If a Southern governor had done a ride-along with the police, if he had traded his jacket and tie for an all-white ensemble (more clannish than Klan-ish), if the governor then frisked a black suspect in an alleyway—and smiled for the camera—his political career would be as toxic as a Superfund site in New Jersey.
When Christine Todd Whitman, governor of New Jersey, did just that, when she sported a tracksuit as white as cotton and grinned like a soccer mom during a mock slave auction for her college sorority, when she looked like a housewife who had just discovered BDSM, she got what every enlightened Northern politician gets: a promotion!
Not content with her failure of a photo-op, Governor Whitman went on to fail bigly as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She “inspected” Ground Zero where the stench of burning bodies and rotting flesh—of a cloud of carcinogens and a battlefield of smoke—was unbreathable. Amidst this late-summer blizzard of asbestos, lead, and mercury, amidst this plume of particulate, plastic, and pulverized concrete, Whitman said: “I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C., that their air is safe to breath [sic].”
Her subsequent apology, 15 years after 9/11, was as overdue as it was outrageous. And, while correlation does not imply causation, it does not take a Nobel Prize-winning chemist to deduce that a stationary tornado-like vortex of ash, soot, and silica is not the best place to work unprotected. It does not require a team of scientists in hazmat suits to go from Midtown to the southern tip of Manhattan—to go from a clear blue sky to a funeral pyre—and, in the course of investigating this makeshift crematorium of a crime scene, say: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
Not content to fade away, Secretary Whitman wants President Trump to go away. She wants him to resign.
She accuses the president of dismissing and marginalizing people.
She should know. Just ask the loved ones of the first responders at Ground Zero, or the black residents of Camden, New Jersey, who live in squalor and suffer lives of poverty and predation.
As Whitman might say: “Remember to smile.”