Public Meaning Trumpism

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 15: President Donald Trump fielded questions from reporters about his comments on events in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If President Trump’s indefensible and equivocating response to Charlottesville demonstrates anything, it is something of which conservatives—and originalists in particular—should have needed no reminder: Words, the vessels of truth for those burdened with this mortal coil and of political life for those living in a constitutional republic, matter.

The President’s supporters continue to imply that his words do not. This originated with the idea that the President should be taken seriously but not literally, peaked with his advisor Kellyanne Conway’s plea to look at what was latent in his heart rather than what emanated from his mouth, and is now petering out into a variety of excuses for his moral relativism with respect to neo-Nazism in Charlottesville, as though a nation with America’s commitments and history could possibly regard racial supremacists and those protesting them—even had their conduct been identical—as equivalent.

This makes Trumpists odd candidates for conservatism. Conservatism assumes objective truth, which finds its expression in the human experience through logos. It also makes them odd originalists in any contemporary sense.

Originalism has long disavowed what Trumpism now seeks in the case of the President’s words: an attempt to ascertain the private meaning of public utterances. Rather, public meaning originalism holds that the meaning of official acts is bound by the public understanding of them at the time of their enactment.

We could not accept a constitutionalism according to which the Constitution’s plain words are trumped, as it were, by the private commitments of its framers. Yet such excuses are constantly heard for words Trump utters in his official capacity: The President speaks in the argot of a New Yorker of disproportionate syntax, so his dialect must be deflated before its value is assessed. The President speaks impulsively but eventually decides rightly. The aggressive nature of his speech itself produces results aside from its content.

The problem with all this is that actions and agreements in a stable and lawful constitutional republic are conveyed through words rather than through brute force or will. Public-meaning originalists understand there is no end to the permutations according to which one can read meanings of shifting convenience into the tea leaves of private intention. Words either have meaning or do not.

They are, to be sure, inherently obscure. Federalist 37 recognizes the imperfection of language—a “cloudy medium,” the essay declares. But surely that is a reason for more, not less, commitment to clarity in its use. Indeed, one of the most potent weapons in the American arsenal is the clarity of the President’s language. When the President articulates a threat—if this, then that—both the “this” and the “that” are supposed to be taken both literally and seriously. When he makes a promise, the same holds. When the President plays fast and loose with the American commitment to NATO’s Article V collective-defense provision, for example, allies have nothing on which to bank but his words. His private intentions provide no assurance.

This is especially true because to the extent his public words are offered to mollify a political base, they serve a republican function. Authority attaches to these words precisely because people believe he means them. A President’s ability to keep an Article V commitment to a NATO ally will be constrained because his words denigrating that commitment are not mere words. The audience for which he intends them, an audience that is ultimately authoritative in a republic, believes them.

This need to take the President both seriously and literally is amplified by the fact that the very impulsivity that is used to devalue his language probably does more to reveal his authentic sincerity instead. That is, in fact, supposed to be the heart of the Trumpian appeal: He says what he thinks. If the safety net for this appeal is that he does not mean what he says—in other words, it is safe for him to say what he thinks because he never actually thinks it—voters are entitled to ask what exactly separates him from the political correctness and slick salesmanship he so assails.

The alternative, of course, is to say none of the President’s words matter. Call this “living Trumpism,” the contemporary equivalent of living constitutionalism according to which only the words we like matter and the rest are inkblot tests onto which we project the outcomes we desire. The President has flirted with this by announcing major policies such as the ban—or was it?—on transgender troops by Twitter without conveying those orders through official channels that make clear that he means to be obeyed. The resulting and constitutionally dangerous opacity leaves room for unelected officials subordinate to the President to doubt whether they must abide his direction.

Certainly those seeking to protect President Trump against the plain public meaning of his own words would not—and should not—have granted the same charity to his predecessor. Imagine, for example, such a defense of President Obama’s controversial 2009 Cairo address, in which he was accused of taking some blame for radical Islamism on Western shoulders: “The President is a constitutional law professor from Hyde Park, and everyone knows that’s just how Hyde Park professors talk. Pay attention to what he really feels, not what he says.”

