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Civility IS a Moderate Value

The recent passing of former President George H.W. Bush highlighted a value seemingly lost in America today: civility.

Bush displayed civility (defined as “politeness, consideration”) throughout his distinguished career. President Trump, not so much. Differences between their leadership styles could not be clearer.

Bush fought hard in political campaigns, but didn’t hold grudges. Trump still demands investigation (and incarceration) of opponent Hillary Clinton – though she’s never been prosecuted, much less convicted, for any crimes.

Bush became friends with Bill Clinton, after Clinton defeated him in 1992’s Presidential campaign. After Southeast Asia’s tsunami in 2004, they raised $1.4 billion for relief efforts; after Hurricane Katrina, they raised more. Clinton described Bush: “People came before politics and patriotism before partisanship.”

TWO contrasts with Trump: becoming friends with Clinton, requiring forgiveness; and raising money to help others.

Yes, Trump allegedly formed his Foundation to fundraise for charities. But New York’s Attorney General accused it of “extensive unlawful political conduct.” saying Trump used it “as his personal checkbook” to “settle his personal legal debts and support his presidential campaign.” Trump, characteristically, used Foundation money to purchase portraits of himself.

Bush, lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, citing an NRA letter calling Federal firearms agents “jack-booted thugs,” resigned his membership, rejecting “a vicious slander on good people.” A brave stand for civility, since Republicans typically placate the NRA.

Trump, who hasn’t pushed significant gun-control measures after frequent mass shootings, said nothing when NRA attacked doctors describing increased gun injuries, demanding they “stay in their lane”.

In his 1989 inaugural address, Bush saluted Americans helping others: “…a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good.”

Trump’s inaugural address emphasized “American carnage”: “abandoned factories, economic angst, rising crime” – and blamed former Presidents like Bush. Historians described it “one of the most ominous in U.S. history, striking an unusually dark and bleak note”. Fact Checker noted Trump’s portrayal of decline “did not match reality”: “The violent crime rate was far below its 1991 peak, the U.S. economy had gained jobs for 75 consecutive months, unemployment was significantly below its historical average, and participation in U.S. welfare programs had declined.”

Trump, predicting his inauguration would attract “unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout,” maintained that claim even after proven untrue. Experts estimated Trump’s crowd at one-third that of Obama’s 2009 inauguration; Nielsen ratings showed fewer TV viewers for Trump than Obama or Reagan.

In 1991, after the Desert Storm attack repelled Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, America held a victory parade. Bush, who led the war effort (persuading 35 nations to join and pay for it), declined to attend, saying it should honor the troops, not him. Aides eventually convinced him to go, as Commander In Chief.

Trump recently proposed a military parade, for no apparent reason except his own adulation, until convinced costs were prohibitive. Both men’s first impulses speak volumes.

Americans can only hope civility isn’t dying with leaders who manifested it.

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