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Trump on Obama vs. Truman on Hoover

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Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States (1929-1933), a Republican, had the distinct disadvantage of serving when the Great Depression struck the nation. That economic catastrophe “brought Hoover into public disrepute,” forever tarring his reputation, and led to his defeat by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president.

However, the 33rd president, Harry Truman, a Democrat, had a different view of his predecessor. “[H]e was actually a president who tried hard and did the best he possibly could,” Truman wrote his in blunt memoir, “Where the Buck Stops.” He added, “We had very different viewpoints…but…we were always friendly, and I was always very fond of him. I think he was an honorable, straightforward person [who] had no thought or interest other than the welfare of the people…”.

Now, here are selected quotes from the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, like Hoover a Republican, on the 44th, Barack Obama, a Democrat. (Quotes here and here and here and here.)

Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud,”

“He’s a threat to our country.”

“He may be the worst thing to every happen to Israel.”

“He’s the worst president maybe in the history of our country.”

“He’s the founder of ISIS.”

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped.’”

“While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart.”

“Do [the] country a favor and FIRE HIM!”

“They [Obama and family] love to spend on the taxpayer’s dime.”

I heard he was a terrible student, terrible.”

How far we’ve come from the high road into the gutter, or, I should say, how we’ve allowed Donald J. Trump to pull us into the muck and slime. Once upon a time American presidents were gentlemen. Yes, they fought and argued; there was no love lost between Truman and Eisenhower, for example. But by and large, U.S. presidents have understood that being Chief Executive meant they had to display honorable conduct, and speak in honorable ways, in order to lift the country and inspire honorable behavior in the people.

Obama maintained that honor and dignity. He was and remains a gentleman, in the classic sense of the word: fair-minded, polite even to his political opponents, dignified in public, an example of how most moms and dads would want their sons and daughters to be when they grow up.

All that changed when Donald J. Trump was elected, and his public insulting and disparaging of Obama is the most salient proof. (Can you even conceive of Trump calling Obama “honorable”?) Now, Trump and his family—his wife, his older sons, his daughter—routinely complain about how unfair the media and Democrats treat him, and yes, that is frequently true, both here and abroad: Trump and his family are being given a rough time. But does the family ever acknowledge who started this spat? Do they ever wonder why so many people are so disgusted by Donald J. Trump? Do they even know of his smears, lies and incitements against the 44th president (and so many others)? Do they excuse it by simply saying, “Oh, that’s just The Donald”?

I think we know the answers to these questions. Trump has lowered the American presidency to its coarsest, most vulgar level ever, into a place of darkness, meanness, spitefulness, mendacity and vengefulness. It is very, very ugly. Quite frankly, if you’re not missing Obama now, poignantly, there’s something wrong with you.

 

 

 

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    “But by and large, U.S. presidents have understood that being Chief Executive meant they had to display honorable conduct, and speak in honorable ways,”
    I’m reminded of this almost daily by Trump’s statements about Obama, the media, etc. I think: Is this really the President of the US saying these things? It sounds more like what you’d hear at a low-class bar.
    Even Nixon mostly kept his public statements at a somewhat rational level, at least until things got really bad and he started to drink too much. And even then most of his worst statements were probably said in private.

  2. Bob – you insult low-class bars by your statement! (I love dive bars.) I sometimes wonder if Trump’s “4-dimensional chess” includes the bafflement you refer to in yourself. “Did he really say/tweet that?” It may be that he’s anesthetizing us against being outraged, so that he can be more and more outrageous.

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