Which brings us back to originalism: The extremities of President Trump’s behavior are invariably excused with some variation on the above theme—namely, he’s a New Yorker, don’t take him so literally—and, the excuse de grâce: “But the courts.” The underlying commitment to originalist judges is incompatible with a public-meaning Trumpism according to which the meaning of the President’s statements is to be devalued exactly because they were made in public and are therefore discreditable as political sops. The public-meaning originalism that is the last refuge behind which Trumpists are now barricaded holds precisely the opposite.

Rather than offering these incessant apologies, far better to return to Aristotle: “That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain; and man alone among the animals has speech.” Speech was the instrument of creation. Logos begins the Last Gospel. That is not to say the President must attain the moral status of an apostle. It is to say that systematically devaluing his words—not because they are his, but because they are words—is tampering with something that, in originalism, in constitutionalism, and in common human life, greatly matters.

Reader Discussion

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on August 17, 2017 at 08:54:31 am

This president, any president is only a human being. The Founder's better than most understood that and gave us a Republic built on principles, not people. These exceptional principles found in our founding documents are; Liberty, Freedom, Morality and Equality.

People's words will fail you. My personal mantra has always been, "Don't tell me what you are going to do, SHOW me". I think a look at Donald Trump's past actions say more than his words ever will. What in his actions validates what some say his words mean ? I don't know his past that well, I am throwing this out there for people to ponder.

I think everyone in public office, not just Donald Trump should be held to the standards you articulate in your article.

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on August 17, 2017 at 10:27:36 am

Speech is not the only, nor always the most definitive, mode of the expression of human (or animal) motivations.

It is early days from which to view dispassionately these recent events in Charlottesville. Perhaps, with time, "others" without our predilections may consider the motivations (including their errors) of the provocations AND the motivations of the reactions of violence (rather than reason) to those errors, which continue and extend to other non-speech symbols that offer no threats or resistance.

On the University being established at Charlottesville:

"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to TOLERATE ANY ERROR so long as reason is left free to combat it."
- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820

Has reason fled, is it no longer "left free" but now captive to the needs of some for identity and "dignity?"

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R Richard Schweitzer
on August 17, 2017 at 10:27:58 am

Interesting, Greg:

"indefensible and equivocating"

Hmm, today's news brings us reports from both NBC and BBC (bastions of right-wing fanaticism, as we all know) that the Leftists at charlottesville ALSO incited violence. Hmmmm, indeed!

Yet, there is much to what you say. As i have said earlier, "A pox on both (Obama & The Trumpster) their personalities"
I found neither of them to be "presidential." Neither man's words were to be taken literally. In the case of the former, much was simple outright deception and lies; in the case of the latter, far too much is impulsive (and yes, that is quite characteristic of a native New Yaawker) and not thoroughly considered.

Regrettably, there are no great (skinny, bearded) orators available for the office at present. The office does seem to require MORE than what we have been given (ourselves?) these past 30 years.

But - your "but the Courts" argument is a bit strained. Frankly, I would rather have someone who butchers the tongue but appoints good jurists than one who speaks eloquently and appoints jurists who THEMSELVES butcher both the text and the meaning of COTUS.

A simple choice!

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on August 17, 2017 at 10:29:58 am

Ah feel yore pain, Greg.

Of course, the same line of argument applies to the NT. With over 25,000 mss and fragments extant, forensics enable us to know with certainty what the NT authors wrote (about 20 words are in dispute, and none are all that significant). And that causes some surprising problems.

Constitutional eisegesis bears a remarkable similarity to biblical eisegesis: The reader wants a certain outcome, and tortures the language or even ignores the text to get there. Suddenly, "sex" means "sexual orientation." And it is every bit as bad among professing Christians.

