I often ignore the current hair-on-fire responses to the latest Trump tweet until I see whether it will last beyond the next Trump tweet. These constant howls of outrage over everything Trump says and does are starting to make me feel like the owner of a dog that barks at everything. At some point, you stop leaping out of bed to see if there’s a burglar and just start fantasizing about kicking the dog. But in the past couple of days, there have been a couple of flare-ups that seem to have legs and illustrate larger points. So let’s take a closer look:
The latest wails of faux horror are over Trump saying that Democrats who sat on their hands when he mentioned the military or the flag were committing “treason,” and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly saying that Trump’s immigration plan would even help people who were “too lazy to get off their a**es” and apply for DACA. Democrats apparently don’t like being accused of treason (who knew?), and Kelly’s comment has the Hispanic caucus accusing him of racism.
That’s something I take very seriously. Having grown up in Arkansas, I saw the evils of racism and segregation firsthand. In my state, it took a Republican President (Eisenhower) sending in the Army to force Democratic Gov. Orval Faubus to integrate the schools. As a kid, I watched the news of civil rights activists like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. risking their lives to battle racism and segregation. Racism isn’t just an ugly personality trait, it’s an offense against God, who made all of us in His image. But just as racism should never be tolerated in our society, it is such a grievous sin that we should also be careful never to diminish its gravity by falsely accusing political opponents of it.
John Kelly is a retired US Marine General, steeped in the ultimate colorblind merit system. Saying that people who hadn’t done the most that they could do were “too lazy to get off their a**es” might be a racist comment – or it might be the kind of blunt language I’d expect from an ex-Marine commander. With a charge as serious as racism, and lacking any insights into what is in his heart, his critics should err on the side of caution. Condemn his words as unseemly or insensitive; but if you don’t have proof that he’s a racist, quit throwing around that verbal grenade as if it were a mudball.
Likewise, Trump is constantly under fire for “outrageous” and “offensive” things he says or tweets that to me appear obviously to be jokes. In both these cases, the vocabularies and senses of humor (those of ex-Marine commanders and New York construction bosses) are certainly much less genteel than those of a former Baptist minister from Arkansas. I admit, that “treason” joke wasn’t one I’d do. It’s the kind of sarcastic jab typical of New Yorkers. But that doesn’t mean I assume these men harbor the most base and evil motives simply because they express themselves in a more…”colorful” way than I would.
Journalist Salino Zito hit the nail on the head when she observed that the media take Trump “literally but not seriously,” while his supporters take him seriously, but not literally. I don’t believe for a second that Trump seriously thinks it’s treasonous not to clap during his State of the Union speech. But I do believe that a lot of liberals fervently want people to believe he really meant it, so they’ll get too riled up to think straight and vote them back into power.
Finally, for the record, it’s also hard for me to buy the pearl-clutching outrage act over and over and over, every time Trump makes an allegedly offensive joke. Especially when it’s coming from the same delicate souls who think Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee are hilarious. Their comic idols have so normalized vicious attacks on the President as “humor” that Kathy Griffin was honestly stunned to discover that anyone thought holding up a replica of the President’s bloody severed head as a “joke” might be taking it a bit too far.