With this president, the verbal-attack gloves are off

Because our country is at stake, conscience requires me to treat this president, this singular existential threat, as I’ve never treated any president — liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican — before him.

A few words on trash-talking the president.

Said words are occasioned by emails from a large number of readers who have noted an increased propensity toward that practice in this space. Many found that rather ironic in light of an admonition that appears in the auto response received by any person who sends me an email. It warns that the reader who engages in name-calling will not receive a personal reply.

How, these readers demand to know, can I square that delicate concern for decorum with the fact that yours truly has repeatedly name-called the present tenant of the white mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? I plead guilty as charged, having dubbed him the “so-called president,” the “boy president” and “President Dumpster Fire,” among other choice epithets.

“Amazing,” wrote one person. “So it’s OK for you to name-call the president of the USA and then exclaim that you don’t respond to name-calling?”

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The short answer is yes. The longer answer goes like this:

As a general rule, I’ve always tried to avoid excessive name-calling in this space, particularly of the chief executive. The one big exception was back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when I dubbed Bill Clinton a “human oil slick,” “manipulative slime,” “Gomer” and “President Hefner.”

There is a simple reason — beyond decorum, I mean — for not going to that level too often. You see, two things happen when you call someone names.

The first is that you signal your lack of respect. The second is that you foreclose any possibility of engaging that person in a substantive manner on whatever the point of contention might be. The woman you call a stupid so-and-so is unlikely to then sit and have a calm discussion with you about police brutality.

So the reader who is affronted by my views on police brutality or any other topic has every right to call me names, but no reasonable expectation of any response beyond a tap of the delete button. Similarly, when I call the present president a human dumpster fire, it signals that I do not expect to engage with him or any of that shrinking minority of Americans who think he’s doing a bang-up job.

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