President Donald Trump and the first lady's graceful tribute to the late George H.W. Bush underscored, a little awkwardly, one reason for the tone and fragrance of all the obituary tributes we're reading.
The Trumps praised — with unimpeachable dignity — Bush's "essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country," together with his "sound judgment and unflappable leadership." This string of attributes strikes many, I'm sure, as precisely the stuff some future president won't be saying about Trump. As if Trump — who knows exactly who he is and isn't — really cared!
The late George Herbert Walker Bush was indeed a man of many excellences. That the personal variety excite more praise than the political ones shows us a thing or two about national leadership: its demands and rigors.
Not always, but often enough to give us considerable pause, important national leaders are decidedly — well, maybe not weird or crazy — but certainly non-normal. Think of FDR. Think of Churchill and DeGaulle. Think of LBJ and Bill Clinton. They aren't like us, and we're not like them — a fact that illuminates to some degree the rise and pugnacious durability of Trump. You might not want to spend a lot of face time with him, but you might well want him to straighten out some things in need of straightening: a task, assuming he agreed with you or saw value in your analysis, that he'd be happy to take on, claiming full credit all the way.