- - Sunday, May 15, 2016


Privacy matters, just not in a public restroom. President Obama, still searching for a legacy, may have finally found one in the toilet with his “order” on Friday to every public school district in America to make their restrooms “gender-neutral.” This apparently means that if a boy feels like a girl, he can “identify” as one, and use the ladies’ loo. And vice versa, though given the female fear of the upright toilet seat there’s not likely to be much of a market for versa.

The president’s order is more threat than order, since he has neither constitutional nor legislative authority to issue such an order, but he threatens to withhold federal money from school districts that won’t desegregate restrooms. It’s another example, perhaps, of the president’s determination to “lead from behind.” It’s certainly a fresh example of the president’s determination to make up laws to fit into his agenda, whether he has the authority to do so or not.

The administration’s obsession with race descends from the outrageous to the ludicrous. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch even likens the fight over who goes where “to go” to the struggle to eliminate Jim Crow law and custom in the South of yesteryear. It’s ironic that the dispute over where to properly accommodate the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population of the United States (by federal estimate) who are “transgender,” or yearn to be, has become a great national issue, like arms control or when and whether to go to war. Not everybody hears a call to arms, but everyone has heard the call of nature, and thus the controversy gets legs. What a country!

It’s further ironic that a culture so squeamish (or well-mannered) about talking about the body and its functions should suddenly get so caught up with adventures in a place that we can’t even agree on what to call it. No one wants to be so uncouth as to call it a “toilet,” which originally meant a place to wash in the process of dressing. The overly fastidious resort to saying “bathroom,” though no one has ever seen an actual bather in a public restroom. Some people call it a “john,” presumably named after Sir John Harrington, a godson of Queen Elizabeth I who is credited with inventing the modern flush toilet. Our limey cousins, however, prefer the term “loo,” particularly for the ladies, which is a Britishism for the French “lieux d’aisances, or “places of ease.” That brings the conversation back to the restroom.

Josh Earnest, the president’s press agent (another euphemism, since he actually has no press experience) says President Obama was only offering “practical, tangible, real-world suggestions to school administrators who have to deal with this issue.” The challenge for the president, he says, “is not to isolate anybody,” but isolation, if only for a moment, is exactly what everybody craves in a restroom/bathroom/john/loo.

The real issue seriously at stake is about the overweening power of the federal government to interfere with the rights of the states to use common sense to decide something so fundamental as to regulate who gets to use which restroom. Presidents were once free to think about statecraft. Any one of Mr. Obama’s predecessors would have told his petty bureaucrats to cut the crap.

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