POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Ashes to Ashes

by David Trumbull -- September 17, 2010

Well, we made it through September 11th with no one in America conducting a public burning of the Koran (Qur’an), Torah, Tanakh, New Testament, Book of Morman, Rig Veda, the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, or any other sacred text. Not even a single singed copy of The Watchtower!

Whew! For a while there I thought we were on our way to becoming fifteenth century Florence, Italy, with our own version of Savonarola lighting the bonfire of the vanities down in Gainsville, Florida. That is until I heard that the Sunshine State pastor was not a member of any organized demonination and he hasn’t more than 50 followers! In other words one crackpot with a few assorted nuts and loose screws hanging around him could get all that attention.

And attention he got! In the days leading up to 9/11 it seemed like every time I looked at the television news there was President Obama talking about the fire-bug preacherman. This is getting all too familiar.

In July 2009, with substantially less that full knowledge of the details of the incident, President Obama said the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” when Sergeant Crowley arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates. The later investigation concluded that no wrong was done, no one “acted stupidly”—although both Dr. Gates and Sergeant Crowley may have displayed less than perfect judgment (and which of us does, hum?)

In September of last year President Obama called hip-hop musician Kanye West a “jackass.” Of course in Mr. West’s case the charge is true, but it also goes with, and is a prerequisite for, his profession.

I have a suggestion for President Obama. When they asked you about the incinerating inciter in Gainesville, you could have recycled two golden oldies and replied: “some jackass acts stupidly every day, and I’m not going to comment on every one of them.”

I have another suggestion for the President. Next time you are temped to comment on some current news item that is unrelated to your job as chief executive, follow the advice of the old proverb: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” The more you keep on talking about things better ignored in silence, the more your presidency goes up in smoke.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]