Patterico's Pontifications

12/4/2018

Charles Cooke Hits upon Something That Bothers Me As Well

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:44 pm



[guest post by JVW]

I will post in full his post from National Review Online, since it perfectly captures something that has been brewing in my mind for some time now.

It is in no way to insult George H. W. Bush — or any other president, for that matter — to ask whether the retooling of their calendars is an appropriate way for the people of a republic to respond to the death of an elected representative. Tomorrow, the press reports, is to be a “day of mourning” — a day on which the stock market will be closed, on which the federal government will shut down, on which the House of Representatives will begin a week-long break, on which various universities will cancel classes, on which the Postal Service will halt deliveries, on which the Supreme Court will adjourn, and on which major American newspapers will postpone events that they had previously planned to hold. Across the U.S., flags will be flown at half-staff for a month.

Why? 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.

George H. W. Bush was a lovely and wonderful man who served his country with distinction and honor, guided our nation as a vastly underrated (in his time) President, lived a rewarding life as a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and died in his own bed after nearly nine-and-one-half decades of life surrounded by people who loved him. His death is neither tragic nor unexpected, as it was with Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy. I am not generally a fan of the idea of “celebrating a life,” but if it were ever appropriate to do so as opposed to mourning a death then George Herbert Walker Bush is the perfect example.

We’ve put ourselves in a difficult position by turning our Presidents into idols. Whether or not you love, like, disdain, or hate Barack Obama or Donald Trump, you certainly have to realize that expecting our President to embody our hopes and dreams or to single-handedly bring about peace & prosperity is the kind of feeblemindedness and lack of (small “r”) republican spirit that we rightly disdain in banana republics and totalitarian societies. It would behoove us to start looking upon the President merely as an employee we hire on a four-year contract, renewable once, to serve as executive officer, not as some sort of mystical beacon who will lead us from our otherwise humdrum lives into the land flowing with milk and honey.

Here endeth the rant. Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks to Charles Cooke for an excellent observation.

– JVW

79 Responses to “Charles Cooke Hits upon Something That Bothers Me As Well”

  1. You know who I would like to think would agree with Charles Cooke and me? The late, great President George H. W. Bush.

    JVW (42615e)

  2. 41 probably would agree with you.

    And that’s another reason why it’s an appropriate gesture of honor and respect.

    Dave (1bb933)

  3. JVW, I agree with you and Mr. Cooke.

    I’m active duty in the military and we are being shut down. We live on a military base (one impacted by Hurricane Florence) and our kids’ schools are shut down for the day as well (even though, they were supposed to go longer tomorrow to make up missed time from the hurricane).

    What’s more, I am currently away from my duty station doing training in California that was supposed to be Tuesday-Thursday. We have to compress our schedule now to only hold sessions on Tuesday and Thursday which means I get a free day off in sunny San Diego courtesy of the American taxpayer (something, which, outside of this unexpected national holiday, would be a clear violation of fiscal rules).

    My point: we can mourn, respect, and pay homage to President Bush without engaging in this unnecessary circus of a last minute “holiday.” It wastes time and money.

    Closing question: did we have a national holiday/day of mourning for Presidents Ford or Reagan when they died? I don’t recall one for either President, but I could be wrong.

    Ryan (841e74)

  4. federal employees are lazy and entitled, and not a damn one of them pension pigs what takes the day off will be remotely mournful or even passingly reflective

    they’re simply owed a day off because reasons

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  5. None of the entities mentioned have much – if any – incentive to watch costs. GHWB will be remembered fondly and respectfully in our home, but the needs of the business will preempt any time off.

    Colonel Haiku (5b7649)

  6. Thanks for commenting, Ryan. You deserve a day off in San Diego (even if it wastes taxpayer money), but I’m sorry that it’s messing up your kids’ school schedule.

    It looks like the death of Gerald Ford led to at least a partial government closure. Ford died shortly after Christmas, so schools were probably already mostly out of session. It’s hard to get a handle on what happened when Reagan died fourteen-and-a-half years ago. A national day of mourning was declared for the day of his state funeral (which came on a Friday), so I would imagine that banks closed and the government shut down, but I don’t see any confirmation of that in my limited search.

    JVW (42615e)

  7. Can’t argue with Mr. Cooke.

    Paul Montagu (8afb2a)

  8. No ill will whatsoever toward our late, respectable President Bush, but I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with you, this time, JVW.

