Donald Trump’s first big victory of his presidency – squeezing public gratitude out of UCLA’s Sunglass Three – will be trumpeted across the land as a triumph for every old person ever who glared at a child demanding gratitude for some kindness.
That Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball both thanked Trump for whatever diplomatic schmoozing he applied to Chinese premier Xi Jinping to get the three shoplifting Bruins freed is, frankly, a polite thing to do, something done in civilized society when someone does you a solid.
But the fact that Trump had to goad them into it with one of his off-the-meds tweets doesn’t allow the young men a chance to express themselves openly and sincerely. They might very well have thanked the President without his stern prompting, in which case good on them for noting the kindness of another.
But his obnoxious thank-you prompt made the whole exercise more of a duty and less of a choice – which actually might be part of their punishment, which so far includes the scorn of millions and indefinite suspensions from the basketball team.
If that was Trump’s aim, to toss some nationally commented shame onto their shoulders for their behavior, then he is far more clever than he has revealed to date. My guess is not.
Instead, he wanted everyone to know what he did, and wanted to wring out a payment from them for his effort – a payment, again, that they night have offered freely.
The point is, to give thanks is what regular folks do. To receive them is part of the social contract upon which we have all agreed. To demand them ahead of time is just gauche.
But that’s . . . oh, hell this one’s too easy. Make up your own tag line. It might very well be better than the one I had.