Be not hasty

Staff Columnist

These two good ideas are the 50th and 79th Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. – In (The  Vertigo Presidency,   (By Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, March 7, 2017).

These dictums are generally attributed to George Washington, our first President, although they appear to have been copied by him from a Jesuit manuscript dated in the late  16th Century.  These are thought to be good rules for just about anyone.  Mr. Stephens takes it from there.  The target should be obvious.

I questioned several of my classically educated colleagues without turning up the Jesuit connection (Mr. Stephens did.) Mr. Trump is a contemporary of mine from New York; I’m as sure as I can be that he was not “Jesuit trained”.  I am not either; Irish Christian Brothers and Notre Dame, but not Jesuits. We continue.

Bret Stephens: “Care to name a political figure who might be well-served by observing  such rules today?  We are now in the seventh week of Donald Trump’s presidency, and if fair-minded detractors and fans of his administration can agree on anything, it’s that this is not going well.  Mr. Trump isn’t simply failing on terms set by his opponents,  which is a given for most presidents.  He is failing on his supporters terms too.

Last weekend brought the latest self self-inflicted wound via Mr. Trump’s early-morning tweet that Barack Obama ‘had my wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the election.  For good measure, the president added that his predecessor’s behavior was reminiscent of Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon.”

More:  Stephen’s words, “Or, maybe an intemperate and verbally incontinent 70-year old man prone to believing dubious  conspiracy  theories, just let fly on Twitter at 6:35 a.m., and to hell with the consequences.  And now the entire machinery of government must again get in gear to contain the political fallout.

If such episodes occurred once or twice in a presidential term, they might not matter much.  But the president’s supporters ought at least to ask themselves how much of his political capital has now been squandered on spiteful fusillades intended to settle pointless scores.”

Continuing more seriously: “Except for this: No presidency is ever about nothing.  And the something that the Trump administration is fast becoming about is its own paranoia, incompetence and recklessness, all playing out in vertigo inducing ways.  The

The president of the United States has now publicly denounced his predecessor  as a  ‘bad (or sick) guy!’Mr. Obama will shrug it off, but what happens when someone just as prickly as Mr. Trump – Xi Jinping for instance, or Kim Jong Un – takes the next asinine tweet seriously?

That’s a scary thought, but the scarier one is Mr. Trump’s methodical  corruption of the presidency – or more accurately, the concept of the presidency.  In his new biography of Washington, John Rhodehamel eloquently describes the founding father’s ‘deliberate creation of the public character that gave him the moral authority to lead the quarrelsome collection of former colonies into sturdy nationhood.”

Some might say that this moral authority is being dissipated at a fast rate. Let us hope not.  There is much to be done.  A new team is almost in place.  The American People think they know what the new president

means to do for them.  They did win.  We might be pleasantly surprised.

But be careful.


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