“The thing that worries me most is the sustained assault on truth,” Chernow said of the “relentless campaign against the very credibility of the news media” in which Trump — who boycotted the dinner for a third year and ordered his aides to as well — has engaged.
“Our precious republic feels fragile,” Chernow said, noting that, in the wake of the latest synagogue mass shooting that happened just hours before he spoke, “our civil society feels fragile as well. I shudder at the sheer savagery to which Washington politics has descended.”
“We are being tested, fiercely tested, but I like to think decency will prevail,” he said.
“History shows that, in the short run, the American people can be swept up in all sorts of misguided and wrongheaded things – think Scottsboro Boys, think Japanese internment camps, think Joe McCarthy. But in, the long run, democracy endures,” the renowned historian assured the crowd.
Here are some of Chernow’s zingers:
As best I can tell, Washington committed only one major blunder as president: He failed to put his name on Mount Vernon and thereby bungled an early opportunity at branding. Clearly deficient in the art of the deal, the poor man had to settle for the lowly title of Father of His Country. A very sad story.
On Tuesday, the president let it be known he wanted members of his administration to stay away from this dinner. At first, I was puzzled by this news. But then I learned a rumor was circulating in Washington that I was going to be reading aloud from the redacted portions of the Mueller report and everything was explained.
There has been some squawking from comedians. … I thought they’d have a little sense of humor about my selection. After all, they are comedians. But we need them now more than ever. As Will Rogers once observed, “People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke.” That certainly describes our topsy-turvy moment. I sincerely hope comedians will be back for many more star turns in the future.
Our founders were highly literate people. And perhaps none more so than one Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant who arrived, thank God, before the country was full. Frankly, I don’t know why they let the guy in. Clearly somebody had slipped up at the southern border.
Donald J. Trump is not the first, and won’t be the last American president to create jitters about the First Amendment. So be humble, be skeptical and be aware of being infected by the very thing you are fighting against.
I applaud any president who aspires to the Nobel Prize for peace. But we don’t want one in the running for the Nobel prize for fiction.