Bottom line, the authors of canonical Matthew and the Luke-Acts trilogy invented much of their tale from whole cloth, but didn't compare notes. The Rule of Susan (from the Catholic Daniel) and Rule of Non-Contradiction both apply, with devastating effect. Luke tells us that after the Crucifixion and putative Resurrection, the Endeka (the named disciples, minus Judas) went continually (dia pantos) to the Temple, and never left or had a reason to leave Jerusalem. But in the Matthian tale, the Endeka fled to Galilee, ostensibly for fear of their lives. Matthew wrote that the Endeka encountered the risen Jesus for the first time on a hill in Galilee and tellingly, that some doubted (distazō). Canonical John (vs 21:14) adds to the problem, asserting that Jesus's encounter with the Endeka on the shore of the Sea of Galilee was the third time he had seen them.

The contradiction between the tales is both egregious and irreconcilable. According to the author of Matthew, they went home to their day jobs as fishermen. According to Luke, they settled down near Jerusalem and stated a commune. The distance between the two sites is about 100 miles per Google Maps. Ergo, both tales cannot be true.

No matter how you slice it, at least one of the Gospel authors is lying to us.

To make matters worse, neither author is an eyewitness. Luke says as much, Ac. 1:1, but "Matthew" does it in a far less obvious way. ln Matt. 28:1, he refers to dawn as "opse de sabboton." While my koine is old and cold, opsia is a Greek adverb denoting lateness. And as every observant Jew would know, the Jewish day begins and ends at sunset. Ergo, no observant Jew would use that term to denote the dawn.

And what do our English translators do to cover over this error? They resort to LlVlNG BlBLElSM! They conveniently "lose" the problem in the translation.

A lot of people here seem to want to recast COTUS in their image. Living Constitutionalists like Larry Tribe and Bruce Ledewitz simply ignore the text. Conservatives' efforts are more subtle and pernicious: They don't like abortion, SSM, or universal health care, so they bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate it to achieve that end.

To me, COTUS is a logic puzzle. You get the answer you get. ln the words of Scalia (per Gorsuch), “[i]f you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”

The way Donald Trump puts his foot in his mouth, he is more flexible than Paramahansa Yogananda. Mencken predicted his ascent a century ago. Apparently, he says what he means and means what he says.

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on August 17, 2017 at 10:45:53 am

And then there is this for those interested in " emotional" outbursts and effects upon perceptions:


Gee, it seems as if an entire Legislative body has been affected by language woes.

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on August 17, 2017 at 11:01:34 am


Info packed commentary - and pertinent to discussion of COTUS.

"To me, COTUS is a logic puzzle. You get the answer you get. ln the words of Scalia (per Gorsuch), “[i]f you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”" - Yep, agreed!

But -

"Conservatives’ efforts are more subtle and pernicious: They don’t like abortion, SSM, or universal health care, so they bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate it to achieve that end. "

This does not necessarily follow. Even supporters of O-care concede that Roberts embrace of O-care as part of a plenary taxing power was a stretch - or a bend / fold / spindling of the puzzle not unlike previous generations transformation of the commerce Clause.

Absent some of the specific outcomes which you appear to FAVOR and cite, I agree wholeheartedly. COTUS is a puzzle and the proper assembling of the (intended?) image requires that a judicial determination examine / dissect / comprehend ALL relevant "blocs of images", (Articles, Clauses, etc) in order to arrive at the properly, i.e. constitutionally designated result - whether one likes it or not. To simply argue, for example, that DP or EP holds sway over the entire document may cause us to miss / misunderstand the overall architecture of the Madisonian (et al) structure and instead substitute a somewhat more colorful and vibrant image.

We ought not attempt to be "artists" but rather good "craftsment" working with the provided / assembled materials

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on August 17, 2017 at 11:26:09 am

A strange article by Greg Weinger, an article about the importance of words, yet mum on what is indefensible and equivocating about “…President Trump’s indefensible and equivocating response to Charlottesville….” I am a Trump supporter and found nothing indefensible and equivocating about the most publicized Trump comment on the Charlottesville incident, if that comment is what Weinger refers to. Trump: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.” Those disagreeing with that statement should state their case. It takes only watching videos and knowing the background of the parties involved to support the truth of Trump’s statement.

