The White House has announced that President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will bow out of the Kennedy Center Honors, a prime event on Washington's social calendar, this year and not attend to "allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction."
This decision was likely occasioned by several nominees' refusal to attend the White House reception before the gala. I would imagine the chances of the president's being lectured and/or smeared and booed during the event were high. Not attending is a gracious act and also probably wise.
Vanity Fair, a magazine inserts a Trump dig in almost every article, however, attacks the decision, claiming it "hurts" the Kennedy Center Honors (along with art in eneral, civilization and apple piel). No criticism from Vanity Fair, however, for nominees Norman Lear and ballerina Carmen de Lavallade, who announced they would be no-shows at the pre-gala reception. Ms. de Lavallade had this to say:
"In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House," de Lavallade said in a statement last week.
The art community's disdain is nothing new, but now the elites have hit upon a new weapon: shaming anybody who dares to lend his or her talents to the Trump administration. Of course, the president doesn't make it easy either. Rich Lowry writes:
Working for Trump means being willing to put up with the possibility of humiliation of the sort that loyalist Attorney General Jeff Sessions suffered at the president’s hands. It means dancing around his outrageous statements and pretending to work for a more normal president. And it means courting social disapproval.
Among the nation’s elite, Trump is now a walking, talking version of the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill, which caused corporate America to boycott and shame the state into submission. CEOs increasingly don’t want anything to do with Trump. Hollywood and representatives of the arts loathe him. And sports figures are leery. Trump is as personally radioactive as any president since Richard Nixon during his final descent. This can’t be what a high-flying financier and movie producer like Steve Mnuchin signed up for. But any Trump official who doesn’t think he is being forced to violate his personal conscience should stick it out.
Busy as he is, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin took time to reply to an impassioned letter from his Yale classmates defending his decisions to remain in his job.
President Trump often lets his ego get the best of him, but you know what really hurts the country?
This insidious campaign, operated on the level of high school shaming, to destroy the administration by making it socially unacceptable to work for it. This is not the same as an honest fight over legislation or trying to make Trump a one-term president by honestly opposing his agenda in Congress.
This is shameful and harmful–and not very adult.
Lowry, no fan of Mr. Trump, writes:
The presidency is an important institution, and whatever fantasies his enemies may have of a rapid ending to his tenure, Trump is president. He needs good advice and competent help. There are obviously limits to how much he can be controlled, but he is susceptible to advice. It’s no accident that Trump hasn’t withdrawn from NAFTA, pursued a trade war with China, or kneecapped NATO.
No one is irreplaceable, but it’s not as though Trump’s team is likely to get stronger. Able people have been turning down job offers, warned off by the president’s volatility. The pool of talent available to Trump was never as large as that of a conventional president, and it has shrunk.
. . .
The portfolios of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and national-security adviser H. R. McMaster include the most consequential matters of state, and John Kelly is now running the White House as chief of staff. The administration’s credibility depends in large part on the service of these men.
It’s comparable to the moral power that David Petraeus assumed in 2007 when George W. Bush subcontracted making the public case for the Iraq War to him. If any of the generals, particularly John Kelly, were to quit and lambaste Trump on the way out the door, it might have a debilitating effect on his presidency.
That sounds alluring to Trump’s critics. But crippled presidencies aren’t good for the country, and Trump was duly elected. So the generals are right to stay and serve their country in this capacity. Someone has to do it.
We can't all be heroes and heroines like Norman Lear and Carmen de Lavallade.