The Jemele Hill Incident Shows A Tale Of Two White Houses
The true difference between Obama and Trump revealed itself this week.
Watching Sarah Huckabee Sanders tell a room full of reporters that ESPN should fire one of their best journalists all because she was mean to the President got me thinking about a line from The Simpsons:
“That’s not America. That’s not even Mexico.”
There’s a certain dignity White House administrations are supposed to aspire to. I say supposed to because this White House rarely hits the mark any time they’re given the opportunity and the recent incident with Jemele Hill is just another whiff at the plate.
Standing behind that podium with the seal of the President behind you means you speak with the authority of the United States Government. Every syllable, every pause, every vocal inflection is a reflection of that government and its people; it’s telling the world what we think and what we believe. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in all her glory, told the rest of the world the White House has no problem telling a private organization to fire someone based on their feelings about the guy in the Oval Office.
Let that sink in for a bit.
This is the same group espousing free speech and calling “safe spaces” a haven for “snowflakes.” The same group led by a man who led a hateful, racist campaign against his predecessor for years because why the hell not. But it’s also the same people instructing the Justice Department to investigate IP addresses of visitors to an anti-Trump website, so at least their consistent with their hypocrisy.
But let’s get back to the former administration. While far from perfect, they at least understood the weight of that seal and the importance of the podium. They knew when to intervene and when not to, and regardless of your political party, they dealt with a lot of racial crap from people like Curt Schilling, Hank Williams, Jr., Ted Nugent, and even a sitting Mayor. A freaking Mayor in this country had no problem calling the First Lady an ape. But did the Obama White House use its public position to admonish, demagogue, or call for any of these people to lose their jobs?
Of course not.
That would be part of that whole “big government overeach” thing conservatives love to talk about but only seem to practice when it comes to taxes. No, what the White House did in those moments and similar instances over the course of 8 years was to act with a specific sense of decorum and respect.
To put it another way, the White House acted like an adult.
Children have the luxury of responding to each slight with the fury of 1000 suns. How many of us remember saying the three greatest words in the English language in the eyes of a kid, “he started it”? The sheer amount of ridiculousness justified all in the name of that sentence would be enough to fill up every hidden nuclear missle silo on the planet. Kids will be kids and kids are often jerks. But it’s less to do with the type of people they are and everything to do with not knowing any better. Plus the consequences, in retrospect, are tiny. This White House either doesn’t know better or knows exactly what they’re doing and it’s hard to tell which is worse. Either they openly wield the power of the Presidency like a kid with a gun, or they just have no idea the bad things that come from acting like Yosimitee Sam throwing a tantrum.
This is strength? This is greatness? This is the way to get the rest of the world to stop “laughing at us?” I guess. But what I’m entirely sure of is this White House being enamored with machismo and stereotypical illustrations of strength. Trying to reconcile that big, bad, tough guy rhetoric with calling for a female journalist to lose her job all because she said some things you don’t like is tough to do, even for a smart ass like myself.
Is it this?
Or is it this?
Either way I’m confused.
The Trump White House declared they’d be different from the Obama White House and restore something in the country. To say nothing of the fact his only governing philisophy seems to be “opposite of Obama.” But the guy who said he’d bring class and greatness back to the Oval and back to the country is showing just how tacky and gaudy he really is. There’s no esteem in using the bully pulpit to dictate what should and shouldn’t be said about you. There’s no amount of chest-beating you can do in behind the Resolute Desk to justify browbeating people for being mean to you or disagreeing with you.
In the White House, in big boy politics, and as an adult, “he started it” is never an apt excuse. You have to be better than the best and a beacon of behavior at all times, not just when there’s a photo-op or ratings to be had.
But hey, what else should we expect from a guy who just wants to be anti-Obama?
Marcus Benjamin is a danger to the public, an alum of American University, St. John’s University, a screenwriter, and has an intense relationship with words. Witness his tomfoolery on Twitter,@AbstractPo3tic.