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Bob Rees and Clifton Jolley: When does it matter what a person says?

“Many people … say they can’t vote for a man who says the things President Trump has said. I understand these concerns. Indeed, I share many of them. But it also has been taught that actions speak louder than words. And when we look at what President Trump has actually done … his record is strong.”

— Sen. Mike Lee, quoted in the Deseret News, Oct. 25

“Three weeks [into his presidency] and Joe’s shot.”

— President Donald Trump, Oct. 27

We’ve all said things we don’t mean or, after the fact, wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes it’s a slip of the tongue. Sometimes it’s a Freudian slip, revealing our deeper feelings.

So, it’s tempting to allow Sen. Mike Lee’s parroting of a party line to lull us into a sense of companionability with a racist, sexist, xenophobic, autocrat, simply because some of what he has done is sufficient to cheer us up about the false and outrageous things he has said and hasn’t done.

Never mind the more than 500 immigrant children orphaned by his administration of whom Trump has assured us “They are so well taken care of. They’re in facilities that were so clean.”

Never mind his repeated permissions of white nationalists and flat-out neo-Nazis as “good people,” and his encouragements of them to “stand by.”

Never mind Trump’s tone-deaf assertions that he “likes women more than men” and his pleas for “women in the suburbs” to “love” him while more than 20 women have accused him of sexual assault, not because he said that being “a star” permits you to do anything you want to a woman (including “grabbing” her intimately), but because he has done precisely what he has said.

Never mind his callous dismissal of Hispanics as “racists and murderers,” some of whom may be “good people.”

Never mind that while you may mis-speak at a party and apologize, this guy has been perverting the systems of justice and discriminating against minorities and the poor for nearly four years as chief executive, and for decades before he was elected.

Never mind that Trump said to Bob Woodward that the COVID-19 virus “is deadly stuff” and a few days later said to the American people, “By April … it miraculously goes away”;

Never mind that since then nearly 9 million Americans have been infected and nearly 230,000 have died of the virus which today is raging through nearly every state.

And if you want him to go on doing what he has done for four more years, and if you are justifying that decision because of the judges he has elevated while damaging our social institutions by the incivility of his social discourse, perhaps it’s time to worry a tad more about the things this president has said, and then done.

When Trump anticipated an outcome of Joe Biden’s election that would result in the 25th Amendment replacing him with Kamala Harris, his supporters argued that it was reading too much into his choice of words: “shot” they argue means “worn out,” not assassinated.

That may be right.

But with his support of the QAnon idiots—who try to find hidden meaning in meaningless word and number associations—and his encouragement of domestic terrorists and hate groups, maybe it’s time to worry more about what he says, in anticipation of what he others might do.

Robert A. Rees, Ph.D. Visiting Professor & Director of Mormon Studies Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, Calif.

Robert A. Rees, Ph.D., is a visiting professor and director of Mormon studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif.

Clifton Jolley

Clifton Jolley, Ph.D., is president of Advent Communications, Ogden.

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