Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: FLOTUS, IMPOTUS, SCOTUS and a ‘Mother’ at the White House

For nearly 30 years — from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush — I carried the coveted White House “hard pass.” It is a press ID which permits the holder nearly unlimited access to the White House Press Room in the West Wing from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., every day of the year.

My pass was finally pulled, even though my friend Tony Snow was press secretary at the time, because (I’m convinced) they just didn’t want a “Black Muslim” in the room. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris said as much to my editor at the Chicago Daily Defender once. The official reason was that I did not come to the White House often enough, though I know many, many, many pass-holders who rarely go there. Besides, Sonya Ross, the former Associated Press White House bureau chief, often used to say the place is “a news-free zone.”

There are only 200 or so seats in the press briefing room, though there are as many as 5,000 accredited correspondents and other press persons, and the working spaces there could not accommodate more than 50 workers in all the little cubicles. When I got the boot, the mobile phones in use were the size of footballs, and few folks had them, so when you were there, unless you were one of the 50, you had to leave the place to report any non-news you might have discovered. Portable computers and the Internet were also novelties in those days.

But I managed to work the system. I was able to politic myself into asking a few questions at televised presidential press conferences, I was invited to participate in a couple of high-level “briefings” with the president, and I even managed to get an invite for my then-boss, Mr. L.H. Stanton, publisher of National Scene magazine, for a briefing for publishers with President Reagan. I even managed to get Reagan to sign the “grip-and-grin” photo he posed for with the Prez.

Though I wasn’t there every day, I certainly knew my way around the complex. In those days the abbreviations used for president, first lady, and the Supreme Court were POTUS, FLOTUS, and SCOTUS, as in president, first lady, and Supreme Court “of the United States.” Nowadays those terms are clichés.

I did continue to receive presidential schedules, and other announcements via email. I noticed during the second term of the Obama administration, the schedule of Vice President Joe Biden began to be distributed to the press corps as well, along with that of his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, a physician.

Now, along with all the other pure tomfoolery at 1600, the press office has taken to referring to Karen Pence, the wife of the vice president, as “The Second Lady.” The Second Lady? What kind of self-respecting high public official would permit his wife to be addressed as The Second Lady? But I suppose if you address your wife as “Mother,” and the whole world knows it, why not just let her be the Second Lady? It must be OK with them, because that’s who she’s been officially for nearly three years now.

But what I’m getting joy from while watching the impeachment of the Dotard is the new title which conservative columnist George Conway (husband of White House staffer Kellyanne Conway) draped on The Donald. He is now IMPOTUS, as in Impeached President Of The United States, and I’m loving it. It’s a name only he can wear. In fact Wikipedia has now updated its “Home Alone 2” page, to indicate that Dude is the only cast member from the film to be impeached.

The Donald says it’s no big thing, but it is. He’s finally achieved something that escaped Barack Obama during his entire eight years in office — impeachment. He will be remembered in history as an impeached president. Only two of the country’s previous 44 presidents achieved that status.

He claims the failure of the Republican-controlled Senate to remove him from office, and his likely reelection in 2020, will mean his exoneration. Wrong!

In 1955 Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted by an all-white jury after a two-hour kangaroo court trial, of the brutal murder of 14-year-old Black youth Emmett Till in Mississippi. Like IMPOTUS Trump today, they felt entirely vindicated, so much so that in 1956 Bryant confessed to the murder, knowing that the constitutional protection against double jeopardy meant they could not be charged again, even though they were as guilty as sin.

IMPOTUS Trump feels that when the GOP Senate’s kangaroo court ends without his removal from office, he’s vindicated. Wrong!

I look at it as though he has been stained by a skunk, and no matter how hard he scrubs, he will still have that stink on him, the rest of his life.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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