The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: Meltdowns, Etc.

The Signing of The Declaration of Independence, c. 1873, by Charles Édouard Armand-Dumaresq. (Public domain/Wikimedia)

In response to Meltdowns, Etc.

Kevin, you write:

Charlie, here’s something I don’t write very often: You could not be more wrong about this. You could not be more wrong if you were trying to be wrong.

The “F*** Joe Biden” stuff matters, not because the president is a special magical person, but because of what it says about us — as a people, generally, and as conservatives in particular. It matters a hell of a lot more what kind of people we are than whether the top tax rate is 39 percent or 37.5 percent.

In my defense, if I’m wrong not to care when people are extremely rude about the president, I’ve been wrong for most of my life.

Clearly, we differ on what this stuff “says about us — as a people, generally.” As you and I both agree, our culture has an unfortunate tendency to idolize and fetishize the chief executive, and, irrespective of the chief executive in question, when I see stuff like this, I think it “says about us” that, at some level, we understand that we shouldn’t. As Rich notes, we have done this in one form or another throughout our history — hell, the Founders did it to each other — and I am pleased that we have. Human history is packed full of nations in which the people were unable or unwilling to berate their leaders. To lament that Americans often go a touch far in the other direction is, in my view, to miss the broader point.

(I think it’s amusing that you and I are on opposite sides of this, but were also on opposite sides of whether Cliven Bundy’s behavior was acceptable. Me: No. You: Yes.)

You argue later on that my description of the “meltdown” reflects “a familiar rhetorical strategies for avoiding moral responsibility, which you’d normally see as such when coming from someone else.” But this is wrong. First, I don’t bear — or excuse — any “moral responsibility” here, because I don’t think there’s anything immoral about being beastly to the president. Second, I think that “meltdown” is an entirely appropriate word to use to describe people who are trying to break into aircraft cockpits, who are invoking ISIS as a comparison point, and who are pretending in major newspapers that a needling chant somehow pollutes our genuine political differences. Third, the reason I used the word “needless” to describe the reaction is that it is . . . well, needless. Almost everyone I called out has changed their position on this in the last year. During the Trump years, MAGA types gave us endless rounds of “can you believe what they said about the president?!” Now, those people are chanting euphemisms and the people who were excusing the anti-Trump stuff are clucking about decorum.

Evidently, your position is that it almost always matters, and mine is that it almost never matters. That may make me wrong, but it doesn’t make me unable to see the counter-argument at hand. It makes me unwilling to agree with it.


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