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President non-grata. . . *PIC*

Posted By: LongGone
Date: Wednesday - May 9,2018 21:09

by Frank Bruni, NY Times columnist:

Itís not unusual for a president to be asked to steer clear of his fellow party membersí campaigns. If his approval ratings are low and their races are tight, pragmatism trumps politesse.

But itís beyond strange for a president to be asked to stay away from a fellow party memberís funeral, and itís positively surreal for the request to be rendered in advance of the personís death. Thatís precisely what has happened with Donald Trump and John McCain.

In a recent account of McCainís struggle with brain cancer and dying wishes, my Times colleague Jonathan Martin reported that Trump administration officials had been informed that the president wasnít wanted at a planned memorial for the 81-year-old Arizona senator at the National Cathedral in Washington, just a few miles from the White House. Other news organizations added that Trumpís two immediate predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, were expected not only to attend the ceremony but to give eulogies.

Never mind that Obama is a Democrat who took some nasty shots in the course of vanquishing McCain in the 2008 president election, or that Bush beat McCain in an acrimonious battle for the Republican presidential nomination eight years earlier. They are welcome. Trump is not.

Petty? There has been some pushback along those lines, from observers who claim that McCain is contradicting his valedictory pleas for civility in speeches and in a book, ďThe Restless Wave,Ē to be published this month. But I think that he amply covers the high ground by reaching out to Obama and Bush.

No, this oneís on Trump, who practices such gratuitous cruelty ó he once mocked McCainís agonizing years as a prisoner of war ó and leaves nothing but scorched earth behind him. McCain is saying that thereís no point in letting bygones be bygones with someone as far gone as Trump, and heís taking a stand that too many of his Republican colleagues wonít. Itís hard to quibble with him.

We have a president so proudly offensive that his last respects are spoiled goods. Is there any better illustration of what ugly, unprecedented terrain weíre crossing?

He wasnít wanted last month at the funeral of Barbara Bush, the former first lady, either, as the White Houseís own statement at the time hinted.

Four former presidents were in attendance: her husband and her son, obviously, along with Obama and Bill Clinton. They were joined by Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump in that stirring photograph [below], which went viral only partly because their easy smiles suggested a comity and dignity still possible in this hyperpartisan era. It also captured the countryís attention because of who was conspicuously missing ó who wouldnít have fit and didnít belong. Comity, dignity and Trump cannot exist in the same frame.

Skipping that funeral wasnít remarkable in the abstract. When Obama was president, he took a pass on both Betty Fordís and Nancy Reaganís; Michelle went in his stead. When George W. Bush was president, he didnít attend Lady Bird Johnsonís ó Laura did.

But Barbara Bush was a legendary figure in Trumpís own party. And neither President Obama nor President Bush would have had to worry about the foul memories and ill will stirred up by his presence.

Trump is a whole new, supersized kind of pariah: president non grata. He has made that many enemies, indulged in that much tactlessness and worked that diligently to consign apology and atonement to the dustbin of leadership.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are to be married in a week and a half, and decided not to invite major political figures, but imagine if they had wanted to. Obama would have been a logical inclusion, given that he and Harry have partnered in philanthropic work.

But Trump would have been unthinkable. In a past life, he repeatedly entertained questions from Howard Stern about whether he would have slept with Harryís mother, Princess Diana. Yes, he said, although he once qualified that answer by saying that he would have insisted first that she take an H.I.V. test. Itís the gentlemanly thing.

Other presidents had their feuds. Other presidents rose above them. George H. W. Bush eventually became close friends with Bill Clinton, whose 1992 victory denied him a second term. Obama campaigned passionately against George W. Bushís foreign debacle and fiscal recklessness, but thereís no vestige of that in the body language between Bush and Michelle Obama whenever they meet. It communicates a fondness that transcends politics. And itís possible because each can see in the other many moments of generosity and genuine warmth.

In that image from Barbara Bushís funeral, George W. is sandwiched between two other former first ladies ó his wife, Laura, and Hillary Clinton ó with an arm draped gently around each. Michelle and Melania are side by side, as if joined in a common mission. They are. Itís called decency.


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