A week ago, I received a text from a reporter at the Kansas City Star. It read, “Mr. Cashill. Michael Ryan from the Star here. Do you have a moment to get acquainted and for me to ask your opinion on Josh Hawley.” Wary of phone calls with reporters, especially from the Star, I texted back. “Here is a quote. ‘Josh is a super stand-up guy, a presidential contender. Rockhurst should be proud.'”
Rockhurst is the Jesuit High School that Hawley attended in Kansas City where I live. I added the “Rockhurst” line to offset the guff coming Hawley’s way from his alma mater.I attended a Jesuit high school myself, in New York City. I had just received my alumni magazine with a glowing article about our most celebrated alum and current cover boy, Anthony Fauci. Which reminds me of an old Catholic joke: What is the difference between a Baptist and a Jesuit? Answer: the Baptist knows he’s not Catholic.
Living up to the punch line, Rockhurst school president David J. Laughlin offered up the following bromide: “A growing society which shows contempt and intolerance for our treasured heritage of plurality, process and dignified disagreement cannot continue.” Laughlin wasn’t through. “I call upon all of our elected officials, including our graduate Senator Josh Hawley, to conduct their own examination of conscience on this matter. If wrong occurs, one ought to seek atonement and reconciliation. These are the Christian principles Rockhurst teaches when wrong has occurred.”
“The Republican nominee for president will be that candidate who best learns that there is no future in apologizing,” I wrote in a June 10, 2015, column. Six days later Donald Trump descended the escalator at Trump Tower and, in so doing, launched the most volatile period in American history since the Civil War.
I wish I could say I had Trump in mind when I wrote the above, but as right as my prediction proved to be, I did not even know Trump was running. His refusal to back down or apologize came at a huge personal cost, but the rest of us, including his enemies, benefited from his un-Republican-like willingness to punch back when punched.
The benefits came in two primary forms: what Trump accomplished as president and what he exposed. The last few months, and the last week especially, were all about exposure. We will get to this in a minute, but first a quick brief on Trump’s accomplishment.
As I look at two sets of statistics for the year 2020, I reflect on former Attorney General Eric Holder’s bold accusation in early 2009.
First the statistics: In 2020, Kansas City, Missouri, population 500,000, had 180 homicides. Johnson County, Kansas, our immediate neighbor to the west, population 600,000, had eight homicides, none since July.
Now to Eric Holder: “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot,” said Holder to his subordinates at the Department of Justice on his first day in office, “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”
The “cowards” line got people’s attention. Writes Obama in his new memoir, “A Promised Land,” it was “a true enough observation but not necessarily the headline we were looking for at the end of my first few weeks in office.” Although white Americans are reluctant to speak about race, Holder, like Obama, seemed clueless as to why. Let me give them a heads up from my own experience.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie begins her New York Times review of “A Promised Land” with this sentence, “Barack Obama is as fine a writer as they come.”
This was, I am sure, music to Obama’s ears. As one commenter on the Washington Post review deadpanned, “Obama may have been the first president, who became president, so he would have material for a memoir.” Throughout his life, Obama has openly aspired to be a writer. He has crafted his persona as much around that identity as he has that of a politician, even of a president.
Indeed, it was the literary world’s enthusiasm for what the Times’ Jennifer Szalai’s called “Obama’s extraordinary first book” – “Dreams from My Father” – that fueled his political rise.In reading “A Promised Land” – I am taking one here for the team, guys – I was shocked to see him respond as he did to Donald Trump’s 2011 challenge to his literary reputation.