John's Notebook: Stay generous

Friday night a video rocketed through social media. It was of the president shaking hands with people invited to attend a health care speech at the White House Monday. 

A little boy was there in a wheelchair and the president passed him by. People sent around the video as proof of President Trump's shriveled spirit. He would not even stoop to notice a child in a wheelchair. This was unfair to the president. In reality, the first thing the president had done upon entering the room was stop, bend over, and talk to the child.

This isn't about this one incident. It's about an instinct. Snap judgments like this are corroding our culture. We're so ready for evidence to confirm the absolute worst about an opponent it snuffs out our charity. 

To show that the president lacked generosity those who passed around the clip were themselves being ungenerous. A moment of reflection might have caused people to wonder whether-- as is so often the case-- the picture or the soundbite was incomplete or misleading. 

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci weaponized this instinct last week when he accused Reince Priebus of leaking his financial disclosure form. It wasn't a leak. The information was publicly available, but who paused to learn that when it was more fun to just believe it was a sinister leak.

Some might point out the president has often shown a lack of generosity himself. He has, even this week, to his own Attorney General. But this is no excuse. 

Standards either exist or they don't. They don't exist only to help your team abuse the competition. Dropping standards to win is also diminishing our public life. Most people who passed around that clip would agree. That's the generous way to look at it.  Back in a moment.