On Wednesday morning, legendary pastor Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99 at his family home in North Carolina. Encomiums from politicians – many of whom Graham had known personally – began pouring in almost immediately.
Here are five from well-known Republican politicians. See if you can pick out the one from President Donald Trump:
1. “Dr. Graham was a counselor to presidents, a pastor to the masses, and most of all – a loving, caring, husband, father, and grandfather. May he Rest In Peace.”
2. “We send our deepest condolences to the Graham family. Billy Graham’s ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions. We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Thank you Billy Graham. God bless you.”
3. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend.”
4. “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”
5. “Billy Graham lifted eyes toward heaven and instilled heaven’s values in hearts. The world mourns this man of character, this man of God.”
Trump’s quote is #4 above. But, you already knew that.
(The other four are from, in order, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Vice President Mike Pence, former President George H.W. Bush and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and current Senate candidate in Utah.)
That quartet all sound like politicians and/or statesmen in their quotes on Graham. They adhere to an accepted vocabulary of how to mourn a public figure revered by a large chunk of the people who did, do or will vote for them. Their quotes aim to connect Graham to a broader, more universal truth – whether that’s about our shared values or our common humanity.
Set against that backdrop, Trump’s quote stands out like a sore thumb.
The use of the ALL CAPS for one thing. The exclamation point at the end of “There was nobody like him!” The sentence fragment “A very special man.” It’s all, in a word, perfectly Trumpian.
If you like Trump, you view the fact that he doesn’t sound like any past president (or, really, any past politician) as a great thing. All the past politicians have failed. So, why not put someone like Trump, who rejects all of their pomp and circumstance, in there?
If you loathe Trump, statements like this one drive you insane. His utter lack of statesmanship – and seeming pride in that lack – speak to why you believe America should have never elected him in the first place.
No matter where you fall on that spectrum, it is impossible to conclude anything other than this: Donald Trump, in deeds and words, is fundamentally reshaping what it means to be president (and presidential).
There has never been someone who looked, thought or sounded like him in the nation’s highest office. And, no matter whether he stays in office for four or eight years, he will have a major effect on how we think about who can be president and how a president can talk and act going forward.