- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why do undisputed titans of stage and screen — think Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep — turn into mental midgets when they talk about President Trump?

Whatever the cause, the biggest disappointment of the Trump presidency for me is what it has been revealing about people so hugely talented that they make exquisitely chiseled characters leap pulsatingly and indelibly to life from the pages of a script — and blessedly relieve me of my own worries for 90 minutes or so.

Think Mr. De Niro as the young Vito Corleone in “Godfather II,” as Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” as Michael in “The Deer Hunter” and on and on.

Now think of Mr. De Niro demeaning himself and his craft Tuesday night when introducing Miss Streep for an award.

“This f—-ing idiot is the president,” he says of Mr. Trump. “It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. The guy is a f—-ing fool. ‘The Jerkoff-in-chief’ I call him.”

No, Mr. De Niro, the expression is “The emperor has no clothes.”

I think Mr. Trump would have got that right. And understood the purport.

But what so enrages you about the 45th president, Mr. De Niro? Do you know? Can you articulate it? Can you discuss your policy differences with the president intelligently — or at all? Can you be specific instead of hurling epithets? Can you play that role or do you need to memorize someone else’s script?

I’ve found deep flaws in every president in my lifetime, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Donald Trump. Sometimes the ones I’ve reported on and liked the most personally turned out to be the worst, in war and peace. And I’ve told them so as part of my job. But never in the condescending, ugly, mean way that you did, Mr. De Niro, when you thought your were belittling Mr. Trump. It was actually yourself who you belittled.

As for Miss Streep, when she criticized Mr. Trump, then the president-elect, in her acceptance of a Golden Globe award on Jan. 15, 2017, she had a perfectly legitimate gripe about his having publicly imitated — yes, belittled — a disabled reporter during the campaign. What Mr. Trump did made me wince a bit, but it was so much in tune with what we had learned about the man’s standard method of operation, I and millions of others were able to laugh it off, although a bit guiltily.

Nonetheless, The Donald had made it clear from the start that if you went after him, misreported something he did, called him a name, he’ll punch you back, instantly if not sooner.

What rubbed so many of us the wrong way was why in accepting a lifetime acting award, Miss Streep, a big-time Hillary Clinton supporter, would choose that moment to criticize the president. Her criticism had nothing to do with the awards event. Her vituperation couldn’t change the outcome of an election already held.

Think “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Iron Lady,” “Out of Africa,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Julie & Julia,” “Mama Mia” and on and on.

Now think: Why did such a great lady of the screen choose so inappropriate a moment to heap opprobrium on the president-elect?

What was she thinking?

Was she thinking?

As for me, I have only a lament, not an answer.

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