Today America honors those who have served as Presidents. On Presidents’ Day we remember George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie” after cutting down the cherry tree, likely an apocryphal tale but one embedded in the minds of American school children of my generation. But then there was also “honest Abe”. We were taught to be like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
We expect much more from a President or a candidate for President, although in recent decades we’ve lowered our expectations. Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica Lewinsky, and the Iraq War have taken us a far distance from the myths of George and Abe who couldn’t tell a lie.
But the American expectations of a President are not just about truth-telling. They are also about stature, decorum, propriety, decency, wisdom, the ability to hold one’s tongue in sensitive situations. Qualities of character and skill that, if we forget them, lead to cheapening the Office of President to the society’s lowest common denominator. Flash forward to South Carolina, two days before Presidents’ Day, 2016.
“For a number of weeks Ted Cruz has just been telling lies. He lied about Ben Carson in Iowa. He lies about Planned Parenthood and marriage. And he makes things up.” – Sen. Marco Rubio, candidate for President, accusing Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz.
“You are probably worse than Jeb Bush. You [Ted Cruz] are the single biggest liar … This guy will say anything. Nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.” – businessman Donald Trump, candidate for President regarding fellow candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush.
“I gotta tell you. This is just crazy, huh? This is just nuts. Okay. Oh, man.” And “these attacks, some of them are personal. I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this.” – Governor John Kasich, candidate for President.
Back when I was a kid at Marple Elementary School, someone would shout the worst thing we could say to each other – “Liar, liar, big fat liar!” Both the accused liar and the accuser would end up in Pop Warfel’s Office for a lecture. Pops was the Principal.
Where’s Pops when we need him? RIP. Thanks for the lesson in civics.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 15, 2016