Much has been said about the “unfair” criticism of this American president. But, as cautioned by Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, “to announce that there must be no criticism of the president . . . is morally treasonable to the American public.” And as Winston Churchill noted, “(c)riticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
If criticism has value, can the quality of a president be judged by the criticism he receives? What if not only the news media, but members of Congress and even his own political party condemn him? Would the volume and intensity of their criticism give a clue to the president’s character?
This president has been called, among other pejoratives, an idiot, an imbecile, a fool, and a moron. His relations with the press have been tumultuous. One newspaper editorial observed that he continued “to make a fool of himself and mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation.” Another accused him of treason. In turn, this president has demeaned the press, and appealed directly to the people through alternative forms of communication.
American citizens have come to expect their president to be dignified, even-tempered, and professional. Yet this president has been faulted for his “coarse, colloquial speeches” and his “silly remarks.” Seldom has a president engendered condemnation by not only the opposition but by members of his own political party. One Republican senator labeled him “timid, vacillating, and inefficient.” Another dismissed him as “weak as water.” A high Republican official termed him “an admitted failure, (who) has no will, no courage, and no executive capacity.” Even one of his senior generals called him “an idiot.”
This president believes he may properly criticize the courts, and even disregard a court order. There are reports he considered arresting a judge whose rulings he disliked. He has made racist remarks, and has advocated deporting immigrants.
Even pastors have condemned this president from their church pulpits. Disapproval has traveled far from our borders – the London Times has belittled him and lamented his “dull and commonplace” speeches. Perhaps the most alarming result of such criticism is that some publications have suggested the ultimate remedy of assassination.
Should such a flood of condemnation persuade this president to reverse his unpopular policies, and to change his manner of pursuing them?
History holds the answer to that question. “This” president, so demeaned by both politicians and the press, was Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s great Civil War leader, who freed African-Americans from the bonds of slavery.
History proved him right, and his critics wrong.
David Minier of Fresno is a retired Superior Court judge and former district attorney for Madera and Santa Barbara counties.