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Presidential Vision and Self-Restraint
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I was sitting at Mass last Sunday in a cavernous Catholic church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side near Lincoln Center, praying and thinking about the horrible events in America last week.

A white supremacist who lived in a truck covered with images of Donald Trump and his political adversaries terrorized the neighborhood in which I live and much of the country by sending pipe bombs to former presidents and other prominent Democrats and to CNN through the Postal Service. A virulent hater of foreign-born people and Jewish people killed 11 innocent Jewish worshippers using a lawfully owned semiautomatic rifle in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

And the president of the United States lamented publicly that these events might serve to halt what he called momentum toward Republican candidates in the nationwide voting next week because the news media — of which I am a tiny part — might dwell on these human tragedies and thus not pay sufficient attention to him and his message between now and Election Day.

These events shook me deeply, as they did many Americans. Yet as the Mass on Sunday proceeded, the Gospel reading brought me some small understanding.

A blind beggar named Bartimaeus learns that Jesus is about to walk near him, so he shouts over the noise of the crowd surrounding Him: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” When no one responds, he shouts it again — and then again and again, until eventually Jesus hears him and shouts back, “What do you want of me?”

Bartimaeus replies: “O Lord, that I might see.” Jesus responds by restoring the blind man’s sight.

The scene is historically rich and theologically complex. Its richness comes in the realization that the first recorded instance in which Jesus is referred to publicly as being divine comes out of the mouth of a blind man. The complexity is the fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy, as well as the resolution of His natural human impatience with His disciples’ haughtiness as they recognize for the first time that the truth will not come exclusively out of their mouths or even the mouths of the well-tutored but often will come out of the mouths of babes, so to speak.

This biblical scene is a metaphor for our own age. Most of us can see with our eyes (we have the gift of biological sight), but we lack full understanding — the mental ability to “see” into the hearts and minds of evil ones around us.

The world is not so happily arranged that our understanding can discern the evil in people who choose darkness over light — hence the need for leadership that liberates and heals rather than stifle and wound.

President Trump — like all his modern predecessors — has a buIly pulpit available to him. He has the means through which to mold the hearts and minds of people to do good and to avoid evil, and he has the means through which, as well, to intimidate them into fear of challenging him.

And that bully pulpit must be exercised within the confines of the Constitution, because it — and it alone — is both the source of and the restraint on presidential power.

Should tragedies of terror and horror be exploited for political purposes? Should presidents lament unforeseeable fear and bloodshed because they divert our eyes and ears from the presidential political message or because real innocent human beings have suffered horrifically and irreversibly and those who have survived yearn for the balm that only a true leader who has genuine empathetic understanding can bring? Should the president’s bully pulpit be used to divide and polarize or to unify and uplift?

If you are reading this column in the ordinary way, you already have the gift that Bartimaeus begged for and received. Yet each of us is a modern-day Bartimaeus — seeking that other sight, the one we call understanding. We hope to see it and its cousins — self-restraint and human compassion — in the presidential heart. I do not see them in this president.

They are not there when Democrats — of whom I have never been one — are branded as evildoers. They are not there when the often articulate words of public presidential critics — of which I am not usually one — are characterized as fake or treasonous or even the enemy of the people.

They are not there when this president appears to see every tragedy and embrace every event in terms of himself and his short-term political needs rather than defend the Constitution, which he has sworn to uphold. They are not there when he claims he can amend the Constitution on his own and deny birthright citizenship to babies born in America to undocumented parents. And they are not there when large and deep segments of the American populace are presidentially ridiculed and alienated rather than embraced and invited in.

What to do about this? The Donald Trump I have known personally for 30 years is warm, gregarious and bighearted. The Donald Trump I have seen this election season is angry, reckless and lacking in understanding.

His words have given comfort to the worst among us.

To be a successful president, he needs externally what he lacks internally — restraint. Restraint produces introspection and understanding and respect for the opinions of those who disagree.

In our constitutional system, exterior restraint on the president can come only from Congress. That means that Democrats — with whom I agree on next to nothing — if they win the House of Representatives, may actually save Donald Trump from himself because he will be constitutionally compelled to respect and understand and work with them.

A politically divided federal government is often frustrating and slow. Neither side gets all it wants. But like the persistence of the sightless beggar Bartimaeus, a divided federal government just might produce more understanding for more people — and perhaps some presidential self-restraint — and then the binding of many wounds.

Copyright 2018 Andrew P. Napolitano. Distributed by

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Immigration 
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  1. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    So, Mr. Napolitano was sitting at Mass last Sunday in a cavernous Catholic church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side near Lincoln Center, praying and thinking about the horrible events in America last week, was he?

    How pious of him.

    • Replies: @Bubba
  2. Stogumber says:

    How many innocents are murdered each day? Have we to be “compassionate” to every one of them? Or wouldn’t this “compassion” be a fake, a sham, a make-believe?
    Grief is a consequence of personal loss. If you have had no contact with the person killed, you cannot have this feeling of personal loss.
    There’s a good reason why the gospel only expects us to love our neighbour. We shall empathize with the person who is actually speaking with us. We shall have mercy with the person who actually depends on us, etc.

    Undertakers and parsons are expected to show an earnest face at the view of death. Well, that’s acceptable as a kind of professional routine – as generalized “compassion” it would be a sham.

