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AUG 03, 2020 AT 5:15 AM

Assessing the events of each passing day lately, I’ve pondered the question, “Have we finally hit the bottom of the barrel with the current president’s outrageous behavior, lying, speech, and tweets?”

I cringe when I read thoughtful conservative writers like George Will describe these times as “a national mortification” and “a national nightmare” and David Brooks as our president having prompted “a national humiliation” of a country now led by a person who’s devoid of empathy; concerned only with feeding his narcissism at any cost.00:1811:05

I thought we’d surely hit the bottom of Trump’s behavior when he used his position and the Oval Office to endorse cans of beans and seasonings produced by one of his large campaign contributors. No president before him has so defiled his office and the dignity of the place that is symbolic as the seat of the power of the presidency and the nation; a place where many pieces of historic legislation have been signed, a place used frequently to greet leaders of the world’s nations and negotiate with them. Only in third-world backwater countries would such a stunt be performed. It is one worthy of Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duerte.

Within a week of the above outrage I was proven wrong when we hit the bottoming out of the bottom of all bottoms when Trump sic’d his Department of Homeland Security federalistas upon the streets of Portland. Using the shield of the Department of Justice he’s sent federal agents from at least four divisions to violently police the city streets of a major U.S. city; then he threatened to do so again on the basis of a governor’s or mayor’s political party; both a violation of his oath of office and the Constitution.

President Bone Spurs has decided to pour gasoline on the embers of tensions felt throughout cities across the country by using the ill-trained DHS troops that he has at his disposal to go beyond their appointed duties.

These “agents” in camouflage are not accustomed or trained to deal with urban unrest. Only the Federal Protective Service is charged with protecting federal buildings and monuments. The FPS’s presence in Portland is understandable if confined to their limited mission and so long as they do not use any of its 13,000 contract mercenaries to enforce local laws

Personnel from ICE and Customs and Border Protection patrolling the streets of any city is using them for jobs that they did not sign on for. Both agencies are welcome help when requested by local authorities to help combat organized crime, human trafficking and the illegal gun and narcotics trade that are eroding our cities. DHS specialized agents are normally assigned to engage in low-grade warfare against heavily armed narco-terrorists; not provide civil patrol upon the streets of our country. As stands now they are accepting illegal orders by detaining civilians without a pronounced charge; and having both clear rules of engagement and the invitation of the local government.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge recently reminded us that the DHS was established to “protect the country from the ever present threat of global terrorism; it was not created to be the President’s personal militia. The federal government has no mandate to enforce local, criminal laws.

This self-serving president has intentionally managed to turn protests in the cause of Black Lives Matter into protests of the federal troops dressed in combat regalia and armed to the teeth with weapons intended for war against foreign enemies.

Those so-called protesters damaging and defacing property, looting, and hurling anything other than words at any law enforcement officer need to be constrained by the legitimate protesters who they disservice.

On the other hand, Trump is using DHS agents as his storm troopers because he can dictate to a political Secretary of DHS to lap up his ill-conceived orders whereas those managing our professional armed forces know the legal boundaries of their missions and would balk at performing his illegal directives.

It is up to the U.S. citizens to recognize this as a time for “Good Trouble” as the late John Lewis characterized the non-violent civil rights protests of the previous century. It is time for people of all color and political stripe to draw the line in the sand at Portland’s border. We cannot turn away from Trump’s bottoming out of our country to embellish his rapidly deteriorating political agenda at the cost of our civil liberties.

Neil Ridgely writes from Finksburg.


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