    Tillman (61f3c8)

  9. @1. Suspect he would, too. Some of the public platitudes have approached the regal but then that may be in the immediacy of contrast between the character of the past and present office holder. It speaks more to the mindset of the now and the living. There is a fine line to this sort of thing- honoring the office and the office holder- to set a course on how the memory may sail into time and be managed in times to come. We don’t do pyramids and the journey of Grant’s Tomb comes to mind.

    These days they do eventually get an aircraft carrier named after them; an occasional bridge, freeway, government building or installation, schools, an airport- perhaps legal tender minted for a time– and they don’t have to wait the customary five years to be eligible for a postage stamp issued in their honor. OTOH, the U.S.S. Donald J. Trump will one day be christened; be helmed by a Captain Queeg all its own– and after service, eventually scrapped– or transformed into a floating hotel/casino in the namesakes honor. But don’t hold your breath for a library.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  10. what would be more interesting and actually somewhat justified would be if Kuwait took a day off

    but that’s a pretty scummy country and i wouldn’t expect much from them

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  11. I was out of touch with the world during the time when President Reagan died; was this done for him?

    aphrael (cd6e98)

  12. @11. Yes; the specifics can be read on Wikipedia.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  13. I was out of touch with the world during the time when President Reagan died; was this done for him?

    I only did a superficial check, and I can’t really tell. His funeral was on a Friday during June and it was declared a day of public mourning, but most schools were probably already out of session anyway. I would imagine the stock market closed early, if it opened at all, but I don’t know if banks and the post office and everything else was shut down. I may dig a little more deeply into that later.

    JVW (42615e)

  14. . . . I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with you, this time, JVW.

    So one of us is the stopped clock.

    JVW (42615e)

  15. what’s weird is how President Bush is actually having fewer funerals than the divisive and much-scorned John McCain

    i don’t get how that works

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  16. 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,

    I appreciate the question of “why.” Mr. Cooke is a practical man and I appreciate practical men. It is time that he is reminded that a significant interruption of our collective day at this scale is supposed to make us stop and ask the question “why?” I thank him for taking the time to ask it and to provide us with his own answer. Now he can kindly wait for his fellow citizens to ask their “why?” And together we can condole and come to a collective answer.

    I disagree that civil society will be shut down for a day, any more than I believe that going to a funeral shuts down one’s social life – on the contrary this event can mark, not just his passing, but experience of it as well. Perhaps indelibly, life and civil society in the U.S., can be marked as a loving one. One need not be a king or have done the extraordinary to be honored as one such. Let us not put a limit on our love.

    In my mind the proper relationship between citizen and government has been cast and recast so many times that I wonder if word “citizen” even means anything anymore. Thanks be to God that I am only passing through this life, on my way to the next.

    felipe (023cc9)

  17. Google ‘Death and State Funeral of Ronald Reagan’ on wikipedia and it spells it all out in detail.

    A ‘national day of mourning’ was declared for June 11, 2004— by President George W. Bush.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  18. Uh-Oh, Roger Dodger
    Roger Stone invokes Fifth

    Tillman (61f3c8)

  19. I am only passing through this life, on my way to the next.

    Of course, I am doing much more than “only passing” through this life, just as all of you do much more than I can ever know.

    felipe (023cc9)

  20. that’s a very smart way to avoid a dirty fbi perjury trap (corrupt federal bureau)

    good on Mr. Stone

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  21. A ‘national day of mourning’ was declared for June 11, 2004— by President George W. Bush.

    Right. But I don’t think that answers the question of exactly what government offices or private enterprise was closed that day. It sounds to me like there is no pre-set standard that is observed.

    JVW (42615e)

  22. I agree with JVW and Cooke. No need to idolize or glorify our elected officials, no matter how honorable they may have been. But considering American inclination to not only idolize or glorify, but even deify corrupt political thugs, this reverence toward Bush Sr. seems almost reasonable.

    Oh, and rock stars too.

    Dana (023079)

  23. A president can’t order closed anything besides federal government offices (unless there’s law that can include something more)

    I don’t know if banks are open or not. Even if it not a business day a bank can very well stay open – it’s just that banking transactions, (unlike credit card trabnnsactions) won’t be considered as having taken place on that day.

    Is mail delivery cancelled tomorrow?

    It shows the slopiness of the news media that they don’t make things like this clear.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  24. it’s very hard to imagine sleazy Evan McMullin having a shred of influence with anyone at all

    he’s just a day-old tater tot man anymore

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  25. The United States Postal Service will halt first class deliveries. The Fox News story says “regular mail deliveries.” that means Probably not special delivery or packages, which may be delivered outside of the regular mail delivery. I got a package on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving.

