#41 Funeral Ethics Quiz: Honoring Our Presidents

This is a National Day of Mourning, and since President Trump ordered it, reporters, pundits and Democrats are bitching about it. It also helps that the dead President in question is a Republican. Had a National Day of Mourning been designated to bury recently-canonized Trump-hater John McCain, I doubt any complianing would have been put in print. Or (still kicking) Jimmy Carter, on my ranking list an equally inept President as Bush #1.

Over at the National Review, Charles Cooke questions whether we “over-honor” our Presidents, writing in part,

“Irrespective of whether he was a great man or a poor one, George H. W. Bush was a public employee. He was not a king. He was not a pope. He did not found or save or design the republic. To shut down our civil society for a day in order to mark his peaceful passing is to invert the appropriate relationship between the citizen and the state, and to take yet another step toward the fetishization of an executive branch whose role is supposed to be more bureaucratic than spiritual, but that has come of late to resemble Caesar more than to resemble Coolidge.”

Well, that’s your quiz: is he right? Or is the National Day of Mourning just a waste of money and over-kill, if you’ll excuse the term?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day, dedicated to George  Herbert Walker Bush,  is…

Do we over-honor our Presidents?

You can have my answer now: absolutely not.

Every President, and I mean every President, makes a massive sacrifice for his country. Good, bad, great, weak, brilliant or tragically flawed, they take on the most crushing responsibility imaginable, and the job gets more difficult, and more unpleasant, with each passing decade. Four Presidents have been assassinated. Four more came close. It is a dangerous job, and an incredibly stressful one. Our schools don’t teach Presidential history; few American can name 25% of the Presidents off the top of their heads. We don’t honor our Presidents enough.

One day put aside for the nation to say thank-you is minimal, and deserved, not just by the late President Bush, but by every one of his fellow White House occupants.


22 thoughts on “#41 Funeral Ethics Quiz: Honoring Our Presidents

  1. Do we over-honor our presidents?

    Probably but that is not necessarily a bad thing for the reasons you mentioned. Even Nixon was eulogized with pomp and circumstance when he passed. It is good for the nation to recognize the sacrifice(s) made by the Chief Executive Officer while in office. It provides a moment for the nation to unite around the ideals of the country, putting aside partisan differences.

    Say what you will about GHWB’s effectiveness as President, his honor, integrity, patriotism, and public service are beyond reproach. I am getting annoyed by the adulation from those doing so to skewer President Trump, though. That is unfair and unseemly, but as the NYT stated, these are different times demanding different rules for a different President.


  2. We should always honor our past presidents! My dad was very fond of Bush 1 and was proud to have worked with him! I did not know this at the time as my dad and I had a riff over my being Gay! Plus a lot of my dads work was classified, and I did not learn of it till years later! Was he the perfect president? No but he was better then many. I respected him, even if I did not always agree! Something that is needed more today.

  3. I wonder what they will say if Jimmy Carter dies and President Trump declares a National Day of Mourning? How will they criticize the decision? I’m sure they then will declare it improper for him to attend the funeral.

    • The articles have already moved on from praising the Bushes for not disinviting the President to finding ways to criticize the President and everything he does at the memorial service. And they would have lambasted him if he hadn’t attended to boot.

  4. Logging is often cited as the most dangerous job. With 132 deaths per 100,000 workers per year.

    With four deaths since 1789, the death rate for presidents would be over 1700 per 100,000 per year, so being president is roughly ten times more dangerous than being a logger. Forty times more dangerous than being a commercial pilot or a roofer.

    I had no appreciation for that aspect of the job.

  5. I agree with you, Jack. To me, the thing is that we have a lot bound up in our presidents. A lot of our hopes, our fears, and a lot of what we are. Whether they are any good at their jobs or not, they do sacrifice a lot taking it on, and it must suck a lot more often than the reverse.

    Especially since the days of John F. Kennedy, who was the first President I was ever really exposed to, television and now the Internet enable us to tie up far more of ourselves into the office of the President and the person in it. Presidents always disappoint, they always deliver, and they always are smaller than the office they hold. But despite all that, when they are in office, they are America, even when we don’t like them.

  6. I completely agree. I just don’t think we can appreciate how stressful this job is.

    We take a look at the youngish man we elected a few short years before and think, when did he get so old?

  7. Well, a (partly) contrary view…
    I think the State ceremonies, memorial services, flags at half-staff, etc. that all actually honor president Bush are entirely appropriate expressions of respect and sympathy. Shutting down mail, most government services, and the entwined financial sector, however, seem more an unnecessary and expensive boondoggle that does little but grant an extra day off for (mostly) public employees at the inconvenient expense of the private sector…nearly all of which, as far as I can tell, proceeded with no bonus paid holiday.

    • That’s kind where I’m falling. Plenty of memorial services are appropriate but a whole day off work… it strikes me as wrong symbolically instinctively but I can’t say why just yet. Half a day off? Maybe. An extra hour for lunch? Sure. Time off to attend the funeral – definitely.

  8. Oddly enough I just tried to share this on my Facebook wall and it was blocked because it “violates our community standards.” My first guess is because it contains the word “assassination” somewhere in the post.

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