Ever since the “Access Hollywood” tapes emerged I’ve been beset with hypocrites on my TV set telling me “that’s just locker room talk,” and now the Director of WH Communications launches an expletive replete rant and “that’s just the way New Yorkers’ talk,” and “that’s just the way some people express themselves.”
NO. In regard to the Access Hollywood commentary, that’s not “locker room” talk — that’s what junior high boys sound like when they imagine what goes on in a locker room with occupants older and more mature than themselves. It’s the kind of talk that starts fights in locker rooms when some immature mouth implies something crude about someone else’s female relative or girl friend. It’s not only crude and impolite, it’s disrespectful and demeaning. It has NO place in public discourse, and for that matter it’s not even excusable at the far end of the bar. The speaker may believe he’s among friends — he probably isn’t. He’ll be the topic of discussion when those “friends” go home, and probably wouldn’t like the conclusions drawn in those private discussions. I did just enough bar-tending in a former life to know what happens after that guy at the end of the bar totters out. “Wow, he’s really off tonight. I wonder how she (spouse) puts up with him?” “She doesn’t put up with him, that’s why she got the kids out of there.” “What a jerk.” And so it goes.
NO. Expletive laced rants aren’t necessarily a product of living in Manhattan. I don’t recall other famous New Yorkers who felt the need to mouth off in profanity when a standard, civil, vocabulary would do, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Kareem Abdul Jabbar…and the list goes on. No, this is the language of the Manhattan gutters, not the New York of MOMA, the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway theaters, and the United Nations. It is the language of those who feel it’s a sign of strength to sound like the rude construction worker who embarrasses his friends with his behavior; language his cohorts would never dream of using in front of their families. Again, it’s that guy at the end of the bar who mistakenly believes those surrounding him are his friends, who errantly thinks what he says is acceptable because no one calls him out immediately.
NO. It’s not acceptable to speak of questionable behavior at a cocktail party to a gathering of boy scouts, nor is it a good idea to undermine the efforts of chiefs of police to require respectful and legal forms of detention of members of the general population.
NO. This isn’t a matter of Freedom of Speech. It’s interesting that several commentators on mass media who heretofore have wailed about the use of the N-word by members of the African American community are stridently waving the Free Speech banner. If using a totally unacceptable term like the N-word demeans and degrades the African American portion of our population, would not the use of scatological terms demean and degrade the rest of our nation’s citizen? It’s not a matter of “free” speech it’s a matter of appropriate speech.
It’s not appropriate for a president of the United States to sound like what he imagines a dockworker would sound like — not that he might even know any dockworkers personally. It’s not appropriate for a president of the United States to sound off in favor of thuggish behavior. It’s not appropriate to use the Boy Scouts as a backdrop for a campaign rally. It’s not appropriate for members in his immediate circle to use language that embarrasses 99% of the population. Even Harry Truman, known for dropping a few salty expressions into his spiels, would never have tolerated this kind of parlance. Bess Truman’s major problem was getting Harry to use “Darn” instead of “Damn.” The Redoubtable Bess would have the current Director of Communications behind the wood shed.
The president says he can be more “presidential” than anyone except maybe Abraham Lincoln (and perhaps Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, … Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Hayes, Garfield…Wilson, Coolidge, Taft, Hoover…Eisenhower, Kennedy … Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush…Bush, Obama) let him demonstrate it. Let his administration set a tone of civility. Let his administration illustrate restraint, discipline, and decorum. Letting “Trump be Trump” has proven a remarkable failure; perhaps one that even a newly minted Chief of Staff can’t overcome.