Foul Speech Now the Norm in White House?

Original Article

We all have noticed the progressive sector’s attack on dissenters in the media ranks, on almost any issue, but especially lately on the sequester. First it was Woodward, then Lanny Davis, next Ron Fournier. But what interests me most about Fournier is his statement in The National Journal that foul speech and attempted intimidation have become emblematic of the Obama White House.

Is it true? Does anyone care? Do we still think that presidents and their staffs set a model for the country, especially children?

Fournier now publicly says he has become disgusted with the foul language and high handed tone of a White House aide with whom he had a long off-the-record email journalistic relationship, and so he cut the contact off. That is a serious choice for a journalist to make, yet he did it. “As editor-in-chief of National Journal,” he says, “I received several e-mails and telephone calls from this White House official filled with vulgarity, abusive language, and virtually the same phrase that Politico characterized as a veiled threat.”

This reminded me of the film Zero Dark Thirty. Coming out of it I commented to my wife that it seemed incredibly authentic, except that the constant vulgarity of the language, including that of the White House staffer represented on screen, seemed unrealistic to me. Maybe the film makers were trying too hard to appear macho.

Let me put it this way, I know Richard Nixon swore, probably as a way to establish authority and what he supposed was a regular guy reputation, but that was not the case with Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, or, for sure, Ronald Reagan.

In the Reagan White House, where I served two years, as well as in other posts in his Administration, I seldom heard swearing. In the official culture that then obtained it would not have been seen as respectful of the office. One has a sense of awe about the White House in particular and swearing and vulgarity seem manifestly out of place there. Instead, they reflect what my father always said about swearing. It isn’t just sacrilegious and crass, it’s also a sign of mental laziness and imprecise thinking. We’ve all engaged in it at times, I suppose, but it’s not cool, it’s stupid.

Times change, though, don’t they? Maybe they have changed in the White House.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.