Three Lessons Trump Could Learn From ‘Hamilton’

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy Schuyler in Hamilton.
Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy Schuyler in Hamilton. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sensational take on Ron Chernow’s biography about Alexander Hamilton recently came to my city and I had the good fortune to acquire tickets (thanks, Mom). I’d seen it before in New York City in the summer of 2016 and have been obsessed, along with everyone else, since. Yes, it’s that good. No, this is not another ‘Hamilton’ review. But if the New York Times needs one for Denver, they know where to find me (see Twitter handle).

Having seen the musical before and after President Trump was elected gave me a new perspective on the “ten-dollar, Founding Father” and his impact on our great nation. Miranda began writing a “mix-tape” in 2008, performed an early version of a song for President Obama at the White House in 2009, and it eventually evolved into a hit musical debuting in 2015. I’m fairly certain neither he nor anyone else could have predicted Trump would be elected in 2016 then, but it is oh so applicable now. Let me explain.

1. Talk Less, Smile More, Don’t Let Them Know What You’re Against or What You’re For”

The opening words of Aaron Burr to Alexander Hamilton are some of the most brilliant writing in the entire musical. President Trump has managed to use Twitter to connect with his base, for better or worse, and has revolutionized how elected politicians express their thoughts in the age of social media. His usage of Twitter, however, seems to baffle those closest to him in his administration, forcing them to scramble for an explanation after his thoughts have been disseminated worldwide.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly learned of his firing via a tweet from Trump stating he was replacing Mr. Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo. Trump will often state either his support or disdain for a bill, a Congressman, a television personality, or a general idea via Twitter and quickly change his mind. It often makes for confusing press conferences with media asking Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders what he meant by a series of angry tweets. The job of the Press Secretary is an appointment I do not envy no matter who sits in the big chair in the Oval Office.

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But recently, things got awkward when President Trump stated he was considering vetoing the Omnibus spending bill passed by both houses of Congress, sitting on his desk waiting for a signature. His base was enthused by this idea. However, a few hours later, he did indeed sign that bill. His base was not enthused by this though. Additionally, he added that he would never sign a bill like this again unless Congress gave him a line-item veto. It should be noted that President Clinton tried the same thing and it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as it gave too much legislative power to the executive branch in 1998, but I digress. However, see Clinton v. City of New York

I am not part of Trump’s base, but it seems to me that he might be better off if he stopped dropping everything to tweet whatever comes to mind. A) He ignores history  B) he often makes up facts and C) he shows his hand too often and too early. The Democrats have a field day with misspelled tweets, a recent tweet threatening to beat up former Vice-President Joe Biden, and tweets that mostly ignore the Constitution when it’s convenient. Scratch that, most of us have a field day with these tweets regardless of our political affiliation.

Flip-flopping on issues used to be a big campaign insult. I can remember when President George W. Bush used it to constantly insult John Kerry before the 2004 Election. Now, it happens daily. It seems to me that Mr. Trump would be wise to heed ‘Aaron Burr’s’ words if he’d like to Keep America Great in 2020. 

2. “Immigrants (they) Get The Job Done”

Despite campaign promises that Mr. Trump would build the wall between the United States and Mexican border with Mexico’s money, the wall has neither been built nor completely funded. If a wall is built, it will be with U.S. taxpayer money. The omnibus spending bill President Trump signed included $1.6 billion for the aforementioned wall. However, many of us remember that it was said it would cost $18 billion total, even though Trump has stated much can be done with the “little” money granted in the omnibus bill. Where this money comes from and what will be built with it, I don’t know. I don’t particularly want my tax dollars to go towards a wall we don’t need, but that’s just my opinion.

Speaking of border walls and immigration, Mr. Trump has taken it upon himself to suggest that Democrats were the ones ending the DACA program and abandoning the Dreamers (see above, makes up facts) when in actuality it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who ended the Obama-era program.

If the federal government were to end DACA, it is estimated that it would cost the American economy $200 billion dollars. Because the U.S. has pushed high school graduates towards college rather than trade schools for the past few decades, we’re coming into a severe shortage of people who can actually perform these types of jobs. If we spend money for ICE to deport these young people, we’d end up doing ourselves and the economy a huge disservice.

America has always been the land that has welcomed immigrants. Yes, immigrants were and are still treated poorly in this country but who are we to say no, we cannot welcome “your tired and your poor” when they contribute to the fabric of our nation? Like Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the island nation of St. Croix, they help get the job done.

3. “The Reynolds Pamphlet”

In 1791, Alexander Hamilton had an affair with a woman named Maria Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds, who knew about his wife’s unfaithfulness, used the affair as blackmail against Hamilton and Mr. Reynolds was paid in the amount of $1,000 for his silence while Hamilton was still Secretary of the Treasury. In 1797, Hamilton published the Reynolds Pamphlet stating he had not misused government funds in paying off Mr. Reynolds. It has been characterized as the first American political sex scandal. My, how things have not changed.

If you have watched the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels (née Stephanie Clifford), you can see where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, the brief is that Ms. Clifford had an affair with Mr. Trump while First Lady Melania was pregnant with their son, Barron, in 2006. Fast forward 10 years later and 11 days before the 2016 election, Ms. Clifford was paid $130,000 in “hush money” by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Political sex scandals are as old as time, apparently. However, what’s interesting about Ms. Clifford’s claim is that she was paid by a Delaware LLC. If you’re a campaign finance law geek like I am, you know that if this is considered a campaign contribution, because it was paid in furtherance of his bid for the presidential campaign, it exceeded the legal contribution amount by $126,500. Small potatoes, I think not. This is why Michael Cohen has repeatedly stated that he paid Ms. Clifford using his own money. If pursued by the FEC and found to be an illegal contribution, this just adds fuel to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s fire.

I don’t think the interview itself explained well enough how grievous an offense this really is. Former Senator John Edwards was caught doing the same thing with Bunny Mellon’s “campaign contributions” in paying off the woman he had an affair and a love child. Mr. Edwards barely escaped prison time for the offense.

While Hamilton owned up to the affair in true Hamilton style, in writing, Trump has been noticeably silent about this particular issue. In this case, it’s hard to tell whether he should “talk less” or “smile more.” If the money was truly in furtherance of the campaign, this might be the only time the specter of Aaron Burr finds himself on the right side of history.

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