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Image of db
on August 17, 2017 at 11:48:47 am

Bravo! You have cut to the heart of the matter.

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on August 17, 2017 at 11:52:22 am

Hmmmm! Now these are interesting: It appears that the miscreant was a member of Occupy Wall Street not some Trump loving wacko, although clearly he is a wacko:


AND THIS wherein even the MSM acknowledges left wing violence


So maybe The Trumpster is not quite as deplorable of a native New Yaakah as one supposes.

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on August 17, 2017 at 11:54:41 am

gabe: "Absent some of the specific outcomes which you appear to FAVOR"

Let's do the math, gabe. Take SSM. l honestly don't give a frig. As long as one state enacts it, the contract has to be respected pursuant to the GF/C Clause. Ditto, common law OS marriages in the West: lf you are deemed to be CL married in Colorado, you don't stop being married when you go over Raton Pass into NM. Much ado about nothing, imho. Once the camel's nose gets inside the tent, the whole camel comes in.

The O-care decision was reminiscent of another "switch-in-time that saved the Nine" by another Roberts. You can see him working: lf he voted down O-care, the Court would be seen as more of a political institution than a court, further eroding its tattered legitimacy. He chose to protect the institution as a conservative bastion in a paroxysm of cynicism, much as a chess player would sacrifice a pawn.

As l have stated previously, there is a cleaner-way to get to universal health care, but what CJ Roberts did was ugly. To explain this would require a long dissertation on treaty jurisprudence, but COTUS hasn't been doing it right for over a century.

And while we're at it, consider abortion. The 5/14Am only protects the interests of "persons", and as the term was understood in 1791/1868, a fetus was not a person. To ban abortion, conservatives have to go full Laurence Tribe, defenestrating their vaunted principles along the way. (Personally? Solving that dispute is way above my pay grade. Like Billy Martin in the old Miller Lite commercial, l feel strongly both ways. :) )

As l've been known to tell courts, no one wants to hear my personal opinion. lnstead, l regale them with Cicero, Augustine, Coke, Locke, Blackstone, Madison, Jefferson, and Story.

Kindly elaborate, gabe, on where you think l have been cheating. l try my best not to.

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on August 17, 2017 at 12:29:45 pm


All fair enough. I would not, nor did I characterize your position as evidence of cheating (Oh my cheating heart sang some silly country crooner) only that you may fall prey to the same tendency to "see" an outcome as permissible under COTUS that may, or may not be present. The puzzle is difficult, no doubt, and we may ALL, at times, form the Gestalt that we seek.

As for Roberts, I wrote some time back about his "saving" of the Court did little more than to further erode whatever legitimacy it had reamining. Very sad.

Yep, the GF/C clause would appear to permit the camel to get not only his nose but organs at a lower extremity into the tent. But for a moment, take the opposing view and argue that no State may be required to provide greater P&I to non-resident/ citizen than it provides to its own citizens, especially if we take as a premise that the State ought not to be involved in licensing in the first place. Also, how far must we go with "faith and credit". Let us suppose that WA offers tax incentives or exemptions to say, gay couples and that couple spends considerable business travel time working in CA. CA, btw, taxes earnings of non-residnets income earned while in CA. Must CA also provide the same tax exemption to the gay couple, while still taxing the earnings of a member of the Seattle Mariners who plays 30 odd games in California each year. (I know, crude example but...)

At what point, has the GF / C clause reduced the 9th and 10th to simple words on parchment.

As for "abortion - personhood" - not quite correct. Quickening was generally assumed to be the point of personhood and this goes back to medieval times, if not to Augustine.


seeya, Dawg

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on August 17, 2017 at 13:23:21 pm

Scary times in the US now. I'm seeing more and more Americans moving to Canada now. If Canada maybe for you check out my website: http://eric-smith.ca/

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Eric Smith
on August 17, 2017 at 14:29:36 pm
Image of gabe
on August 17, 2017 at 17:57:38 pm

“Conservatism assumes objective truth, which finds its expression in the human experience through logos.”

