The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
It is the dog days, the time of year when the humidity and temperature collide, characteristic of a city built in a swamp. The heat drives people indoors, and the Capitol is usually a beehive of activity as Congress pushes toward the August recess.
Not this year. Washington on tilt, led by an accidental President who incites division and seemingly equates his personal business interests with those of the nation. The nonpartisan civil servants who operate the machinery of government seek cover until this tornado passes through.
The Trump government is still half-baked with agencies of government without the ingredients that make them work. Cabinet and sub-cabinet appointments remain vacant or in the hands of “temporary” appointees, mostly apparatchiks recruited by right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. Temporary security clearances are granted at the president’s insistence.
The only identifiable domestic policy is to destroy all that came before. It is not unusual to hear White House staffers claim they are there to restrain an impulsive leader.
Economic life flourishes but doesn’t lift the mood. Tysons Corner, which was a horse farm when we moved to McLean, Virginia, 50 years ago, is a second city with pricey high-rise apartment buildings abutting its famous malls. Defense contractors line Dolly Madison Highway from Tysons to the CIA, feeding the war machine that now includes paramilitary armies.
The old Fisherman’s Wharf, once known for deal-making on the presidential yacht Sequoia, has been reborn as a smaller version of San Antonio’s famous River Walk, home to expensive restaurants and music venues. Neighborhoods burned in the riots of 1968 are gentrified with young couples strolling its sidewalks on a summer evening. New stadiums for professional baseball and soccer sit in what were poor neighborhoods.
Poverty is well hidden in the Capital.
Even our traditional July 4th fireworks celebration is being hijacked by the president. The event on the Mall where generations took their children and grandkids and picnicked with hundreds of thousands has been transformed into a political stage for Trump, bringing the first protests to this unifying moment. Unlike other temporary residents of our town, this president is impossible to escape.
What worries Washington most are the men around Trump. National Security Advisor John Bolton gives arrogance new meaning and never fails to advocate for war as the answer to foreign policy conflicts. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a right-wing congressman when the president picked him to head the CIA. He is smart and capable but a decided hawk with little foreign policy experience.
We can only guess what their advice to Trump is on Iran, but chances of another war in the Middle East seem to grow by the day. The meetings with North Korea have been a flop, proving what Kim Jong Un always knew: a renegade country with nuclear weapons can do what it wants.
The Senate no longer monitors foreign policy; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a yes man for Trump.
Still, in a grim time for civil servants, sports become a pleasant diversion. After going eleven games under .500, with a manager about to be run out of town, the Nationals have rebounded to get in the race for the National League East. D.C. United imported England’s best soccer player who has lead them to first place in the MLS.
Most of all, there are the women, America’s World Cup contenders, who light up the pitch with class and competitive zeal. How ironic that the women, for whom our p resident seems to have little regard, are helping restore the world image of America he has so badly injured.