Opinion: Trump's White House, A Bully's Pulpit NPR's Scott Simon reflects on the words President Trump does — and doesn't — decide to use.
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Opinion: Trump's White House, A Bully's Pulpit

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Opinion: Trump's White House, A Bully's Pulpit

Opinion: Trump's White House, A Bully's Pulpit

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Theodore Roosevelt coined a phrase when he told White House reporters I have such a bully pulpit. He met bully as it was then used to say terrific or tremendous. President Roosevelt believed a president had a peerless national platform that could be used to enlighten and inspire a nation with words. Think of Lincoln in his second inaugural address telling north and south at the close of a war that had soaked America in blood with malice toward none, with charity for all. Or President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 after civil rights marchers had been beaten by Alabama state troopers telling Congress it wasn't just African-Americans but, quote, "it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice, and we shall overcome." Or President Reagan looking over the divided city of Berlin in 1987 and saying, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

President Trump has been in office for almost two years and has millions of supporters, but I wonder if even many of them believe the president has used his perch of high office to utter words that inspire. He's presided over rallies that chant lock her up. The president tells this year's campaign rallies that those who have different ideas around a, quote, "ruthless mission to demolish and destroy," "corrupt power-hungry globalists" who want, quote, "millions of illegal aliens to overwhelm our nation" and threaten "the safety of every single American." And, of course, he's called the press "the enemy of the people." He's praised a congressman who assaulted a reporter, saying any guy who can do a body slam, he is my type. Of course, some Democrats and other public figures have also used overheated rhetoric. But as Mr. Trump has said a number of times about critics, I'm president and they are not. It may turn out that nothing the president said set off the person who's been detained and is suspected of sending pipe bombs to several people who criticized President Trump.

But all Americans have heard the president utter falsehoods, fan phony fears and conspiracy theories and use words to assail, insult and demean rather than console, encourage or heal. So often the president has turned his national bully pulpit into a bully's pulpit.

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