I think the media is secretly gleeful that Trump said “shithole countries” yesterday, not only because it gives them the next thing to deplore about Trump for hours and hours, but because it breaks a barrier they’ve wanted to break themselves. Because it is permissible under media standards and practices to quote verbatim anything the president says, they get to say “shithole, shithole, shithole!!!” all they want. And apply it to Trump himself, as a few have done. As though lots of media grandees haven’t been wanting to use terms normally frowned upon here at Power Line.
I rather wish Trump wouldn’t go off like that, as it does add yet another ratification to the ongoing coarsening of American culture. I recall back in the summer of 1979, when Jimmy Carter, trailing Ted Kennedy badly in early polls of Democrats voters, remarked to a group of reporters that if Kennedy ran, “I’ll kick his ass.” Reporters looked at one another, and back at Carter, as if to ask, “Is that off the record?” So Carter, if memory serves me correctly (it might not) repeated the phrase, just to make sure that reporters understood that he wanted to be quoted saying such a coarse thing. And it went into the paper, to wide notice and some mild consternation.
I then recall catching Johnny Carson’s monologue on The Tonight Show a day or two later. He said, “Did you hear President Carter say that if Ted Kennedy runs against him, ‘I’ll kick his ass!’ That’s right. The President of the United States said ‘I’ll kick his ass.'” Then Carson paused for the usual pre-punch line buildup. Whereupon he said—”There’s no punch line. The network censors can’t stop me for quoting the President verbatim, and I just wanted to say ‘kick his ass’ on the air!” Big laugh from the audience, because naturally Carson’s delivery and tone were perfect.
I suspect Johnny would handle Trump’s current language better than CNN.