Letters to the editor correctly label my columns “boorishly inartful,” full of “vapid generalities,” “esteemed ramblings,” and “abhorrent.” Direct messages to me declare them “trash.” Readers rightfully urge me to be kinder and gentler to our president, whom we all agree (apart from his pride, greed and lust) is a good Christian man. The most recent such letter went so far as to unfavorably compare my writing to deceased American satirist H.L. Mencken’s.
Well, today all cries of “I’m melting! I’m melting!” shall grow quiet even from the most delicate of snowflakes these prior columns have offended. Today we return to the genteel days of yore, when satirists were less satirical and partisans less political. Today we search earnestly for a role model for my future columns from among our erudite ancestors. A no-obloquy zone.
First, let us consider the restraint I could learn from the aforementioned Mr. Mencken. In a 1920 piece for the Baltimore Evening Sun, he warned that on “some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” What a relief this will never happen.
Or I could further study William Cowper Brann, whose Waco-based paper in the 1800s had a worldwide readership of nearly 100,000. He was fond of writing things like, “I have nothing against the Baptists. I just believe they were not held under long enough.” He explained he could not be gentler because you don’t “choke a bad dog to death with good butter.” On the other hand, people love their dogs, so this may be one offense too far. (Brann would no doubt be pleased to learn that three blocks from where he fell to a bullet in the back has arisen in downtown Waco Chip and Joanna Gaines’ glorious Magnolia Market.)
Then there is our most famous historical humorist, Mark Twain, who once wrote that he would be deeply grieved to learn that “any large number of sane and thinking and intelligent Republicans” did not despise Theodore Roosevelt. It was Roosevelt who regarded it as “morally treasonable to the American public” to announce there must be no criticism of the president, so I trust he enjoyed Twain’s remarks as much as some understandably loathe my columns.
Or perhaps I can follow the lead of our Founding Fathers, whose political discourse had not been poisoned by the evils of social media. Take John Adams who — like all his peers — was full of nothing but piety and propriety. He described Hamilton as suffering from a “superabundance of secretions, which he couldn’t find enough whores to absorb.” Of our beloved first president George Washington, Adams declared it “beyond dispute” that he was “illiterate, unlearned, unread…” Jefferson shared the love, labeling Adams “a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
I pledge a return to the big league, classy writing of days gone by. Ponder the description of Harper’s Weekly magazine of President Lincoln as a “Filthy story-teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Usurper, Monster, Ignoramus Abe, Old Scoundrel, Perjurer, Robber, Swindler, Tyrant.” Before the Deep State, government officials deferred to presidential power, like General George McClellan calling Lincoln “a well-meaning baboon.”
The ill will in past columns I pledge today to replace with the sort of compassionate conservatism Ann Coulter displayed for our prior president (and those with intellectual disabilities), referring to Obama as “retarded” and “The Retard.” I take a lesson from her big-hearted insights, like tweeting after the election that “Without fat girls, there would be no protests.”
I shan’t here mention the name of our current president, but I also might follow his lead. He reverently referred to his predecessor as “the most ignorant president in our history,” “a disaster” and “one of the worst presidents in the history of our country.” (I refrain from mentioning the Muslim, Kenyan, founder of ISIS stuff.) Future columns also shall heed high-brow commentary of other elder statesmen such as Lyndon Johnson. He said Gerald Ford was so “dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”
I shall foreswear future ridicule of presidential hair, such insults being a tacky modern invention dating back solely to the 8th century B.C. That was when the prophet Elisha (per the Old Testament) directed bears to maul the young hooligans who taunted him with cries of “Get out of here, baldy.”
If you can’t join me in being at least that kind to modern leaders, I lovingly question whether you are among the “haters and losers” the world’s most famous tweeter so often constructively criticizes. Let us join hands and in unison affirm these wise words of support from a former leader of Haiti: “The president is here, strong and firm as a monkey’s tail.”
David Schleicher is a member of the Board of Contributors at the Waco Tribune-Herald, where this column originally appeared on May 2, 2017.