It is so thoroughly manifest in human convention, it’s even enshrined in Latin: “de mortuis nihil nisi bonum” (of the dead speak nothing but good). Whenever there have been exceptions we have always known what they were, and without needing to be told, e.g., Hitler, e.g., Charles Manson. Whatever side of the political aisle one may occupy, I think most rational people would agree that Barbara Bush belonged on the “nihil nisi bonum” side of the ledger.
Except Trump, of course. With Trump, no one and nothing is sacred. It’s a constant of Donald Trump’s peevish littleness to expect something small, decayed, infantile, churlish and unbecoming from his mouth for any occasion on any topic. The hilarious early days of the Trump “presidency,” when broadcasters were wringing their hands and positively hugging themselves with delight concerning the “any day now” prospects of Donald Trump doing something, anything, “presidential,” are thankfully over.
And now for my least favorite bit when writing for Palmer Report. I sometimes have to quote Donald Trump. Here goes. “I have heard that she was nasty to me, but she should be. Look what I did to her sons.” I suppose among the worst things you can do to a mother is boast about how you have harmed her children. Lucky for Trump, Mrs. Bush isn’t around to defend herself.
Yet again “the Donald” took a shot, and yet again it was an indecorously cowardly and cheap one. Had he had Roger Stone around to defend him, he might have said what Stone said: “she’s dead and he’s president – who won that one?”
In the era of the “best words” uttered by the “best people,” Donald Trump has taken us to a low I would not have thought possible two years ago. Not to say I didn’t know then that he was capable of being cheap and petty and scabrous and uncouth – I’ve known about that for 35 years or so – no, it’s that so many Americans would continue to adore him despite that. That so many Americans would applaud even when he attacks beloved icons of the past like Barbara Bush, icons of their very own party. For me, of course, Donald Trump occupies the Hitler and Manson side of the “nihil nisi bonum” ledger. When Trump eventually dies, I plan to speak ill of him immediately, savagely, unsparingly and continuously. And the sooner the better.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.