    The House of Reprentatives adjourning makes sense since the legislators want to do other things.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  26. @11. Review the Reagan funeral particulars online; biggest since JFK’s. Suspect if you replace the name ‘G.H.W.Bush’ w/’Ronald Reagan’ in Cooke’s piece, you might fire the ire of those conservative keepers of his flame- but Cooke likely does broach a valid point– and in some circles, may privately have to eat some of his words.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  27. @21. You can Google all that if you want- by date or by institution- the SEC issued a release stating all gov’t offices, POs and such were closed on June 11th, 2004 as part of the nat’l day of mourning for Reagan. It’s sort of SOP for state funeral stuff. Nixon didn’t opt for a state funeral so don’t recall if everything shut down for that one but that can be checked as well.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  28. “41 probably would agree with you.”
    Dave (1bb933) — 12/4/2018 @ 1:57 pm

    Current living ex-presidents are more than welcome to make clear how little fuss they want when they pass on.

    My guess is, none will.

    Munroe (6c5e52)

  29. JVW- started w/this one by typing in the date-

    https://www.sec.gov/news/press/2004-76.htm

    You can go from there if you want but typically each agency likely issued their own release regarding the EO.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  30. one of my amazon deliveries what i was expecting tomorrow came today

    i wonder if they’re compensating

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  31. Why can’t they move the funeral to Friday and give those folks a three day weekend? Asking for a friend.

    JSkorcher (2df7a9)

  32. It is in no way to insult George H. W. Bush — or any other president, for that matter — to ask whether the retooling of their calendars is an appropriate way for the people of a republic to respond to the death of an elected representative.

    And the horse you rode in on, Mr. Cooke. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an elected representative of which we have 435 every two years, 100 in the Senate every six years, and thousands in the states at any one time. President Bush was a President of which we have had only 45 in 229 years. And if you don’t like retooling your calendar, you know what you can retool.

    nk (dbc370)

  33. And as far as we know, my daughter’s public school is open tomorrow.

    nk (dbc370)

  34. one of my amazon deliveries what i was expecting tomorrow came today

    omgjeffwashingtonamazonbezosfakenewspost

    i hope you washed your hands afterward!

    Dave (1bb933)

  35. Wadda cuff? Are all these scribblers angling to be hired as speechwriters for the upcoming election and practicing how much dishonestly they can twist words and facts?

    nk (dbc370)

  36. both packages are still in the hallway i think one of them’s a tea steeper i’m a use for my mongolian salt tea but i’m out of milk

    it’s one of those kind what dispenses the tea from the bottom and it makes it really easy to get a nice froth on your salt-milk when you dispense it from a bit of a height

    i’m a go to the bodega here in a minute

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  37. … cause i’m out of milk you see

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  38. And the horse you rode in on, Mr. Cooke.

    That escalated quickly…

    Dave (1bb933)

  39. 32.JSkorcher (2df7a9) — 12/4/2018 @ 4:12 pm

    Why can’t they move the funeral to Friday and give those folks a three day weekend? Asking for a friend.

    The funeral arrangements were approved by GHWB himself and when he did it he didn’t think of trying to arrange things so that it would create 3-day weekends.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  40. BTW, let’s not do what Cooke does. Argue dishonestly. Not all those places (maybe none of them) that Cooke lists as being closed down tomorrow are going to be closed because of any executive order or proclamation by Trump. They’re choosing to close according to their own policies.

    nk (dbc370)

  41. The funeral arrangements were approved by GHWB himself and when he did it he didn’t think of trying to arrange things so that it would create 3-day weekends.

    Well that was mighty inconsiderate of him, I must say. Typical Republican, never thinking of the needs of the little guy.

    JSkorcher (2df7a9)

  42. i really do wonder but that some part of Mr. Cooke’s reaction to the Bush funeral was inspired by the lingering miasma of John McCain’s execrable poopfest what still lingers in the air like something what came out of somebody’s butt

    our political class does indeed think rather highly of themselves relative to any genuine accomplishment they can point to

    it’s ugly it really is ugly

    but we let them do it

    it’s like those miserable and increasingly abjectly useless british people and those obnoxious trashy royals they moon over

    people have precious little discernment anymore

    i blame twitter

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  43. and reality tv

    real housewives of kennebunkport, that’s basically what were doing this week

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  44. Since he was the last of a generation to hold the presidency, I guess we can make an exception I don’t want it to be standard practice from now on.

