- - Monday, January 16, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Democrats have yet to grasp the fact that Donald Trump is not your typical Republican, eager to curl up in the fetal position when fired on. He fires back, usually with both barrels.

The party of Hillary Clinton sent Rep. John Lewis of Georgia out to attack the “legitimacy” of Mr. Trump’s presidency. If they expected Mr. Lewis‘ status as a civil rights icon to shield him from return fire, he, and they, learned a lesson. Mr. Trump responded in the same way he did against his Republican primary opponents — just the way successful politicians always respond.

Mr. Lewis says he doesn’t consider Mr. Trump to be “a legitimate president” because the Russians interfered in the presidential election on Mr. Trump’s behalf. The Donald answered the next morning, tweeting that the congressman “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime-infested), rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

Several members of his own party, still practicing the old Republican strategy (“vote Republican, we’re not as bad as you think”) scolded Mr. Trump, in hopes that this would encourage Mr. Lewis and the Democrats to pull their punches. Fat chance. Mr. Lewis used the incident as inspiration for a fundraising letter.

“Today, Donald Trump attacked me on Twitter,” he wrote. “He said that I’m ‘all talk’ and ‘no action.’ I’ve been beaten bloody, tear-gassed, fighting for what’s right for America. I’ve marched at Selma with Dr. King. Sometimes, that’s what it takes to move our country in the right direction. Chip in whatever you can today to help Democrats stand up to injustice.”

Mr. Lewis, icon or not, plays the race card with skill learned from experience. Four years ago, he suggested that Mitt Romney wanted to bring back Jim Crow. Six years ago Mr. Lewis joined other members of the Congressional Black Caucus in accusing Tea Party demonstrators of invoking the “N-word” at a rally against Obamacare on the Capitol steps. Andrew Breitbart offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone could prove it. No one did.

Mr. Lewis played the Hitler card when he likened Republicans, who had taken control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections with their famous “Contract with America,” to the evil Nazis of wartime Germany. The Republicans, he said with an invocation of Martin Niemoller, the Protestant pastor who was imprisoned in a concentration camp for seven years for confronting der Fuhrer, “are coming for the children. They are coming for the poor. They are coming for the sick, the elderly and the disabled.” This from the man who told an interviewer that “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people.”

John Lewis earned his street creds in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, admired by nearly everyone for his focus on issues and real abuses. It’s sad to see an icon trade his reputation for the gratification of throwing eggs, sticks and stones at a man who, whether John Lewis can come to terms with it or not, will be his president, fully legitimate, in just four more days.

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