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Words that matter    

Fraser Smith BigIf you’re perplexed – or vexed – about the state of the nation, remember that words matter, or should.

They matter even if transmuted into body language.

The Donald’s wife, Melania, in her pro forma candidate’s wife speech, borrowed a few lines from Michelle Obama.

How to react?

J’acuse! cried the plagiarism police. But was it really plagiarism? Don’t you have to steal something really big with malice of forethought?

I think so. And furthermore there was no malice. More like appreciation. Melania apparently liked something written by (or for) the first lady. There was more bipartisanship – even humanity – in that moment than either party has managed in eight years.

Yeah, Melania!

In the 24-hour flap that followed, some no-name speechwriter dutifully fell on her sword.

Just a guess? The candidate’s wife cannot be allowed to make a mistake if there’s a handy fall girl. By the way, the writer was not fired. Wonder why.

Commentators suggest all of this shows how disorganized the Trump forces really are. Probably so,

but consider this inadvertent benefit for Trump. Melaniagate distracted us from what the candidate, Trump himself, actually did say recently.

On Fox News he implied that President Obama has sided with Black Lives Matter against the police. Others in the country are looking for new ways to impugn  the president.

Here’s what Trump said after Obama’s speech in Dallas honoring the five cops killed there by a sniper.

“I mean, you know, I watched the president and sometimes the words are OK,” Trump said. “But you just look at the body language. There’s something going on. Look, there’s something going on and the words are not often OK, by the way.”

“What does that mean, there’s something going on?” the show’s host asked.

“There’s just a bad feeling, a lot of bad feeling about him,” Trump said.

Obama gave both the police and the Black Lives Matter advocates their due. If there were body language, I would suggest, it reflected the sad reality of life on the street and political discourse.

The glaring irony? Obama must surely be regarded as healer in chief – on his way out when we need a healer most.

Trump hauled “body language” into the fray a few days before an acceptance speech that was ostensibly designed as a plea for national unity.

What a task he will face now. While he’s uniting us, he will have to find even more damning body language. He apparently will be obliged to sustain his anti-Obama and anti-Hillary Clinton tone – since he may have nothing else to run on. People have been searching or waiting in vain for something on the sort of government he wants to offer.


Back to  life in the streets. A cop in Baton Rouge gave us his loving last words:

“I swear to God I love this city,” he said in a Facebook post, “but I wonder if this city loves me.”

This was Montrell Jackson a few days before his murder by yet another crazed gunman.

A 10-year veteran of the force in Baton Rouge, Jackson was remembered as a “gentle giant, a “protector.”

After the latest police-involved shooting of a black man, Officer Jackson said he was getting nasty looks while in uniform. Even out of uniform, he said, some considered him a threat. Jackson, too, was black.

We are living in a time when all police everywhere are suspect. Who could blame them for feeling, as Jackson did, that those whom they are sworn to serve and protect view them with hostility. Surely not true, I think, but understandable.

It’s truly sad when the actions of some are used to characterize all. Both sides might want to think about that.

The fallen Louisiana cop left this remembrance:

“I’m working these street so any protesters, officers, friends, family or whoever if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer, I got you.”

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst for WYPR. His column appears Fridays in The Daily Record. His email address is To purchase a reprint of this column, contact The Daily Record.