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“We are going to win and win. We are going to win so much you are going to come to me and say, ‘Mr. President, can’t we lose a little?'” — Donald Trump, March 4

What would a great leader be without a great crisis to cross paths with?

Where would Abraham Lincoln be without the Civil War or Franklin Roosevelt without the Great Depression or Winston Churchill without World War II?

Donald Trump is a hero — at least in his own mind — in search of something heroic to do. Building hyuge, vulgar buildings and slapping one’s own name on it lacks a certain heroic dimension.

As critic Joshua Rothman of The New Yorker wrote in a Feb. 29 essay, titled “Shut Up and Sit Down: Why the leadership industry rules,” people who “fetishize leadership sometimes find themselves longing for crisis” to prove themselves.

Much of Trump’s life appears to be like one long attempt at this — as long as no real danger or no real leadership is involved.

Rothman writes:

In January, “Donald Trump’s campaign released its first official TV advertisement. The ad features a procession of alarming images — the San Bernardino shooters, a crowd at passport control, the flag of Syria’s Al Nusra Front — designed to communicate the idea of a country under siege. But the ad does more than stoke fear; it also excites, because it suggests that we’ve arrived at a moment welcoming to the emergence of a strong and electrifying leader.”

The millennials — the largest age group in America, followed by the baby boomers — are lucky if they can identify any hero who is still alive. A millennial is anyone who is or was between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015, and one suspects that Trump gets his heroic status more from his reality TV shows than from his real estate deals.

He was born wealthy, went to good schools, inherited a small fortune, went into the family business and has managed to keep the wolf away from his (many) doors.

But wasn’t it always thus? “The rich get richer,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “and the poor get — children.” Jesse Jackson, only about five years older than Trump, grew up in an era when the other children in his school taunted him for being born out of wedlock.

He sat in the back of the bus, not just metaphorically but literally. He drank out of water fountains marked “colored.” He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, but attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a football scholarship.

In 1960, when he was 19, he came home on Christmas break and, like freshmen everywhere, left a lot of work to do until the last minute. The book he needed to finish a paper was not at the “colored” library in Greenville but was at the Greenville Public Library.

So Jackson walked in, but a policeman walked him out. It may have been 1960 elsewhere in America, but in the Jim Crow South, it was still 1892.

And Jackson did a most unexpected thing. No, not marching on the library. That came later. And no, not getting the law changed to make the reading facilities in town open to all. That, too, would come later.

What Jackson did upon being tossed out of that library was cry. Real, bitter tears. He was not afraid; he was a freshman quarterback for a Big Ten football team, so he wasn’t afraid of many people.

It was not fear. It was just the shame of the whole thing. The water fountains and the seats on the bus and even what book you were allowed to read.

His tears dried up. And Jackson went to work. In a few months, he and seven other black students returned to the whites-only library, got books, took seats, sat down and read.

About 20 minutes later, they were handcuffed, and they were jailed for 45 minutes.

“In the paper write-up about our arrest, I remember them calling us leftists,” Jackson would say later. “We weren’t left; we were right.” A small joke.

The libary closed and reopened two months later as an integrated facility.

On the 50th anniversary, the Greenville Eight held a reunion. Only four  of the original eight showed up, but that was OK. It made the speeches shorter.

“Somehow we all finished college,” Jackson said, “and went on to replace old walls with new bridges.”

There are those who go through life building walls to keep others out. Others build bridges to welcome all in. You sometimes get to make that choice very early in your life. So think about it now.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on, and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Rev. Jesse Jackson (C) joins demonstrators during a protest intending to disrupt Black Friday shopping in reaction to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Nelles

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.