Friday, 18 Jan 2019

Why Trump's vicious rhetoric was relevant – and important – to note during Bush's funeral

When President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump appeared before former President George H. W. Bush's funeral on Wednesday was inherently embarrassing – and it showed. Here he was sitting next to three other living presidents and their spouses – whom he had almost all attacked at one time or another.

I noticed it on Twitter and I had a bit of repulsion for that.

Perhaps the most common criticism on social media was that all these things were, in fact, true. But this implies continuing to subscribe to the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, which is not a serious argument. (The other three are more subjective, although I would like to point out numbers 2 and 3 involve declaring someone guilty without due process, which …)

A more valid criticism – and the one I am going to discuss here – was that raising old political quarrels that day was a left or betrayal of a kind of reflexive desire to make everything negative and negative towards Trump. Basically, the argument is that it was free. This argument has been prolonged by the fact that Trump's attacks on his predecessors and spouses are exactly what the political game is, and that we unjustly place Trump with his words in a dark opportunity.

Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner presented a case like this in an article titled "Incivility Worsened, But It Did not Start With Trump":

Trump is the worst offender today, and his critics are piled high. Check out this tweet from Aaron Blake, of the Washington Post, which lists the worst insults he has subjected to each grieving person. He said Obama was illegitimate, Hillary Clinton should be thrown in jail and Jimmy Carter was the second-worst president ever to hold the Oval Office. All this is nasty, unprecedented.

Wegmann admits that Trump's attacks are more severe than those launched by other presidential candidates in recent years, but then turn to historical examples. Lyndon Johnson said Gerald Ford "played football too much without his helmet". Teddy Roosevelt had stated that William McKinley had "no more spine than a flash of chocolate". Andrew Jackson had declared "to have only two regrets: I do not shoot at Henry Clay and I did not hang John C. Calhoun.

He keeps on:

None of this is meant to excuse incivility, not to mention violence. Do not understand me badly. The fact is that politicians are a vicious type by temperament. Maybe Trump is worse because Trump is more direct. But it would be dishonest to ignore past history and make fun of the current president. It would also be bad for the health of our country.

Incivility did not start with Trump. It is the product of the rude nature of politics, a development that we should try to overcome. But let the little politicians hate each other. The real problem begins with a divided America where neighbors face each other. To pretend that our problems will end when Trump leaves the White House, to fantasize about a political era as civil as ever, prevents us from tackling more fundamental problems.

There are some interesting points, but the main theme seems to be that Trump's rhetoric is actually quite mundane and did not deserve such attention on Wednesday. I just disagree.

While other politicians have undoubtedly made and said unpleasant things – some tied and, of course, even more nasty than Trump – Trump has significantly raised (or perhaps lowered) the bar of the game. modern political history. Even this quote from Johnson was rather pleasant. Roosevelt, who says that McKinley has no scruples, is quite normal, and does not really call an illegitimate or a criminal. And Jackson, once revered, is now a bit notorious for his brutality as president. Even going back almost 200 years for comparisons, these do not really plead for Trump's rhetoric to be remarkable and exceptionally personal.

But even if they did, the fact is we're seeing a change now. It should be noted that our policy is strengthened every time this happens, even after a period of smoothing. As a society, we seek to find a balance between politics and unhealthy rhetoric. This needle was removed from Jackson's present day for a very good reason: atrocities were committed and we entered the civil war.

As for the relevance of noting Trump's comments that day, every day? It was the rare day when he was sitting next to the former presidents and first ladies that he had criticized for being illegitimate, criminal or simply awful. It seemed strange, with the Obama squeezing his hand and Melania Trump's, but the Clintons did not really recognize their entry. This is a moment in which Trump's exaggerated criticism of the former occupants of our country in the White House has all rushed into the same picture. It can not be repeated.

I understand that the funeral should be George H. W. Bush and his presidency; I hope that overall, this remains the case. But the tributes to Bush's historically distinguished approach to politics have provided an opportunity to take stock of how far he has come from his presidency and the fact that it is appropriate for a US president to table conspiracy theories. unfounded against his opponents talk of imprisoning them.

Giving a pass to Trump at that time and pretending that he was just another of the presidents sitting in that row would be to ignore an elephant in the room and pretend that this is normal for a president of that time. This is not the case and it was an opportunity to raise the issue and allow people to draw their own conclusions.

They can decide whether the president who sits at the funeral of a president alongside all the other presidents actually acts as a president.


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