The profanity presidency: this is the title of Peter Baker’s column in today’s New York Times:
“‘No one has debased the civil discourse in this country more than President Trump, and the president really does set the tone in the country,’ said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California. ‘We see it reflected in our offices by the hateful, belligerent, obscene and violent calls that we get now that we didn’t used to get.’
“Mr. Schiff has experienced it personally when Mr. Trump turned his name into a profanity last fall by nicknaming him ‘little Adam Schitt.’ Mr. Schiff said, ‘The last time that happened, the person who did that had their mouth washed out with soap by his mother.’”
In my view there’s nothing magically awful about the four-letter words. We all know people who use four-letter words but without the anger, stupidity, and general abusiveness. But reading some of the “community” posts today on Congressman Amash’s FB page, I was struck not just by the anger or the fact that they disagree with his assessment of the Mueller Report. Of course they’re entitled to disagree and to argue. But relatively few of the unappreciative comments did anything approaching argument. It’s all name-calling, cursing, and the most infantile sort of ad hominem. Well, infantile in terms of intelligence, but without the childish innocence. For example, comments assert that Amash made his statement just to get attention for himself; he’s a Muslim (fwiw he’s a definitely Christian and patriotic American of Lebanese-American descent); he’s a pedophile; he’s a Muslim pedophile; and, most commonly, he’s a piece of shit. Think of any stupid, angry thing someone might say, and chances are, someone has said it today on Rep. Amash’s page.
And why? Because he dared to speak the truth about Trump while serving as a Republican officeholder. A small piece of the truth. Spoken soberly, intelligently, after long deliberation, not hastily, not abusively.
Pre-Trump, pre-Hannity, pre-Fox, and pre-Internet, people who were angry but had nothing intelligent to say generally were ashamed to make spectacles of themselves by spewing angry nonsense. Or they were not given the opportunity. But Trump himself does it all the time, and his poor behavior has inspired, licensed, and emboldened masses of followers, and they have social media so that they can sit at home by themselves and spew this stuff into the aether.
Probably every politician has had embarrassing supporters. The difference in this case is that it would be ludicrous for Trump to pretend to be at all embarrassed by the comments on Rep. Amash’s page. The ugliness is not an embarrassing blot on the Trumpist movement. It is its essence, flowing from the top and permeating the whole.
The porn presidency. The profanity presidency. And yet—to many—the Christian Messiah presidency.