OPINION: ‘Now, Now. Let’s Not Have Any Of That’ — Media Uses H.W. Bush’s Death To Take Shots At Trump

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Jim Huffman Dean Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Law School
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Even the death of a former president evokes criticism of the current president. It seems many in the media cannot resist taking every opportunity to express their outrage over President Donald Trump.

President George Herbert Walker Bush died on Friday. He was a war hero, an entrepreneur, a member of Congress, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the Liaison Office in China, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President of the United States and the 41st president of the United States.

Yet in the second paragraph of its lengthy editorial about the former president, the New York Times observed that “it is difficult not to take note of the profound differences between the 41st president of the United States and the current occupant of the White House, Donald Trump.”

The Times editorial board described Bush as “gracious and modest,” “prudent” and “steady.” Of Trump, they wrote “rude and vain,” “brash” and “unmoored.” All true, in both cases, but is this the time for yet another attack on the sitting president?

Within the hour after learning of the former president’s death, CNN’s ever self-righteous Don Lemon told his viewers that CNN correspondent Jamie Gangel’s account of President Bush’s many virtues necessarily invited comparison to the sitting president.

The Daily Caller reported that on ABC’s “The View,” Joy Behar — over the objections of Meghan McCain — used Bush’s death to condemn President Trump. But it turns out that McCain had earlier succumbed to the same temptation when she attacked Trump, on the occasion of her father’s funeral, by contrasting their sacrifices (or lack thereof, in Trump’s case) for the nation. No doubt there are many other examples. The temptation must be overwhelming.

The morning after President Bush’s death, even Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition could not resist the opportunity to invite a critique of Trump.

In an interview with former Bush speech-writer Christopher Buckley, Simon asked, “Can we draw distinctions between the kind of president he was and what we see in the country now?”

Buckley responded: “Oh, Scott, there will be time for that conversation … But I think George — I can almost hear George Bush right now saying, ‘Now, now. Let’s not have any of that. He was a Christian gentleman.'”

Indeed, let’s not have any of that.  But that was a different time, recent as it was. As Lance Morrow wrote in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal: “Outrage has become the signature emotion of American life.”

Not compassion. Not tolerance, not understanding, but outrage. If George Herbert Walker Bush knew outrage, he found no need to let the world know, and the world was better for it.

Trump’s coarse manner and contempt for the truth is outrageous. But constant outrage on the part of the media only invites more outrageous conduct by the president, followed by outrage from his detractors, followed by outrage from his supporters.

An endless cycle of outrage that makes reasoned governance impossible. Oh, for a president who would say, “Now, now. Let’s not have any of that.”

James Huffman is dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.