Daily criticism of President Donald Trump’s tweets is becoming the norm. What is also becoming pretty standard is the notion that many of his tweets are breaking new ground in presidential decorum (or lack thereof).
So when Trump tweeted in response to an announcement that Nordstrom is ending its business relationship with Ivanka Trump, the press went wild. Specifically, the president tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person—always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
Occasionally, in our country’s history, presidents have taken uncomfortable public positions when it comes to their sons. For instance, Abraham Lincoln took much grief for the fact that his eldest son, Robert, was safely away from the battlefield and at Harvard University for much of the Civil War only entering service at the end as a member of General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff (and thus very much out of harm’s way).
While presidents’ sons are sometimes subject to scrutiny, daughters seem to draw much greater attention with the president in question oftentimes more inclined to adopt a hyper-protective posture when they feel their daughters are being treated unfairly.
This isn’t uniformly the case. Theodore Roosevelt’s eldest daughter, Alice, relished press attention both good and bad. Rather than jump to her defense at every turn, however, Roosevelt famously finally threw up his hands and said of the vivacious nineteen-year-old, “I can do one of two things. I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”
Still that’s the exception and not the norm. Most presidents have been extremely publicly protective of their daughters.
Given that, one can only imagine what Harry S Truman might have done with a Twitter account if he’d had one in his day. That fact is borne out by the fiery letter he wrote Paul Hume, music critic for the Washington Post, after Mr. Hume accepted the thankless task of reviewing a performance by none other than First Daughter, Margaret Truman, at Constitution Hall in 1950.
Now Margaret was no novice at singing. She’d been performing around the country for a few years and had even signed a record contract with RCA Victor Records. So Hume probably felt he was on fairly safe ground in critiquing Margaret’s musical production.
He was wrong.
Reviewing Ms. Truman’s performance, he noted that she was “a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality.” While not great, he hadn’t crossed the line to awful until he added that she “cannot sing very well” and “is flat a good deal of the time, more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years.” His final conclusion was the death blow adding that she “still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”
History records that this analysis did not sit well with her father, the President of the United States, who immediately fired off a scathing letter. He began by saying, “I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an ‘eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.’” And he didn’t stop there adding, “It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wished he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.”
He went on, “Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below.”
Hume’s immediate reaction to all of this is unknown, but the fact that he sold the letter the following year for $3,500 indicates he managed to recover from the presidential assault in relatively short order.
So while some Trump’s tweeting is groundbreaking, a father (albeit the most powerful man in America) defending his daughter, isn’t anything new at all.