EDITORIAL: Decorum a two-way street, Mr. President
There are probably better examples of irony than President Trump lecturing reporters that “You have to practice decorum” but, offhand, none leap to mind.
Because in statements before and after his weekend admonition, President “Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do” was indecorous and then some.
Where was the decorum, for example, in the president’s Twitter message Sunday, in which he replaced the last two letters of California House Democrat Adam Schiff’s last name with the letter “t”? It was another unseemly, childish display from an unseemly, childish president.
Congressional Republicans, reflecting the moral authority and principled leadership now associated with the party, didn’t say a darned thing. Why they sit idly by while the ostensible leader of the free world fires off Twitter messages they wouldn’t allow their fourth-graders to send is beyond comprehension.
Know what else is beyond comprehension (Trump’s comprehension, anyway)? The Constitution. His tweet criticized Schiff for “talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller … was not approved by the Senate!” Never mind that Cabinet-level officers require Senate confirmation; special prosecutors do not.
Trump wasn’t done flinging out insults or showing off his lack of knowledge. In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace broadcast Sunday, Trump disparaged retired four-star Adm. William McRaven, who led the mission to take out 9/11 terrorist Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The Navy SEAL commander, who is battling cancer, has been critical of Trump for, among other things, revoking former CIA Director John Brenan’s security clearance and labeling the media “the enemy of the people.”
When asked about the criticism by Wallace, Trump first dismissed McRaven as “a Hillary Clinton backer,” then complained he hadn’t acted quickly enough: “Would it have been nicer if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it been nice?”
As anyone with even remote knowledge of the events could have told Trump, the SEALs went in soon after bin Laden’s whereabouts were confirmed — by the CIA, for which McRaven did not work.
Major General Mark Hertling, a retired three-star general who served with McRaven, was not only succinct but wholly accurate when he termed Trump’s statements “jackassery.”
That word could also describe the president’s actions over the Veterans Day weekend.
It was bad enough that Trump was the only head of state in France who couldn’t navigate the raindrops to attend memorial services at an American burial ground outside Paris honoring the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It was an even bigger affront that, back in Washington, Trump blew off memorial services at Arlington National Cemetery — just a few minutes’ drive from the White House — on Veterans Day.
Added to his ongoing refusal to visit troops overseas and his incessant criticisms of the military in general, those who have served (the late Sen. John McCain) and military families (Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son died in service), Trump’s record is an insult to every American previously or presently in uniform.
So, yes, Mr. President, decorum is in order. It is in order in our political discourse, in our communications with fellow Americans, and in our international relations. And there has been precious little of it coming from the commander in chief.
It would seem one of the simplest tasks a president could shoulder: To model respectful behavior; to engage in mannered discourse; to lead by example in matters of decorum.
In the case of Donald Trump, it is instead yet another on the long list of tasks at which he has miserably, embarrassingly failed.