Po­lit­i­cal in­ci­vil­ity from the days of Hamil­ton: All Trump’s fault?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY CHARLES HURT

What takes over a heart, in­fects a soul so per­versely that a per­son sees mur­der, ter­ror and vi­o­lent crimes and im­me­di­ately be­gins plot­ting how such mis­deeds might ben­e­fit him­self? How such things might ad­vance his own po­lit­i­cal agenda?

Is it the in­ci­vil­ity of po­lit­i­cal rhetoric these days?

The me­dia tries draw­ing a straight line from Pres­i­dent Trump’s joy­ous ver­bal pound­ing of the me­dia to ac­tual vi­o­lence against reporters. That is why there has been so much flood-the-zone cover­age of the das­tardly mur­der of Ja­mal Khashoggi, the oc­ca­sional colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Their ar­gu­ment: It’s all Pres­i­dent Trump’s fault.

Be­cause Mr. Trump com­mended a politi­cian for “body slam­ming” a re­porter who had an­noyed him. In this twisted world, mak­ing a joke about a guy who roughed up a re­porter equals gang­tor­tur­ing, killing and dis­mem­ber­ing a re­porter in a Turk­ish con­sulate.

And to think: There is ac­tual video on the in­ter­net of Mr. Trump charg­ing into a pro­fes­sional wrestling ring and body slam­ming the ac­tual CNN logo!

Let’s pause for a bit of self-re­flec­tion. What does it say about the me­dia in Amer­ica to­day that a politi­cian charged with phys­i­cally as­sault­ing a re­porter promptly wins the elec­tion? I don’t know, maybe we might start think­ing about how well we are do­ing our jobs if the only thing ev­ery­body seems to agree upon any­more is that the me­dia does a ter­ri­ble job.

Any­way, the truth is, un­civil po­lit­i­cal rhetoric has been around since Amer­ica’s found­ing. How many duel­ing scenes are there in the hit Broad­way mu­si­cal “Hamil­ton”?

Deadly du­els have fallen out of fash­ion in mod­ern times, but hot po­lit­i­cal rhetoric re­mains pretty stan­dard fare. Es­pe­cially the kind that in­volves threat­en­ing phys­i­cal vi­o­lence against “jour­nal­ists.”

In De­cem­ber 1950, Pres­i­dent Harry S. Tru­man wrote a siz­zling let­ter to a re­porter for The Wash­ing­ton Post who had neg­a­tively re­viewed a mu­si­cal per­for­mance by Mr. Tru­man’s daugh­ter.

“Some day I hope to meet you,” Mr. Tru­man wrote on White House sta­tionery. “When that hap­pens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beef­steak for black eyes, and per­haps a sup­porter below!”

Hey, come to think of it: Can any­one say defini­tively where Mr. Tru­man was the day Mr. Khashoggi was so vi­o­lently killed? I know, “sup­pos­edly” Mr. Tru­man is dead. But this raises se­ri­ously alarm­ing ques­tions.

Such sen­ti­ments about the me­dia are so pop­u­larly wide­spread that a copy of that let­ter hung in the of­fice of one of Mr. Tru­man’s suc­ces­sors, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

And who could for­get, more re­cently, when Bill Clin­ton threat­ened vi­o­lence against a New York Times scribe for writ­ing a sim­ple, ver­i­fi­able state­ment of proven fact: Mr. Clin­ton’s wife is a “con­gen­i­tal liar.”

The of­fi­cial White House re­sponse to the col­umn by the late, great Wil­liam Safire was an of­fi­cial threat by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton to punch Mr. Safire in the nose.

This was met by howls of out­rage by the me­dia over such a bald threat to free speech and jour­nal­ism. Ac­tu­ally, no it was not. One spine­less Clin­ton syco­phant in the me­dia, the ed­i­to­rial page ed­i­tor for the Daily Press in Newport News, not only failed to con­demn Mr. Clin­ton’s threat of vi­o­lence, he out­right ap­plauded it.

“While I ab­hor vi­o­lence,” he claimed in a news­pa­per col­umn, “the idea of Pres­i­dent Clin­ton punch­ing New York Times colum­nist Wil­liam Safire in the nose does have some ap­peal.”

The failed ed­i­tor’s only com­plaint was that Mr. Clin­ton did not make more of his threat. The ed­i­tor fur­ther en­cour­aged Mr. Clin­ton to also vi­o­lently at­tack ra­dio king Rush Lim­baugh and House Speaker Newt Gin­grich. One must guess that the ed­i­tor did not agree with the opin­ions held by Mr. Lim­baugh and Mr. Gin­grich — surely a per­fectly good rea­son to wish vi­o­lence on some­one.

Hey, while we are ask­ing ques­tions: Where were Mr. Clin­ton and this failed ed­i­tor on the day Mr. Khashoggi got chopped into pieces? Con­tact Charles Hurt at churt@wash­ing­ton­times.com or on Twit­ter @charleshurt.

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