Mr. President, Please Be Quiet

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Once again, Donald Trump has tweeted himself into the center of the day’s news. He does this almost every morning — even, perhaps especially, when he has nothing new to say. Upon seeing today’s efforts, I sighed and muttered “there goes Wednesday.” This is my increasingly frequent response.

Irrespective of the position being advanced, this habit is destructive in a free society, and those who hope for a more limited government should be appalled. Trump is the president, and he can speak as he wishes; he enjoys the same First Amendment protections as I do, and I would never wish to limit them by law. Nevertheless, I do wish that, just once, he’d just shut the hell up — not because the law compels him to, but because he has some understanding of the extent to which his behavior is crowding out civil society and making us all accessories to his ego. Calvin Coolidge was a great president not solely because he sought to limit the federal state, but because he did not feel a need to inject himself into the nation’s consciousness every single day. Donald Trump is the least Coolidge-like president we have ever had. Compared to him, Barack Obama looks like a Carthusian monk.

Every morning Trump is in the United States is a morning during which he is drawing attention to himself. The pattern is familiar: He wakes up, he picks up his phone, and he throws grenades onto Twitter — most of which, it should be said, rebound immediately off the wall and explode in his face. He announces policies in the most counter-productive way imaginable; he defends himself as might a cartoon character; he dredges up old fights and throws punches at skeletons. And then, of course, come the responses: online, on Twitter, on TV, in the newspapers, in the magazines, on the streets, at the Oscars, at dinner tables across the land. In effect, the president is deciding daily what America will discuss, and more often than not that “what” is him. 

Whatever one’s politics, this is extraordinarily unhealthy. The president is the head of the executive branch within a free republic, he is not a king or spiritual leader. When the government is as big as it is, we will inevitably be forced to care what he thinks. But the attention that this man insists upon bringing upon himself transcends that inevitability, and ranges into the realm of narcissism and vaingloriousness. This is, in other words, a choice. It is a decision that Trump is making, day in, day out. Those who want to live their lives without constantly being dragooned into endless political hostility should band together and speak with one voice: “Mr. President. Please, please, please be quiet.”

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