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Count us among the grateful that some of Arkansas' lawmakers in Washington recognize the nation's president went too far in attacking four Democrats who themselves are prone to using social media with explosive assertions.

That's not a "they did it first" defense. Who, after all, can even determine who did what first in this social media arms race in which micro-outbursts known by the deceptively cute name of "tweets" are wielded like clubs? Rather, let's recognize that all these political figures -- and many more at all levels of government -- are playing the same harmful game of social media outrage in which the weapon of mass destruction is a smartphone touchscreen.

What’s the point?

Americans, even those who agree with the president on policy, should work to avoid allowing his behavior to become a new standard.

"The president's remarks are not defensible," said U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers, referring to Donald Trump's suggestion that four Democratic congresswomen, who the president says "hate our country," should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Certainly, Womack's is an accurate statement, but well short of suggesting they're condemnable. And the 3rd District Congressman goes on about other things "not defensible": "Nor are the anti-American, anti-Semitic and extreme policies espoused by the socialist wing of the Democratic majority.

"Let's change the tone and focus on real issues."

We'll give him a C for effort.

Sen. John Boozman of Rogers, who often gets credit for behaving kindly with people he ultimately differs with on policy, sounded such a tone in his reaction: "I've always found that disagreeing without being disagreeable provides the most opportunity to get things done. While we can vary on what policies we support, singling out people whose opinions differ from our own is bad for discourse and public civility."

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs didn't care for either side's approach: "The new socialist Democrats advocate ideas that will bankrupt American families, slow productivity and weaken our military; however, the president's tweets weren't about policy, and were unnecessarily demeaning. Governing well requires debating policies, not personalities."

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Dardanelle mostly refused to comment, but he reportedly said this at a Washington event hosted by the news website Axios: "I think what he sees is a lot of extremism from the House Democrats. ... The president is gonna tweet what he's gonna tweet."

In short, these lawmakers have modified Trump's reaction to all those "very fine people on both sides" engaged in protests in Charlottesville, Va., by saying "There are bad behaviors on both sides."

Here in Northwest Arkansas, we've got nothing to do with electing any of the four Democrats the president engaged in a battle of words. They do not represent us. But Arkansans did give their support to Trump in 2016 to help put him in the White House and we elected Womack, Westerman, Cotton and Boozman. It's within reason to expect more of those we elect.

Even in the face of a presidency that has tossed aside all pretenses of decorum and civility in the way differences are handled, it is important that those engaged in our nation's political processes still recognize boundaries of propriety and call out the president and others who cross those boundaries.

Donald Trump will have his four years and maybe his eight years, then he'll be gone. He'll have his successes as president, but will anyone be able to see past the lack of concern for the way he treats people? But we fear it's worse than that: This latest attack supports the probability that he doesn't lack concern. He simply wants to make sure he treats others as poorly as he can.

The real question for the rest of us is whether we will permit his behavioral choices to diminish our own. Will the ugly American become the norm? Will the unparalleled boorishness of Trump's way of living and interacting with others become a hallmark of the American spirit?

It's a sad state of affairs that some of Donald Trump's support -- not necessarily on policy, but on these outbursts -- comes from people who believe his behaviors are just what this country needs. The coarsening of the nation suits them just fine, it seems.

Donald Trump's brutish manners and simplistic child-like reactions, however, are not a necessary ingredient to achieving any of his presidential ambitions or policies.

The question isn't whether Donald Trump will ever learn. It's whether the rest of us will, and what Americans expect of themselves.

Our better natures, we're convinced, will not be found in the choices of our president, not today. Let's hope his behaviors are but a momentary deviation from what Americans expect of themselves, not a new standard for how low we can go.

Commentary on 07/17/2019

Print Headline: So presidential

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