President Trump’s propensity for less than cogent and sometimes crass speech is often contrasted with the grace and style exhibited by former President Obama. I am reminded of a true story from WWII.
In early 1940, a student at a well-respected Jewish learning academy (“a yeshiva”), in what was soon to be Nazi Germany, observed the crass behavior and poor eating habits of his fellow students at group mealtime. He was struck by how boisterous and lacking in manners everyone seemed to be. It stood in stark contrast to what he observed in public restaurants frequented by genteel Germans who were not Jewish. So, he approached one of the distinguished professors at the yeshiva and said, “Have you noticed the difference between how we behave at meals and how the Germans behave in public? We could learn a lot from them.” To which the professor replied, “The good German people have nothing to teach us.” The student was shocked by the professor’s denial and apparent lack of awareness.
Two decades later that same student, now a grown man, was attending a symposium in London when he noticed the name of his former yeshiva professor as one of the presenters. After attending the professor’s presentation, the former student approached the professor. The student introduced himself then said, “I owe you an apology.” The professor was taken aback and asked why. To which the student held up his right arm, which had been severed at the wrist in a concentration camp, and said, “Because you were right. We had nothing to learn from the good German people.”
Appearances and public facades designed to mask truth are often nothing more than elegantly crafted lies.
It is now been revealed though declassified and released documents that President Obama, and much of his Administration and FBI, knew the falsity of the hoax tying Donald Trump, General Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and others to Putin and Russia. In fact, it appears that President Obama gave direct instructions to keep that investigation ongoing when it was apparent there was neither factual nor evidentiary basis for doing so.
In just this past week, President Obama went public with his concerns that the “rule of law” is in jeopardy given the recently dropped charges against General Flynn. The irony of Obama’s claim should not be lost on anyone.
Surely the rule of law was nowhere in his sights when he gave the go-ahead to baselessly and shamelessly intimidate, harass, mislead, persecute and prosecute a true patriot like General Flynn or when he sanctioned baseless efforts to take down a duly elected President.
I know that many people find President Trump’s public behavior to be reprehensible. I have tried to talk with such people over the past few years having made efforts to refocus them on his policies, judicial appointments, and defense of the First, Second and Fourth Amendments but to no avail. The common lament and refrain have been, “He is crude. He is rude. He lies. He is all about himself. If only President Obama could run again.”
Perhaps its time we all looked beyond appearances to substance. To what a person accomplishes rather than what they say…or even how they say it. Civility should be desired. Even expected. But its superficial. Its existence should not mask the substance below its surface…and it certainly should not be a substitute for it.
To those who still long for the return of Barack Obama, I would paraphrase the words of that yeshiva student. The seemingly graceful Barack Obama has nothing to teach us about the rule of law.