Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“Trump – Mean, Misunderstood, or…?”
November 6, 2017
“Because they are mean is no reason why I should be. I hate such things,
and though I think I have the right to be hurt, I don’t intend to show it.”
Little Women, 1868
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
The campaign to sully Donald Trump’s reputation is without precedent. Of course, much of it is his own doing. It was, after all, Mr. Trump who created monikers like “little” Marco, “low energy” Jeb and “crooked” Hillary. Genius for inventing names, even those with a modicum of truth, is not appreciated by those assigned them. But, does such behavior suggest meanness? We read that some who have had business dealings with Mr. Trump claim to have been cheated. Some friends that I like and respect think he is mean. Others disagree. Is he? I don’t know; though those who know him best think he is not, but they may be biased. I don’t know the man. Once, years ago, I was introduced to him at the ‘21’ Club in New York – a matter of about thirty seconds, hardly enough time to form an opinion. On the other hand, mainstream media, along with coastal elites and Washington mandarins, have no qualms claiming the President to be a deceitful, undignified, crude, misogynist, xenophobic bigot. But, keep in mind, these are the same people who told us Ronald Reagan was a dumb movie star and that George W. Bush was a brainless spoiled brat. Perhaps partisanship plays a role? Unlike his Republican predecessors who either used humor to deflect criticism or who ignored such jabs, Mr. Trump fights back.
Politics, as has been said many times, is a blood sport – a game, at least in recent years, better played by the Left than the Right. But, Mr. Trump is a man who plays hard ball, just as do Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. In the absence of a return to civility, which seems unlikely, we will have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like. Both Parties would do well to re-read the proverb about people in glass houses not throwing stones, but my guess is they won’t. And the media sees what it wants to see.
Mr. Trump is a manifestation of our culture and politics. He did not suddenly appear, like a Phoenix. As Hoover Institute Fellow Victor Davis Hanson wrote last May, “Critics miss the fact that Trump is not a catalyst, but a reflection of contemporary culture.” In politics, we get what we deserve.
Decency, respect, civility have withered. Historically, our culture – the civil behavior that guides our lives – was based on our Christian-Judeo heritage. Today, we live in a changed, multi-layered society. Political correctness has replaced common sense. Church attendance is down. Each year, the United States loses about 3000 churches, and about 2.7 million church members become inactive. Bricks and mortar do not make a good Christian, or a good person; but attendance encourages reflection and fellowship – important ingredients in civil society. Manners, likewise, have long disappeared. Opening car doors for women is considered sexist, as is saying, “ladies first.” Instead, pornography, graphic sex, vulgarities proliferate. Our historical culture has been subsumed by a multi-culturalism unrecognizable to prior generations. Respect is no longer innate. It is legislated, as in California’s Gender Recognition Act, while our flag is disrespected by NFL players. Patriotism today has a negative connotation. It is confused with nationalism, yet the former demands responsibility as well as love for one’s country, while the latter infers blind obeisance.
Where have honesty and respect for political office gone? Sixty-five years ago, ex-President Truman drove himself and his wife back to Missouri. When offered a corporate board seat, he declined. “You don’t want me. You want the office of the President, and it’s not for sale.” Fast forward to 2001. Since leaving the White House, the Clinton’s amassed a fortune by selling connections made possible by the Presidency. So has Al Gore, even though he had only the Vice Presidency to offer. Dozens of members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have seen elected office lead to private gain. We live in Madonna’s “Material World.” The rich and famous are idolized in the press. “Super” mansions have replaced “McMansions.” Politicians don’t want to be left out. They like the accoutrements wealth brings.
Lenny Bruce shocked audiences sixty years ago, with words in common usage today – in songs, movies and late-night comedy shows. Listen to rap musicians, look at most video games. We have become inured to vulgarity. Snoop Dogg’s new album cover shows a dead President Trump lying on a slab in a morgue, below a taste-less caption: “Make America ‘Crip’ Again” Your parents and grandparents would have been horrified at such language and images. The Left claims to be the defender of equality, yet, as we know, work place harassment has not been limited to those on the Right. Ann Althouse of the University of Wisconsin Law School says the Harvey Weinsteins of the world have set back women’s rights twenty years.
A double standard has become standard. Elementary school children in Burlington, New Jersey were taught to sing praises to their “savior,” Barack Obama, in 2009. Last month in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an elementary school librarian dismissed Melania Trump’s gift: “We don’t want your books.” Do universities and a biased media affect what people think? Of course. Bill Clinton had an intern perform oral sex on him, yet his approval ratings averaged over 50%. Kathy Griffin appeared on national television holding a mask of the severed head of Donald Trump, yet he is regularly referred to as a Nazi and murderer by late-night hosts, and his ratings are in the mid-30% range. Where have standards gone? What values do these actions – and their responses – teach the next generations? What do they say about us? Is it no wonder that authoritarians in Russia, China and the Middle East see the West as a civilization in decline?
Mr. Trump is no Saint, and he was not my first choice during the primaries, but neither is he the devil. We cannot have two sets of standards – one for hypocritical, Washington liberals adored by coastal elites, the media and Hollywood, and another for the man favored by middle class families across America’s midsection.
What is needed is a re-assertion of belief in the essential goodness of our Christian-Judeo culture, with its focus on individual freedom, human rights, rule of law and respect for others. Our culture has proved superior to others, as has our system of government. We need politicians, optimistic for the future, who emphasize that democracy and free-market capitalism have been better for liberty and the world’s poor, than totalitarianism and socialism. We should be reminded that it has been these traits that have made America a beacon to the world’s poor and oppressed. We are not perfect. Like each of us, our Country is a work in progress. It constantly needs small adjustments. But we should not be ashamed of who we are.
Is Trump mean, or is he misunderstood? Perhaps he is both, but I would suggest neither. I am not convinced he is mean, or certainly no meaner than your average Washington politician. As for being misunderstood, I suspect anti-Trumpers know exactly what he is. He is an anti-establishment figure, at a time when the establishment is mired in the muck of self-righteous hubris. Mr. Trump has, as Holman Jenkins recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, a “clarion contempt” for Washington’s politicians and the swamp that surrounds them. He is a maverick, so a risk to those who feed off and prosper on a diet of hypocrisy and self-serving sanctimony. But, he is also a negotiator, so may help ward off inflexible extremists on the Left and the Right, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.