Weiner chose a malleable phrase, “objective truth,” on which to question the “mysterious” support for President Trump from people like me, who voted for him twice and wrote that it would take him at least three years to establish civic morality. “Civic” refers to citizens collaborating for mutual, comprehensive safety and security during their lifetimes rather than conflicting for dominant political opinion.

When President Trump speaks of NATO commitments, he negotiates for the-objective-truth in trust and commitments by the other members. The facts heretofore bear witness that other countries are committed as long as the USA pays the bills. In other words, they follow the common sense objective truth Weiner chose to represent.

The reader might say, “But Weiner has not heretofore encountered the-objective-truth.” I’d say that is self-evident, and Weiner is not alone. Other readers might repeat: Phil, you have not the propriety to comment here --- you ought to read and learn. I respond: I do not accept proprietary logos: I work hard for words and phrases that empower expression of the-objective-truth.

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Phil Beaver
on August 17, 2017 at 18:32:41 pm

First and foremost, the 9Am is not germane to our discussion. All it does (per Madison) is equate enumerated and unenumerated rights.

Second, the danger of constitutional eisegesis is ubiquitous. l know of no other way than starting with COTUS and its common law foundation (definitions and canons) it incorporates, and reasoning to your conclusion. No one's reasoning is unassailable, but transparent reasoning is auditable. Jefferson elaborates:

"I must comfort myself with the hope that the judges will see the importance and the duty of giving their country the only evidence they can give of fidelity to its Constitution and integrity in the administration of its laws; that is to say, by everyone's giving his opinion seriatim and publicly on the cases he decides. Let him prove by his reasoning that he has read the papers, that he has considered the case, that in the application of the law to it, he uses his own judgment independently and unbiased by party views and personal favor or disfavor. Throw himself in every case on God and country; both will excuse him for error and value him for his honesty. "

Third, l was a tax guy (CPA/MS(tax)) before law school; your hypo makes zero sense. The cardinal rule of tax practice is to read the statute (Stewart's Shakespearean Canon), and the statute answers your question. To wit, Section 1 of Article lV provides, in pertinent part: "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State." This listing does not include the tax laws. lf you play 160 games, and 40 of them are in CA, CA taxes a quarter of your wages; your state of domicile will (normally) give you a tax credit. (FWlW, WA has no income tax, so you don't get any credit.)

The GF/C Clause does not and never did impair the 10Am States' Rights Clause. Even pre-CWA.

Finally, remember that when statutory law conflicts with common law, it always supersedes the common law. (The "quickening" rule came from canon law; Coke inveighed against it.) However, as Madison explained, the CL also furnished them with a detailed legal dictionary. "Person" has a specific definition, derived from older property law (involving inheritance) and modified with the advent of artificial entities; the common law would not concern itself with such niceties.

l think it fair to conclude that the Framers expected regulation of abortion (if any) would be the province of the States, and that the common law rule would probably remain intact. But the 14Am upset the applecart, and technology made abortion safer than childbirth. We have to apply the COTUS we have, not the one you might prefer.

While the decision itself was sloppy, when you think about it, Roe was a reprise of the common law rule. You can make the argument that Roe was a decision worthy of Solomon, or you can take an absolutist position . . . but at the end of the day, if COTUS locuta est, causa finita est.

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on August 17, 2017 at 19:51:05 pm

"On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." ~ H.L. Mencken

2016 was the Sophie's Choice of American elections: You could either elect a crime wave in a pantsuit, or take whatever was behind Door #3. While few were sanguine about the choice, fewer still had any idea what kind of a ZONK! he was.

Deez Nuts would have won by double-digits ... and Alfred E. Neuman would have been a better choice.

l was hoping for marginal competence. An infrastructure bill, and sensible modifications to O-care (e.g., an anti-price-gouging provision for pharmaceuticals). That he might actually listen to a genius like Elon Musk. Some semblance of leadership skills. An understanding that doing a good job would be the quickest road to the adulation he craves.