    Narciso (d1f714)

  45. *we’re* doing i mean

    brb that milk ain’t gittin any fresher

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  46. the other thing you have to remember is that the vast vast majority of this has nothing to do with George “HW” Bush

    nothing at all

    it’s a handy newshook of great plasticity – one that all kinds of things can be hung on (albeit primarily variations and flavors of disdain for Trump)

    but it’s a huge mistake to think any of this reflects some kind of genuine and widely embraced esteem for the man

    that’s not what’s going on here at all

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  47. i really do wonder but that some part of Mr. Cooke’s reaction to the Bush funeral was inspired by the lingering miasma of John McCain’s execrable poopfest what still lingers in the air like something what came out of somebody’s butt

    Maybe set your commenting sights higher than an annoying 11 year old boy. If you want to be taken seriously, that is.

    Dana (023079)

  48. Trump wouldn’t make a pimple on GHW Bush’s behind.

    nk (dbc370)

  49. He’s back in Washington, isn’t he?

    nk (dbc370)

  50. i’m chastened

    and milkless

    and the wind outside speaks of a desolation my soul knows all too well

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  51. @44. ‘Lobster Tales,’ Mr. Feet!?

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  52. whatever it is it’s pretty much the last chapter

    bushie junior isn’t even welcome at party conventions it’s hard to see people taking a day off in “honor” of him with a straight face

    not after he got all those soldiers killed

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  53. Not all those places (maybe none of them) that Cooke lists as being closed down tomorrow are going to be closed because of any executive order or proclamation by Trump. They’re choosing to close according to their own policies.

    I think you’re reading something into Cooke’s post that he didn’t write. He never claimed that the government is forcing private offices to close; if anything he seems to be intimating that people are cynically using the death of a former President to grab themselves an extra vacation day. That is, at the very least, tacky.

    From what I have read, the Bush funeral plans don’t sound out of line for what other Presidents have received. As DCSCA points out, Nixon chose not to have a state funeral, no doubt for understandable reasons. But the whole lying-in-state at the Rotunda, followed by a service at the National Cathedral, flown back to his home, then buried the next day. I think all that is appropriate for a former national leader; suspending mail delivery may not be.

    JVW (42615e)

  54. Sorry, JVW, I should have been clearer. I did not mean that Cooke said that. I meant that some comments here sounded like the commenters thought it would be like that.

    nk (dbc370)

  55. Charlie Cooke may want to quill a similar essay the next time the Federal government shuts down because of two inches of snow.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  56. Maybe set your commenting sights higher than an annoying 11 year old boy.

    president trump has really shattered our assumptions about what annoying 11 year old boys are capable of…

    Dave (1bb933)

  57. Gee…that’s so National Review like.

    You’d think, since NR was a BIG supporter of George Bush in 1988-1992, that’ NR would be full of articles extolling his virtues.

    Instead, we get this.

    Yes, the Congress taking off a week is a bit much. But then, don’t blame Bush. They’re always looking for an excuse NOT to do anything the American people. want. If the Rich Donors wanted them to work on Christmas, they’d do so. But since the Donors aren’t asking them work, the Congress is happy to take a week off.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  58. Its amazing how NR comes up with these weird, irrelevant views on today’s politics.

    They don’t want to fight the Left. But they don’t want to join the Left.

    So, we get irrelevancies. They don’t want to defend Bush, nor attack him.

    Its like NR is now “Reason Magazine” of 15 years ago.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  59. Ordinarily POTUS deaths are few and far between. LBJ died in ’73, and Nixon died in 1994.
    Reagan in 2004, Ford in 2007, and now Bush in 2018

    Going by current trends, Carter should die before 2020, but the next ex-POTUS probably won’t be dead till 2040.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  60. It’s mostly blanc mange, Johnson was 65 Nixon was 81, Reagan was 93, Ford was 94 and so was Bush sr, Clinton doesn’t look terribly well enough to make to 94.

    Narciso (d1f714)

  61. @60. They can cluster; though JFK was an outlier in’63, but Hoover passed in ’64; Ike in early ’69; Truman the day after Christmas, ’72 and LBJ less than a month later in January ’73.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  62. Right Truman was 88, I go by their age not the year if the passing

    Narciso (d1f714)

  63. I remember that cluster DCSCA. Particularly the TV talking heads saying things like “they flourish in office, it’s leaving it that kills them” when Nixon was hospitalized not too long after his resignation.

