HELENA, Mont.—There is an Irish revolutionary outside the Montana State Capitol. He is astride a horse and raising a sword. He is General Thomas Francis Meagher. The man was a hero of the American Civil War. He commanded a unit of brave Irishmen at Gettysburg. How he got there is the stuff of legend. Meagher was one of the leaders of an Irish uprising in 1848. Ireland was in shambles from famine and its greatest political leader, Daniel O’Connell, had died the previous year.
The uprising was timed on the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising of 1798. Like the earlier attempt, it failed. Meagher and his fellow young Irelanders were rounded up and tried by an occupying British force. He was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. The sentence was then commuted to life at an Australian penal colony. Most of the young men shipped halfway around the world later managed to escape. Meagher made his way to a ship and on to San Francisco. Then on to New York. He met and wed a wealthy woman. When war broke out his new family connections earned him an appointment to lead union troops.
After the war the general was appointed territorial governor of Montana. Shortly thereafter he fell or was pushed from a paddle boat and drowned. His tale is told in the book the Great Shame. Judging by the others today taking pictures of his statue, I’m not alone in reading the book.
The current academic rage is to condemn the founding of our nation as racist and cruel and genocidal. We’re told Europe is a better model with its parliamentary systems. Long before the U.S. Civil War the United Kingdom banned the slave trade. Then the same government went about starving the next-door neighbor. The neighbor worshipped the same deity, looked like the ruling English (and is genetically almost identical) and all were subjects of the same crown. His/Her Majesty’s government was torturing colonialists in Africa as the Beatles were touring the USA. In between Ireland and Kenya, the Europeans twice engaged in the wholesale slaughter of world war. It would appear our founding fathers were men of their time as were the European colonialists who subjected the Mau-Mau, Boers and people of the Congo to unspeakable horrors. Middle America can see all of this quite clearly. The elites on campuses, in newsrooms and populating Hollywood are the blind. Which is why there is a divide of opinion when it comes to the president of the United States. Last week as media and political elites were bellyaching about presidential tweets sullying the Oval Office, I immediately thought about Monica Lewinsky. Donald Trump didn’t stain Mika’s dress. As I’m writing there is a TV clip airing in the background. Mika’s fiancé, Joe Scarborough, is making fun of the late Fred Thompson’s wife. In the old video, Mr. Morning Joe appears to call Mrs. Thompson a streetwalker. Trump didn’t call the future Mrs. Scarborough any such thing. He referenced cosmetic surgery. By definition chin work falls into the category of face-lift. So, Lefty, shut the heck up! There are far more serious stories in need of our attention. Is Trump stupid? While the media dog chased its tail, he was busy with his pen. The president can be crude but it appears he loves his country. When he was first becoming a household name in the middle of the 1980s, I visited his hometown with a consulting class. One evening our group wandered into a pub called Blarney Stone for dinner. The clientele was mainly working men. The kind of people the wealthy Trump associated with from his childhood on his way to gaudy wealth. He’s one of them. These are the same type of New Yorkers who voted in large numbers for William Buckley 52 years ago. “My country, right or wrong,” was their popular slogan of the time. Many of these men are descendants of Irish troops who fought with Thomas Francis Meagher. In between their families twice went back to Europe and saved civilization. We make fun of a lot of effete New Yorkers but there are quite a few who share flyover country values. Trump is their man.
Early Sunday morning I was reading a commentary from Byron York at Washington Examiner. He cited the long list of Trump opponents who tangled with the guy and then were “diminished”. This notion of media high dudgeon and preening shows us they’re talking only to themselves. The ink stained wretches long ago lost their moral authority. Barack Obama failed with healthcare. With stimulus. With North Korea. With Syria. With Libya. With debt. And with Russia and, yet. I get the impression the chattering classes would crawl over the tops of each other to birth his babies.
Like Meagher, Trump may be a rogue and a scamp but for many Americans he’s astride the horse, sword drawn and ready for battle.