Truth be told, he is mentally ill. The DSM-V entry for "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" has his picture in it. But that doesn't mean that he couldn't function at a high level. Frankly, to even run for that job, you almost have to have one oar out of the water. But when l learned that his father was a Klansman, l kinda knew that Charlottesville was not going to end well.

All he has really done is infuriate our allies, embarrass America in front of her enemies, and sign executive orders that constitute a war on science and our ecosphere. He has made me yearn for the merely breathtaking ineptitude of one George W. Bush.

l feel like General Kelly. Don't know how anyone can even begin to defend this five-alarm dumpster-fire at this point.

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on August 17, 2017 at 21:03:45 pm

I find this essay rather off-base and it seems to completely bury any role for context. It's hard to tell (beyond his judicial nominations) whether Trump is a committed Originalist, but its beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a committed Original, especially in his approach to the Office. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Nor is his style and personality especially one that the Framer's could not have ever anticipated would come along at least every two-hundred years or so to grace the Office. After all, obnoxious, outrageous characters transcend and up-end every age and generation, I am sure they would places the odds in favor that one such person would someday manage to get himself elected - if not for the built-in safe guards of our electoral system, it would have been bound to happen much sooner and much more frequently.

For this President, it seems to matter very little what he actually says. His comments are always misstated and misrepresented by his opponents (sometimes even before he even has a chance to speak them...hmm, how does that ever happen?), The career Statists, his Administrative inter-agency Achilles heel, are committed to making him lame, by doing exactly the opposite (and incidentally, and more egregious, opposite of the people's; their real bosses, will and consent) of what he says. Conversely, his supporters expect nothing less, or only slightly better of him; rightly or wrongly.

I am never surprised when his opponents condemn him for being him, only when his supporters do so. He is as much now who he was during pre-election. There should be no surprises. Or are they like that proverbial betrothed who marries a drunk or a cheat, thinking they can, or marriage, or both, will change them; make them different?

I voted for the man, warts and all. I fully expected him to be a train wreck. But, he at least has shown himself committed to keeping his campaign promises, which I think was already strike-one against his Presidency for the greater part of the belt-way team, to whom such a commitment is unheard of, a sign of potential insanity, and practically unconscionable.

This President is a threat neither to the Office, to the Country, to the Constitution, nor to some future Originalists. His tenure may raise future eyebrows, and I predict, pleasantly so.

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Paul Binotto
on August 17, 2017 at 21:18:26 pm

First of all,let me say that I didn't vote for Mr.Trump nor for Ms.Clinton. With that said lets look at Mr.Trump. Here is a man that came out of nowhere,who defeated over a dozen Republican candidates in the primaries, who ran a Presidential campaign with 1/3 less money than Ms.Clinton. Was vilified by the Main stream Media,who was misquoted or quoted out of context on hundreds of occasions,who was looked upon as a buffoon by almost everyone with a public voice, was laughed at by academia and the political pundits and yet still won the biggest political upset in the past 100 years. Maybe Ms.Clinton was a bad candidate. Maybe the Democrat Party had run out of new ideas and were preaching "identity" politics. Maybe the mood of the public was misread by the poll takers. But,for whatever the reason,Trump won.
Trump is not a politician,neither liberal nor conservative. Mr.Trump is a populist who felt the nerve and touched the soul of the American voting population. A population that knows that something is wrong and corrupt with their government. In essence these Americans have finally woken up to the fact that they are being screwed and lied to by their so called "leaders." And now the crony politicians,crony corporations and the "deep state" are terrified that their racket may be in jeopardy. So,at every turn they,the political class,will throw every obstacle they can in front of every serious threat that Mr.Trump makes to "drain their swamp." They have the Main Stream Media and all of the "opinion makers" on their side. All Mr.Trump has is to tell the truth as he sees it.
One other thing. Mr.Trump is not stupid nor a buffoon. He didn't get to where he is by being a clown. He is very sly and savvy. If he survives the Presidency and the attempts to destroy him those that are doing the destruction better worry. He will fight back and come after them. In the end anyone that underestimates Mr.Trump does so at their own peril.