    Anyway, there’s not a big enough sample for a pattern.

    nk (dbc370)

  64. @16. There may be this perspective to consider as well; Cooke is still a young man; he just turned 34 a month ago, busy w/places to go and people to see; closer to the beginning– than the end.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  65. @64. There’s a media element to it today that adds a focus missing back then, too, nk– the shift from radio and print to television. JFK’s coverage was an outlier given the circumstances. But we were living in London when Ike passed and the response in Europe was genuine and profound given his contributions and wartime presence- and especially as Churchill had passed only 4 years earlier so the sense of a ‘page turning’ was quite evident. DeGaulle’s death a year later only added to it. When Truman and LBJ passed, there was no CSPAN or wall to wall cable news coverage like today; if memory serves, CSPAN archived the NBC News coverage of Truman and LBJ’s memorials but it was more truncated as broadcast. Now, we’re awash in it on every platform.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  66. The Republic is more than two and a quarter centuries old. Only forty-five men have served as its president. Whether one calls it mourning or fond remembrance or honoring, I see nothing inappropriate or banana-republic-ish in pausing the nonessential functions of government for a day in these circumstances; days of mourning upon the death of kings and other heads of state are quite commonly observed by civilized governments and have been for, quite literally, centuries.

    No one is proposing that there be a recurring national holiday; this is a one-off, or at least, a one-per-POTUS. While some may be annoyed that discretionary federal services aren’t available — and they’ve been unavailable before, for no better reason than congressional budget pissing matches, in recent history — no one forces anyone to participate actively in the observance of the day of mourning.

    And many millions, perhaps tens of millions, will indeed participate to one degree or another, even if it’s only a few moments of thoughtful reflection. (Personally, I’ll choose to do more: I’ll watch the televised services and spend more than a few moments in such reflection.)

    As our culture is being actively shredded day-to-day, this is a very mild attempt for Americans to seek, find, and share some common ground on a non-compulsory basis, even if only for a part of a single day.

    I therefore respectfully dissent from the estimable Mr. Cooke’s essay, and from JVW’s worthy gloss thereupon, and I further hazard my subjective and non-empirical observation that theirs is, in this instance, the minority position. RIP, George Herbert Walker Bush, Forty-first President of the United States.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  67. where the culture goes terribly askew is like how they did when the odious john mccain died and they said it’s anathema to criticize him no matter what a cowardly dirty piece of trash he may have been

    that’s just not even america that’s safe space nonsense at best (totalitarian twitter ethos)

    but I think it smacks of thought control as well

    the idea that any of these people needs must be honored given their robust contributions to the flagrant dissipation of america is an idea at which i think a healthy eyebrow ought be raised

    many eyebrows

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  68. happyfeet, Patterico has been trying very hard to up the standards of discourse on this site. Up yours!

    nk (dbc370)

  69. that’s not a discourse that’s just a comment about how so many people who should know better are sickeningly prone to gushingly wheedle and fawn over their execrable ruling class

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  70. i think it’s all very much in the moment

    you have a Personage what croaks you see

    and there’s a tsunami of gushing and wheedling and fawning hither and yither

    and decorations and observances and honors and remembrances they all ensue with little real reflection

    and people say

    this chap was my kind of person i wholly identify with this chap and i align myself with what he stood for (what he is said to have stood for)

    and they feel good about themselves!

    (these people tend to be shallow and insecure and prone to the whimsical odd puffery)

    but me i’d prefer the markets and the post had stayed open if just in the spirit of ob la di

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  71. The Republic is more than two and a quarter centuries old. Only forty-five men have served as its president.

    ACKshually it’s been 44. I wouldn’t mention it, except that it’s a good piece of trivia to know.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  72. happyfeet, Patterico has been trying very hard to up the standards of discourse on this site. Up yours!

    I lol’ed

    Patterico (115b1f)

  73. JVW’s post and Beldar’s response make a worthy exchange. I tend to come down on the side of Cooke and JVW, but any way you slice it, this is how discussion should proceed.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  74. I know, I know, we’ve been counting Grover Cleveland twice because he served two non-consecutive terms. Am right, am I right? What do I get?

    nk (dbc370)

  75. Kewpie doll

    Patterico (115b1f)

  76. I saw mail trucks delivering regular mail this morning, so YMMMV.

    JSkorcher (2df7a9)

  77. regardless Cleveland was 71, at passing, that was a bigger thing back then,

    narciso (d1f714)

  78. Was the same complaint made about McCain’s funeral week?

    No Holiday, but the amount of TV coverage was absurd for a McCain. He was never President, or Majority Leader or even Minority Leader. McCain’s biggest accomplishment was giving his opinions on TV.

    A National Cathedral Funeral with 2 POTUS giving eulogies – seemed excessive.

    Note: He was only Armed Services Chairman for 3 years.

    rcocean (1a839e)

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