By Dan Calabrese
I don’t like everything Donald Trump says, and sometimes I think he draws fire to himself gratuitously and for no good reason. I’m all about challenging long-standing convention, but not about being mean or rude in the process.
But here’s an example in which the media and the political class think they have Trump dead to rights for being a horrible jerk to an elderly, ailing former president, and I . . . do not.
The other night in Montana, Trump twisted the needle a little bit on former President George H.W. Bush, particularly for his use of the phrase “a thousand points of light.” It seems clear to me that Trump was commenting on the phrase’s effectiveness as rhetoric, and contrasting it unflatteringly to his own use of “Make America great again.” Obviously Trump thinks the latter is more effective than the former, and I would have to agree.
But the political class went into DefCon 5 over the fact that Trump would dare to call out Bush 41, even in such an innocuous way.
To listen to the reaction to what Trump said, you’d think the entire political class gushed with admiration when Bush first talked in 1988 about a thousand points of light. They certainly did not. The left mocked everything about him, including this, and the right just wanted him to focus on completing the Reagan agenda. The idea that this must now be treated as a sacrosanct phrase is hilarious if you remember any of that history, and yet here we are:
At a rally in Montana, Trump took aim at Bush’s slogan “thousand points of light,” which he popularized during his presidential campaign. It later became the titular phrase for Bush’s volunteerism organization.
“You know all of the rhetoric you see. ‘Thousands points of light.’ What the hell was that by the way?” Trump said.
“Thousand points of light,” he said. “What does that mean? I know one thing. ‘Make America Great Again’ we understand. Putting America first we understand. Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? It was put out by a Republican, wasn’t it?”
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who worked for President George W. Bush, called the remarks “so uncalled for.”
“Going after a 94-year-old, former President’s promotion of volunteerism. I don’t mind potus being a fighter. I do mind him being rude,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday night.
Richard Haass, who worked as a special assistant to H.W. Bush and as the senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on his National Security Council, slammed the current president for the jab.
“Truly offensive to see @realDonaldTrump mock @GeorgeHWBush given 41’s 1) life of public service; 2) commitment to volunteerism; 3) critical role in ending Cold War peacefully and on our terms and then leading world in liberating Kuwait, the 1st test of post-cold war era,” Haass tweeted Friday morning.
Please. George H.W. Bush is not some sacrosanct public figure who must never be criticized or needled in any way. And believe me, he was certainly not treated as one when he was president or when he was vice president. Far from it.
A thousand points of light was part of a focus on voluntarism, which is fine and good, and it gave rise to the Thousand Points of Light Foundation that exists to this day and promotes the same idea. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure it’s done some good, but I get a little tired of the idea that such things can never be poked fun at, especially by Donald Trump. Bush first introduced the phrase in his acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention. It was a political phrase in a political speech. The fact that it was turned into something good is to his credit, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of bounds to criticize it as political rhetoric, which is what it started out as.
And the same political class that is now acting shocked – shocked – at any lampooning of George Bush was only too happy to lampoon him plenty on their own when it suited their purposes.
Bush went out of his way to tell the world he had voted for Hillary because he considered Trump unfit for the presidency. The media cheered him for doing so. Trump won anyway, and for good or for ill, Trump tends not to forget slights.
Knocking a rhetorical phrase as inferior to one of his own is pretty mild criticism, but anything Trump says is sure to raise the hackles of the chattering class, who suddenly have decided it’s unacceptable to say the slightest unkind word about a man they used to attack daily.
Sorry. I think 41 can handle a little needling, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t have to.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!