It was around this time two years ago when Donald Trump thought it'd be a good idea to give the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to the wife of a Republican megadonor. A Washington Post analysis noted at the time that Miriam Adelson's medal reflected "a growing pattern: one of Trump awarding a large majority of such medals ... to supporters, to Republicans, and to recipients who fit his political agenda."
Two years later, as the outgoing president awarded former football coach Lou Holtz with the nation's highest civilian honor, the pattern remains unchanged. Politico noted yesterday:
Holtz has been a vocal Trump supporter and has long been affiliated with Republican politics, including flirting with a congressional run in 2009. Holtz spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention, where he denigrated the faith of now-President-elect Joe Biden and other politicians as "Catholics in name only" for their position on abortion. Holtz's rhetoric drew an admonishment from Notre Dame's president, Fr. John Jenkins, who said "we must never question the sincerity of another's faith."
In fact, it was the week after Holtz used his Republican convention to attack Joe Biden's faith that Trump announced that he'd reward the retired coach with the Medal of Freedom.
If it seems like this keeps happening, it's not your imagination. Trump has honored 16 people with the award, most of whom are politically aligned with the president. The list includes:
- Antonin Scalia, the late conservative Supreme Court justice
- Miriam Adelson, the wife a Republican megadonor
- Orrin Hatch, a former Republican senator
- Roger Staubach, an athlete and longtime conservative Republican
- Arthur Laffer, a derided Republican economist
- Edwin Meese, a highly controversial former Republican attorney general
- Mariano Rivera, an athlete and Trump supporter
- Roger Penske, a businessman and Republican donor
- Rush Limbaugh, a far-right media personality
- Jim Ryun, a former Republican congressman
- Lou Holtz, a former coach and longtime Republican
In case this isn't obvious, this honor hasn't traditionally been politicized, and presidents haven't traditionally seen it as a reward for political allies.
Going forward, perhaps we can make the Presidential Medal of Freedom great again?