- - Sunday, January 14, 2018


The civil society seems to be in better hands than anyone imagined. Unfortunately, the hands are those of snowflakes, easy to melt, and forever seeking a safe place where reality never intrudes.

Naughty talk is not nice. Everyone, even those who swear like drunken journalists and make curses of the names of God, can agree that President Trump occasionally makes them look for a fainting couch. He shouldn’t do that. He’s the president, after all, and it’s no good to plead that most presidents before him occasionally said bad words, too.

The president gave the snowflakes, particularly on Capitol Hill and in the snowy white media, new opportunities to tut-tut when he observed in a private conversation that he and everyone in the conversation understood was confidential, that certain furriners sometimes drive him up the wall. The president’s mistake was forgetting that in Washington nothing is confidential.

The president’s further sin was using rough language, the kind that someone might hear in a sawmill camp, a teenage boys’ camp-out, a construction site or even on a ladies’ night out. Several U.S. senators were sitting around the table with him, and he should have remembered that rough language unsettles a senator.

Describing several third-world countries by a term best restricted to an outhouse, as holes where human feces are frequently deposited, was thoughtless, and just because former presidents have used such language is no excuse. Rough presidential language nevertheless happens.

A friend of Bess Truman once asked her to implore President Truman not to use the word “horse manure” in conversations with friends. “My dear,” the first lady at the moment replied, “you have no idea how difficult it was to get him to use the word ‘manure’.” Lyndon Johnson employed language rowdy enough to make Donald Trump swoon, with the infamous n-word flying hither and yon through the White House. Richard Nixon’s vulgar slang occasionally melted the magnetic tape on which naughty words were recorded. Even the Founding Fathers sometimes abandoned the polished phrases of speech familiar to every schoolboy, and resorted to the language of frustration. George Washington was a soldier, after all, and like most soldiers heard words he would not repeat in front of Martha or his mother.

More serious was Mr. Trump’s description of Haiti, El Salvador “and African countries” as reeking of the outhouse. Presidents should be more careful than this. Tact, alas, is not one of Donald Trump’s several virtues. Nor is it an excuse to say that millions of Haitians, Salvadorans and natives of several African countries agree with Mr. Trump’s description of their countries because they are making every effort to abandon such countries to flee an unpleasant aroma.

Many notabilities of the media, particularly the television grandees who rarely get to express a thought they think up on their own, rushed to denounce Mr. Trump’s “bigotry.” But he did not use the infamous n-word, and news of his remark did not come to light in a presidential tweet or a statement meant to be heard, but from a senator with a reputation among his fellows as a schnook unable to keep a confidence. The low-wattage stars of CNN got to repeat the unexpurgated outhouse word 22 times on the first day after the great diplomatic catastrophe, like first-graders liberated from mommy’s supervision to say “pee-pee” and “doo-doo” with happy abandon.

The good news, sort of, for all those unable to get up from their fainting couches, is that this, too, will pass, and mostly already has. The greatest entertainer since Al Jolson will soon shock with something else.

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