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Dan Rather

Dan Rather

I want to avoid getting too caught up in the tweets of Donald Trump, but there are some comments that are so far beyond the pale that one risks normalizing them by ignoring them. And the message that Mr. Trump said today about Representative John Lewis, a true American hero, is such an instance.

To be sure, Mr. Lewis levelled some very sharp criticism at the incoming president yesterday - calling his election illegitimate on account of Russian interference. We all know this story seems to grow darker and more worrisome by the hour. I have never seen an administration begin under such a serious cloud.

One can easily understand why Mr. Lewis' comment would anger Mr. Trump because it is a real threat. The famed and respected Civil Rights leader is putting into words what few of his political peers have dared say out loud. And we must note that there are still many more questions about this issue than there are answers. The fact that the Senate will now conduct hearings - mark you hearings that may very well cast doubt on the legitimacy of a president who has yet to be officially inaugurated - will hopefully lead to a more complete account of what took place.

But whatever the truth is about these swirling allegations on Russia, and whether one feels such conclusions of illegitimacy are premature, Mr. Trump would have been well served to have let Mr. Lewis' comments pass. Of course he couldn't. In a pair of tweets the President-elect wrote:

"Congressman John Lewis 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. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"

I have known Mr. Lewis for decades. I covered him in those early and dangerous days of the Civil Rights Movement when almost all the institutions of government and society, especially in the South, seemed to be arrayed against the young activists. One thing you cannot say about John Lewis is that he is "all talk, talk, talk - no action or results." This man came within a hair's breath of dying after being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. His expert organizing skills and moral clarity made the United States a far more just and equitable nation. And for all this to happen at the beginning of Martin Luther King weekend, of all times.

Perhaps the conservative political commentator Bill Kristol said it best in one of his tweets:

"It's telling, I'm afraid, that Donald Trump treats Vladimir Putin with more respect than he does John Lewis."


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