• Montana Press

Three for the Weekend

Every week, Montana Press contributor Kenneth Neill publishes a newsletter, "Three for the Weekend," a commentary on national events with links to three online articles. The Montana Press shares these perspectives weekly on our site.


How auspicious the memorable date of 9/11 appears during this cacophonous year, nineteen years after the Twin Towers collapsed on the 11th of September in 2001.  Auspicious, and totally appalling.

We all remember where we were that 2001 September morning. I was at home getting ready to go to work, when a friend who lived around the corner called, screaming that I should turn on the TV. I did, and then ran straight over to her house, where we two sat in stunned silence, when we weren't crying, for the next few hours, shocked beyond all belief. 

The only other comparable television event I can recall was on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, when I was a 15-year-old paperboy, collecting door-to-door on my Boston Globe route on a drizzly Friday afternoon. When I got to one place on Woodlawn Street in Dedham, Massachusetts, the woman of the house opened the door, tears in her eyes, saying only, "Come in and sit down, Kenny. The President has been shot."

This is the nineteenth time we've "celebrated" this century's darkest date, and I cannot recall our commemoration of 9/11 ever being held in a gloomier time for our country. In his inauguration in 2017, Donald Trump spoke at length about "American carnage." Little did we know that he was predicting the future, not exorcising our past.

At one point on 9/11/01, I drove out to the Memphis airport, got out of the car and looked out over the tarmac where I saw something I'd never seen before and never hope to see again: scores of planes covering the landscape, as far as the eye could see. All planes in the air that morning, of course, had been ordered to land at the nearest airport when the second tower was hit just after 9 a.m. EDT.

I remember getting home at some point, when I started rooting around in the garage for a small American flag that I remembered was in there somewhere. When I finally found it, I stuck it in the ground in front of my azaleas along the curb. It stayed there for a few years.

Right now there's a "Biden for President" yard sign stuck in the same spot where that flag once stood.  When the sun comes up in the morning, I'm going to root around the garage again; hopefully, I'll find it, and put it right next to my "Biden for President" yard sign. We should all do the same. After all, there is only one American patriot running for president this year. The other guy is a scoundrel and probably guilty of treason.

The dam truly broke against Donald Trump this past week. It started last weekend with The Atlantic's article on the president's disgraceful attitudes towards the military. But that was a mere bagatelle compared to the release of Bob Woodward's taped conversations with Trump, made last spring while he was writing "Rage," the book he released to reviewers early this week. 

Within its pages were weapons of political destruction the like of which few heads of states have ever unleashed upon themselves. In my wildest imaginings, I never would have considered that Donald Trump would admit that he knew the coronavirus crisis was in fact very real, let alone that Bob Woodward would capture that admission on tape. 

I found myself wondering what Richard Nixon might say, were he still alive. I know one thing for certain: even Nixon himself would be appalled. Tricky Dick had his issues, but at least had something of a soul. Donald J. Trump most certainly does not.

Amazingly, but predictably, the Republican Party has said and done nothing in regard to this outrage. All but one of the GOP's senators kept their mouths shut, becoming in a very real sense accomplices in this president's crimes. Remarkably, as Tammie Wynette used to say, the whole bunch of quislings have decided to stand by their man

On Thursday night on Fox News, I watched, almost spellbound, Donald Trump's fire-and-brimstone speech in a cramped Michigan airplane hangar, livening up some 5,000 adoring fans. Masks were few and far between, but MAGA hats and blood-red shirts were everywhere. And the crowd hung on the scoundrel's every word.

It pains me to say this, but I'm afraid that Honest Abe Lincoln had it all wrong. You can indeed fool some of the people all the time. Or so it seems in this country now living, almost two decades after 9/11, on the verge another national nightmare. Everybody pray. 

Item number one with week is last week's column from Paul Krugman, one of my favorites, a gifted economist and equally fine writer as well. Funny, this is the first time I can recall Krugman ever opining about something completely apart from economics: Trump's coronavirus response. I find his logic here impeccable.

Item number two is a breaking-news brief coming out of Minneapolis, where the George Floyd murder-trial preliminaries are underway at last. Evidently, Derek Chauvin is a very bad guy, one who gives whole new meaning to the phrase "bad cop." Stay tuned.



As short as number two is, number three is 9,000 words long. Don't let that deter you; the author of this New Yorker piece is Dexter Filkins, the long-form writer who did the brilliant New Yorker piece on contemporary Iran that was on this weekly page a couple of months ago. Filkins here provides the two-decade story of who gets to vote in Florida, chronicling the Republican Party's efforts to limit the franchise in the Sunshine State since 2000. 


On Thursday last week, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected any changes in Florida's current former-felon voting procedures. Read Filkins first, then check out this ruling.  Remarkably, six of the twelve judges on this particular Court of Appeals court were appointed by Donald Trump. Good work, Mitch; mission accomplished! My sympathies and best wishes this weekend go out to an Oregon friend, who, like tens of thousands in that state, has been rendered homeless in the conflagration that is devastating Oregon. A mutual friend reports: "Craig's grandfather's ranch, where he and wife Janice had been living in what seemed to be retirement paradise, burned down yesterday. From what he says, it looks like the entire town of Elkhorn, Oregon is gone. Very sad news. Fortunately, he reports his family and beloved cat and donkey Max appear to be safe."  We need a West Coast fire cataclysm right now like we need a collective hole in the head.  And of course, Donald's already saying it's all Oregon's own fault, as he threatens not to send federal aid.   used to think Donald Trump was severely mentally ill.  No more.  He's simply a poor excuse for a human being.


Kenneth Neill was Publisher and CEO of Memphis magazine and the Memphis Flyer for over 35 years, and he splits his time between Memphis and Montana, where he contributes to the Montana Press.