Booing a president is as American as apple pie and, well, baseball

Donald Trump wandered out into the real world last night, far from the cloistered world of his cult followers, away from pre-screened, handpicked audiences. It did not go well for the orange narcissist.

In his two plus years in Washington, Trump has never ventured into the real city, has never mingled with people whom he supposedly represents. Where other presidents routinely dined at local establishments, Trump has gone out for dinner only at his Trump International Hotel. He has snubbed traditional DC social events like the White House Correspondents Dinner and the Kennedy Center Honors. And until last night, he had never been to a Washington baseball game, unlike every predecessor who served when DC had a team. He has remained firmly within the Trump bubble.

Remember how Obama would go out for spontaneous walks around Washington neighborhoods, chatting with passersby? Not Trump’s style.

So when he invited himself to the fifth game of the World Series at Nationals Park, it was a unique event. And he did invite himself, according to reporting. The White House contacted Major League Baseball the same day as his appearance, informing MLB that Trump wanted to attend that evening’s game. 

No doubt Trump expected to bask in the glory of “his” great victory over the Islamic State with the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, triumphantly (and grossly) announced by him just that morning. Instead, he was greeted with a loud round of booing and chants of “Lock him up” and “Impeach Trump”.

Writing in The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf recalled how he was in deep red Texas when Obama’s announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden was made. “People were whooping and cheering in bars. President Barack Obama could have drawn applause anywhere in the United States that night,” recalled Friedersdorf.

(BTW, I’ll be posting another piece shortly comparing Obama’s announcement about bin Laden with Trump’s al-Baghdadi announcement. As a teaser for that, consider that Obama took less than 10 minutes to inform the country, Trump prattled on for more than 45 minutes to boast and beat his chest.)

The look on Trump’s face as he came to realize that he was not being greeted as a conquering hero is priceless.

He has such a pained expression that I could almost feel sorry for the guy. And I might actually feel for him had he ever evinced the tiniest shred of human decency. But he hasn’t and so I won’t. But, man, this whole thing had to be brutal for a pathological narcissist.

“Lock her up” vs “Lock him up”

Sen. Chris Coons of Connecticut, whom I generally respect, was critical of the booing, objecting especially to the “lock him up” chant.

“Well, forgive me, I’m enough of a sort of traditionalist about our institutions that even at a time when there is a lot that our president does that I find disturbing, offensive, unconventional, I have a hard time with the idea of a crowd on a globally televised sporting event chanting ‘lock him up’ about our president,” Coons said in an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”

“I frankly think the office of the president deserves respect, even when the actions of our president don’t,” Coons added.

Referring to Trump’s use of the “lock her up” chant during the campaign, Coons continued, “I think that’s one of the most regrettable, even at times despicable, actions by candidate Trump when he was running for president in 2016.”

Coons is dead wrong on this. There is no equivalence between “lock her up” and last night’s “lock him up”. The chants calling for the incarceration of Hillary Clinton were initiated by Trump himself, coldly contrived to instill hatred and distrust of his political opponent. Even more damning, Trump has continued to encourage and welcome  the chant at each of his rallies, long after his (s)election as president.

On the contrary, the chants of “lock him up” at the World Series came not from a politically powerful and calculating individual, but emerged spontaneously from ordinary people who are absolutely fed up with the behavior of this man. The fact that the chant echoed “lock her up” was a commentary on that chant itself, mocking it. I think it was a brilliant act of protest.

Beyond the “lock him up” chant, the loud and sustained booing at last night’s game is a good thing for many parts of the country to hear. Because Trump so assiduously avoids all but the most partisan crowds, having the feelings of so many regular folks broadcast on national TV fills a huge void in the standard news coverage of Trump. It is one thing for Trump supporters to hear about Capitol Hill Democrats criticizing Trump, it is a far different — and healthier — thing for Trumpers to hear how their fellow Americans feel about the man, without the media filters.

I was at Richard Nixon’s second inauguration in 1972. From where I stood on the side of Pennsylvania Avenue, I was surrounded by thousands of people shouting “fuck you!” in unison as Nixon’s limousine rode by. My wife, who had been watching the inauguration on a TV set at work, expressed surprise to learn that was what was being shouted. On TV, she said, it all sounded like cheering and she didn’t understand why people would be cheering. I don’t think any media outlet ever reported on that aspect of the parade. They should have. It was a big part of the story.

So thank you, Washington baseball fans. You did the country a favor last night. Lock him up.

P.S. — An afterthought … Trump is just lucky that the game he chose to go to wasn’t in Philadelphia, where sports fans famously once booed Santa Claus. And pelted him with snowballs.

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