(Feb. 7). I’ve avoided writing this, for fear of appearing hopelessly old-fashioned or being mocked as having a case of the “vapors.” But I can’t let it go without comment: President Trump was appallingly out of line in deliberately saying the word “bulls—” in his rambling East Room soliloquy on Thursday.

Yeah, yeah, I know — it’s a word any TV viewer can hear chanted loudly at almost every college basketball game played today. I know some daily newspapers now fully spell out words considered even more vulgar. And of course, I anticipate the ridiculous “what about” argument from Trump fans that I shouldn’t criticize the president’s language if I haven’t devoted a whole column to being verklempt about Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping up Trump’s speech. (Yeah, whatever.)

Still, it must be said. Decorum is important. Standards are important. Civility is important. Much more than formal law, social mores are the ligaments of communal cohesiveness and, more broadly, of civilization. The point needs no grand exposition here: Wise thinkers have written volumes on the subject.

What’s worth noting is how far we’ve fallen in just three decades, though. As it happens, right now, I am reading the unabridged presidential journals of Ronald Reagan — which, by the way, are fascinating, and inspirational. One rather charming aspect of them is Reagan’s self-censorship on even mild profanity, even in private.

Ronald Reagan at his 72nd birthday party at the White House, 1983. Private Hillyer collection.

About once a month, his brief, longhand notes express enough frustration that at least some extra vehemence emerges. In those instances, the Gipper writes that some congressman or other made him “d—n” angry, or that the media “tried to give me h—l.”

Yes, that’s how he wrote it. Even in private notes, even for words barely considered expletives at all, Reagan would not spell the words out. He always put hyphens for the middle letters. Every single time.

Now, that’s the sort of classiness the political world could use. And that’s no bull.



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