Even the president’s detractors concede — albeit as criticism — that Donald Trump is a different kind of animal from previous commanders in chief. One of the more conspicuous differences between Trump and his predecessors came to light again Friday when he remarked in a tweet that some of the statements made about him in the Mueller report are “total bullshit.” The liberal media were predictably all over the comment, but so was the normally staid Wall Street Journal, which noted in a tweet that the colorful characterization marked “a rhetorical shift” from his previous position:
President Trump says the Mueller report contains "total bullshit"—a rhetorical shift after saying it exonerates him https://t.co/4UP5kAZ4Rn
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 20, 2019
Trump is not the first president to use profanity casually. The nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson, reputedly had quite the potty mouth, and even Abraham Lincoln was said to have “no ability to discriminate between the vulgar and refined” when “hunting for wit.”
But among modern presidents, seemingly all of whom used profanity (recall that even Barack Obama said during an interview about the BP oil spill that he was determined to find out “whose ass to kick”), Trump is in a class by himself. I say this not because I believe swearing becomes a president but because Trump uses curse words with an uncommon ease. Hearing him use the phrase what the hell for emphasis no longer jars the way it once might have. As Loren Thompson notes in an article at Forbes titled “Why President Trump Will Likely Be Reelected”:
[The American] people have gotten used to Trump. He doesn’t seem as outrageous as he once did. His critics will fret that this amounts to “normalizing deviance,” but what it really shows is that two years in the nation’s top job have taken the edge off of Trump’s confrontational personality. He no longer sounds like the strident outsider he was on inauguration day.
It is true that Trump sometimes pushes the envelope: When he referred to Haiti and the nations of Africa as “sh*tholes,” Democrats took to bed with the vapors. Cory Booker claimed the comment made him cry. But what Trump’s critics were responding to was not so much his use of profanity as it was the brutal candor of the criticism.
I believe the answer to the question that forms the headline of this post is a definite “possibly.” Democrats, perhaps in an effort to keep pace with the president, have begun using casual profanity in their own public statements. In an April 2017 speech to his base DNC Chairman Tom Perez asserted that “Republican leaders and President Trump don’t give a sh*t about the people they were trying to hurt.” And who could forget freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s gratuitously rude reference to the president as a “motherf*cker”? But swearing for the sake of swearing or to keep up with the Jonses is not the same as swearing like “everyman.” At that, Donald Trump is a pro.