Former president George W. Bush’s memoirs debuted this week and the television world couldn’t wait to start bashing him.
George Lopez said the book was called “Decision Points,” and he’d already decided not to read it. David Letterman said it was big, thick book and you could stand on it at the book store to reach a good book on the top shelf. Keith Olbermann both mocked it and used it to draw attention to himself. And of course, Jon Stewart offered the former president a set of steak knives and a McRib sandwich to appear on his show.
I love Stewart, but if I was Bush, I’d tell him what he could do with his steak knives.
Now I know a lot of these comments are just jokes and I’m fine with that. Bush himself has a sense of humor, saying about authoring a book that a lot of people think he can’t read much less write. And he certainly isn’t going to make anyone’s list of best presidents anytime soon. But it seems to me that the mocking disrespect, not just for Bush but for all presidents both past and present, has sunk to new lows.
Did it start with Hoovervilles? Watergate? Monica Lewinsky? I don’t know. But at some point, a segment of the population has found it OK to blur the line between the man and the office a little too much.
In Bush’s case, I don’t know if it’s post-GOP-victory doldrums or if it’s just too soon for him to rear his head again in liberals’ eyes. They may have a point on the latter. After leaving such a mess, maybe it would’ve been better if he had lain low awhile longer.
On the other hand, this is a chance to hear it from the horse’s mouth. And despite what talk show hosts and the television clowns who try to pass for journalists will tell you, a presidency can not be boiled down to a few sound bites and jokes. It is the hardest job in the world, and if you don’t believe that look at some before and after photos of past presidents. Heck, look at a pic of the current president from two years ago and look at him now. He’s aged a decade.
And speaking of President Barack Obama, he’s certainly faced his share of public displays of disrespect. I disagree strongly with a lot of things he’s done, but I think he ought to be able to get through speeches without being called a liar, and some of the journalists who cover him need a refresher in manners.
After the Republican butt-kicking last week, some in the press talked to Obama like he was a wayward child or a dog that’d messed up the carpet. Ask him hard questions, sure. But don’t talk to him like he’s subhuman while you’re doing it.
Jimmy Carter gets worse treatment. I think we can agree that advice from a one-term president from the 1970s, who left office with high unemployment and higher interest rates, should be taken with a grain of salt. But the nasty insults regularly hurled at that man go far beyond criticism.
Yes, I’m very glad to live in a land where it’s not a crime to criticize our leaders. I want them held accountable. You should be able to make jokes about them. Their leadership and character flaws should be pointed out. But simply as a matter of decorum, when you talk to any president of the United States, treat him as such. That’s all I’m saying.
If you can’t respect him, at least respect the office he’s held.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.