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libertarian jerry
on August 19, 2017 at 01:51:25 am

I for one can't imagine the Original, George Washington, striding into a roomful of people and saying what he thought of the weather in New Orleans. I certainly can imagine his secretary of state (another Original) counseling him that if he found himself in an alliance to protect the other members (for that is what NATO is) in which only four of the other 26 gave the slightest indication of intending ever to approach living up to their commitments to the group, he ought to consider whether the USA should forever continue to do so. Whether said SoS would counsel him to muse about such things in public is an interesting question; I certainly can see his Original treasury secretary nudging him in that direction.

When during the campaign last year there was talk (yes, there was) of a less therapeutic presidency, one not calculated to play on the emotions of soccer moms, I for one felt a pang of pleasure at the thought. It would be nice for the press secretary, or even the president, to respond to queries about gang violence in Chicago and impure water in Detroit by pointing to the Constitution and noting that these matters were for Chicago and Detroit.

George Washington knew his words mattered, certainly. That's why he loosed them in public so seldom.

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Kevin Gutzman
on August 19, 2017 at 08:21:35 am

db, I like it !

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on August 19, 2017 at 10:09:43 am

I think it is unfair if not immoral to attempt to impose in 2017 the political correctness of the 1780's. For example, George Washington on June 8, 1783 writing farewell to the Continental Army yet addressing the citizens of America. There is no excellence in 2017. There is no journalism --- only writers for the media. Read and weep, but moreover, collaborate for reform:

"With this conviction of the importance of the present Crisis, silence in me would be a crime; I will therefore speak to your Excellency, the language of freedom and of sincerity, without disguise; I am aware, however, that those who differ from me in political sentiment, may perhaps remark, I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty, and they may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is alone the result of the purest intention, but the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives, the part I have hitherto acted in life, the determination I have formed, of not taking any share in public business hereafter, the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying in private life, after all the toils of War, the benefits of a wise and liberal Government, will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my Countrymen, that I could have no sinister views in delivering with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this Address.

There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an Independent Power:

1st. An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head.

2dly. A Sacred regard to Public Justice.

3dly. The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment, and

4thly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.

These are the pillars on which the glorious Fabrick of our Independency and National Character must be supported; Liberty is the Basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the Structure, under whatever specious pretexts he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured Country."

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Phil Beaver
on August 19, 2017 at 18:19:10 pm


Mr. Gutzman has a far better grasp of what type of *entanglements*, and the constituent members of that entanglement that Washington considered proper than all the "lazy scribes living on borrowed slogans" (apologies for bastardizing the quote).

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Image of gabe
on August 20, 2017 at 00:30:15 am

There are certain groups you really can't defend. Child-molesters (esp., priests!). Mobsters. Nazis. The KKK. And if you are so clueless that you don't know that, you probably don't belong in the Oval Office.

ln the wake of this latest debacle, we learn that father Fred Trump was active in the KKK.

Senator Robert Byrd was an actual Klan official, but he came correct--in both his words and deeds. And if your daddy was a Klansman, you would be well advised to stay further away from them than even the rest of us.

A case can be made for the Civil War being mostly an economic conflict. Four slave states remained in the Union. Excessive tariffs were killing the South. Lincoln said that he would be happy to let the Rebs keep their slaves in perpetuity to preserve the Union. But if you carry torches reminiscent of the KKK and shout Nazi slogans, you would be better off carrying pictures of Chairman Mao.

Anyone with a lick of common sense would have denounced the protestors and sent condolences to Heather Heyer's family within ten minutes of learning what happened.

But that "anyone" isn't Donald J. Trump. And this wasn't his first jaw-dropping failure.

Say what you will about his policies, but at least, Obama was reasonably competent. Trump is out of control. A menace.

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