Last weekend, the Bush family said goodbye to its matriarch, Barbara Bush. A photo taken at the funeral showed George W. Bush with one arm around his wife Laura, and his other arm around Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton was smiling over Bush’s shoulder. Michelle Obama stood next to Melania Trump, with a beaming Barack Obama next to his wife. George H. W. Bush sat in front of the bipartisan group.
The photo went viral, presumably because it “touched a nerve: Democrats and Republicans were embracing, smiling, and enjoying the company of one another.” Tom Brokaw remarked that “Barbara Bush’s funeral and her life of grace, honesty and warmth [are] a reminder of what we’re missing in public life across the board. [T]he funeral was a welcome respite from the current alley cat brawl.”
Brokaw’s words about Mrs. Bush are welcome and empathetic. But the rest of his statement incorrectly suggests that the chaos we’re all living through is simply the latest example of what’s wrong with both sides in Washington, D.C. In fact, the problem we face is not simply an ordinary partisan disagreement.
It may not be easy to forthrightly discuss what’s really going on, but it is necessary if we are going to begin to extricate ourselves from this national crisis. One person was, of course, missing from the photo that people pointed to as evidence of the capacity for Democrats and Republicans to get along: President Donald Trump. That’s no coincidence.
The “alley cat brawl” Brokaw refers to is not a situation where both sides are equally to blame. Donald Trump has championed a particularly toxic brand of bullying masquerading as politics, and most Republicans — especially those in elected office — have signed on for the ride.
It’s painfully obvious why Trump didn’t appear in the photo with his wife, other recent…