared out beforehand is hardly an act of courage. Barack Obama met with protesters in the Oval Office in 2014 following the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. Even Richard Nixon, who at times encouraged violence against Vietnam War demonstrators, went to the Lincoln Memorial for a surprise visit with protesters in the fever that followed the killings of Kent State students by Ohio National Guardsmen. Trump? He talked tough in the Rose Garden, walked down a street that had been emptied just for him with tear-gas and rubber bullets and heavily-armored police, and posed for pictures. As Anderson Cooper put it Monday evening: “He was hiding in a bunker, and he is embarrassed that people know that, so what does he have to do? He has to sic police on peaceful protesters, so he can make a big show of being, you know, the little big man, walking to a closed down church.”

Eric Lutz also writes about the new White House wall:

The new fortification—which a Secret Service source told Fox News is “standard anti-riot fencing and ranges from seven feet to more than nine feet high”—comes amid days of largely peaceful protests outside the White House. On Friday, after some of those demonstrating against systemic racism and police brutality breached temporary fences near the White House, Trump and his family were whisked into a secure bunker—a sore spot for the president, who has spent days now trying to convince everyone that he wasn’t rattled by the episode and that he’s actually super brave. On Monday, he more or less declared war on protesters in the Rose Garden and made a show of walking off the White House grounds to a historic church that had been damaged in the demonstrations. But the tough-guy act was undermined by the fact that he used chemical agents and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters to clear the way for the stunt. Foiled in his initial attempt to save face, he tried a new tack on Wednesday: Claiming, hilariously, that he had actually only gone down to the bunker for an “inspection” of the space.

A strong person wouldn’t be so defensive about being rushed into the bunker.

The word toughness can connote an ability to withstand hardship and adverse conditions. But we all know that ain’t Trump. Trump’s form of “toughness” is external. It’s hiding behind fencing and steel and bullet-proof plexiglass. It’s having a tough outer shell that protects the marshmallow center.

In the last post I documented that a lot of past presidents managed to not be seen assuming a fetal position while huge and hostile protests raged outside. Think also of Abraham Lincoln occupying the White House while the Civil War was being fought in Virginia. The District of Columbia itself was well fortified, but anyone could walk into Lincoln’s White House without being challenged.

But put a few people outside the old fence carrying signs, and Trump is undone.

Related — the Trump campaign is now selling camouflage MAGA hats.

“When you become a member of the Trump Army today, we’ll give you access to our never-before-seen Limited Edition Camo Keep America Great Hat,” the email blurts, bold-face lettering and all.

“The president wants YOU and every member of our exclusive Trump Army to have something to identify yourselves with, and to let everybody know that YOU are the president’s first line of defense when it comes to fighting off the liberal mob.”

Yeah, nothing says “battle ready” better than a stupid cloth hat.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing more signals that the professional military is backing off from Trump.

“There is a thin line between the military’s tolerance for questionable partisan moves over the past three years and the point where these become intolerable for an apolitical military,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who coordinated Afghanistan and Pakistan operations on the National Security Council for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and later became the American ambassador to NATO. “Relatively minor episodes have accumulated imperceptibly, but we are now at a point of where real damage is being done.”

I sensed there was a real rupture between the military and Trump back when Trump betrayed the Kurds last fall. Still, the brass doesn’t criticize sitting presidents, as a rule. But he’s pushed them too far. Even Defense Secretary Mark Esper seems to have distanced himself from Trump, at least a little bit.

The Pentagon has told the District of Columbia National Guard and guardsmen from other states who have arrived in the nation’s capital as backup to not use firearms or ammunition, a sign of de-escalation in the federal response to protests in the city after the killing of George Floyd, according to officials familiar with the decision.

The Department of Defense, led by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, appears to have made the decision without consulting the White House, where President Trump has ordered a militarized show of force on the streets of Washington D.C. since demonstrations in the city were punctured by an episode of looting on Sunday. Trump specifically had encouraged the National Guard to be armed.

Initially, a small group of the guardsmen deployed in the city had been carrying guns while standing outside monuments, but the bulk of the forces, such as those working with federal park police at Lafayette Square in front of the White House, didn’t carry firearms out of caution. Now, all of the roughly 5,000 guardsmen who have been deployed or are deploying to Washington, D.C., have been told not to use weaponry or ammunition, according to four officials familiar with the order.

We’re now getting some signals that the Bible Stunt didn’t help Trump’s approval numbers, and polls also show the public doesn’t approve of Trump’s “tough” handling of the protests.

But Trump can’t change; stunts and bluster are all he knows how to do, so don’t expect him to improve. And don’t expect him to show genuine strength, because he doesn’t know what that is. He’s nothing but a whiny, spoiled child with a lot of bodyguards.

See also The cowardly president hides — again.

Trump Is a Big Cowardly Wuss, Illustrated

Of course the candy ass weenie had more fencing installed around the White House. Notice the concrete barricades, too.

Concrete barricades are placed behind exterior fencing outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House on Thursday, June 4, 2020, following a night of protests against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.Tom Brenner / Reuters

Lyndon Johnson certainly wasn’t that big a weenie.

WASHINGTON, : American youths stage a rally 30 November 1965 in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. protesting United States military involvement in the Vietnam war. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s not like the old antiwar protests in Washington weren’t impressive.

Antiwar demonstrators in Washington in October, 1967.Credit…Associated Press

Even the eternally disgraced Richard Nixon wasn’t that big a wuss.

Hundreds of thousands of angry young Americans descended on nation’s capitol on May 12, 1970 to protest U.S. involvement in Indochina and the Kent State University shootings earlier in the week.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

A lesser weenie, Ronald Reagan, in 1983 had three-foot-high concrete barricades placed at the northwest and southwest entrances to the White House grounds after slaughter of Marines in their barracks in Lebanon. I don’t have a photo. After that it became common to put up concrete barriers at entry points during security alerts, such as after the September 11 attacks.

There were some sizable protests at the White House during the Bush II Administration. I’m not seeing extra fencing.

Anti war protestors march past the White House in Washington, DC on October 26, 2002 to protest President George W. Bush’s policy advocating war against Iraq. Washington police… moreAnti war protestors march past the White House in Washington, DC on October 26, 2002 to protest President George W. Bush’s policy advocating war against Iraq. Washington police estimated the crowds to be as large as 50,000. Tom Mihalek/AFP/Getty Images)

Biggest baby ever, or what?

A giant balloon inflated by activists depicting US President Donald Trump as an orange baby is seen during a demonstration against Trump’s visit to the UK in Parliament Square in London on July 13, 2018. – US President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, plunging the transatlantic “special relationship” to a new low as they prepared to meet Friday on the second day of his tumultuous trip to Britain. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Update: #BabyGate trends as Trump’s White House border fence gets a hilarious new nickname