    I prefer my politicians to be authentical and honest humans, not faking emotions they can’t have naturally.

    • Replies: @Hypnotoad666
  3. Stogumber says:

    As for the “binding of many wounds” I resent this growing use of paramedical similes (“vulnerable”, “hurtful” etc.)
    Jesus didn’t expect us to “heal” all divisions. On the contrary, he thought that division is necessary – about the questions that really matter.

  4. Should tragedies of terror and horror be exploited for political purposes?

    They should not. So stop it!

    • Agree: Bubba
  5. Perhaps Trump, who I don’t like very much, thinks that the long term direction of the country is more important than any particular tragedy, because, well, it is.

    For what it’s worth, I’m starting to hope the Dems take the House because the odds of doing anything I would like are diminishing. That being said, the birthright citizenship is actually pretty different from what you seem to believe, so I suggest you educate yourself.

  6. I hate to disillusion you, Judge, but the gift of sight, farsightedness, is not coupled with “self-restraint and human compassion”. It is coupled with intellectual prowess. Apollo the Farseeing.

    The ability to reason things out relates foresight and hindsight to awareness of events occurring now. That’s three simultaneous awarenesses that compete or cooperate in our unique human consciousness. It is both a gift and a curse.

    The moral impulse springs from a different source: regret and remorse. A father shakes his baby to death in a fit of anger. “Morality is hindsight trying to become foresight”. (me)

    The synagogue shooter likely feels no remorse. He did not “choose darkness over light” as you say. He acted in light of what he understood to be the truth (as both Plato and Aristotle say all men do, men not being willing to consent to the notion that they are deceived in that place deepest within themselves).

    Obviously, your Catholicism has shaped your views or you were drawn to Catholicism because it best enshrined and instantiated your feelings.

    Against Catholicism stands the Greek view. Men who murder your (not your’s literally) family are not “evil”, they are acting from the highest motives as it relates to them and their family. You will disagree but that’s only to be expected because you have suffered a loss. But neither you nor they are morally right. You’re both fighting over the same piece of turf and committing the same insults against one another.

    I don’t see how a universal ethics can be implemented when people are fighting over limited resources. Liberals object to the notion of “limited” resources. “Win/win” and “empathy” they offer with one hand while condemning persons such as the shooter as “losers in today’s increasingly modern, connected, multi-cultural, diverse world”. So they admit that there are losers. They just aren’t aware of the two diametrically opposed impulses occurring simultaneously in their brains, i.e. that it’s all good, a “Win/win” yet they have no empathy for today’s “losers”.

    You’re confused Judge, but you’re not alone. Your disconnected thoughts are a reflection of the confusion around you. Try to separate your moral condemnation from your intellectual assessment of what’s happening. In other words, be a little more Greek and not so much a Catholic.

    • Replies: @WorkingClass
  7. @ThreeCranes

    Good stuff. I have to ask. Are you the same ThreeCranes that used to hang out at Firedog Lake?

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
  8. praying and thinking about the horrible events in America last week

    He prayed, ‘Lord, make all white Americans as spineless as I am, so that the death of white America may be accomplished without further violence against blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Jews. Especially Jews. Amen.’

  9. KenH says:

    A virulent hater of foreign-born people and Jewish people killed 11 innocent Jewish worshippers

    I don’t recall judge nappy furiously scribbling about a virulent hater of white people when Sudanese negro Emanuel Samson entered a church with the intent of killing as many white people as he could. The carnage was only limited to one death and 7-8 wounded thanks to the actions of a brave white teenager and Samson’s apparent inability to use a gun effectively.

    Only when Jews and non-whites are victims does the judge feel compelled to virtue signal, I mean write.

    That means that Democrats — with whom I agree on next to nothing — if they win the House of Representatives, may actually save Donald Trump from himself

    Good one. An unhinged party of anti-white racial bigots who want to overthrow the Constitution by any means necessary will save Trump from himself and force him to govern according to it.

    I will be destroying or donating all the books I own by judge nappy by the end of this year as he’s now an ideological foe of all that’s right and good.

    • Replies: @Bubba
  10. Napolitano has sold out to the Borg Collective. Sad!

  11. @Stogumber

    Stogumber’s comment is well put.

    Empathy is the key to being a good politician . . . if you can fake that, the rest is easy.

    Politicians and pundits who either “wave the bloody shirt,” or shed crocodile tears in the aftermath of some tragedy score political advantage.

    But let’s not delude ourselves that they have earned any moral virtue by doing so.

  12. Bubba says:

    How pious of him.

    Indeed, “Judge” Napolitano is one pious pharisee.

    The pious pharisee “Judge” Napolitano is cashing in writing an article about another massacre by someone who should have been locked up in a prison or asylum. If anything, the rhetoric and actions by Democrats prompted this massacre, not President Trump. The murderer stated he hated President Trump and didn’t vote for him.

  13. Bubba says:

    Napolitano is a fraud and has been one for years. He completely supports Herr Mueller’s insane and fruitless 2 year Russian “investigation.”

    Commenter “anonymous 340” (comment #1) has always been spot on about Napolitano’s articles and calling out his lying Judas-like mendaciousness.

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