PAST TENSE

1. It’s Friday, September 1, 2017. Two-thirds of this year is over.

2. It’s the 364th birthday of Johann Pachabel and the 73rd birthday of Archie Bell. Go figure.

3. I donated money to help Houston hurricane victims at globalgiving.org.

It wasn’t much – I’m retired and watching my expenses. But like you and just about everyone else I know, I can’t watch the scenes on TV without feeling the need to do something to help.

Notice I used the word “donated.” That’s because I did it. I put my credit card number into a Web form and got an e-mail thanking me for my contribution.

I hope to do it again – but notice that’s a “to do.” I haven’t made a second donation yet. But if time stopped right now, I’d only have made one donation.

4. This is to point out that Trump and the news media made a big deal about how he was going to donate $1 million of his own money to Harvey relief.

To donate.

Why didn’t he just donate the money – and then say he donated $1 million? Why not just do it and report it after the fact? Why not just do it because, you know, it’s the right thing to do and then tell people what you did in an effort to influence them to help.

Wouldn’t having done it already given people you’re trying to inspire a little more impetus to act?

One of the problems here is that Trump has tried to make a reputation for himself as a philanthropist. But, as David Fahrenthold’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in The Washington Post makes clear, he has rarely put up his own money. His foundation has sometimes made contributions in Trump’s name using money from other people. And sometimes those contributions have benefitted his businesses.

So one reason Trump didn’t say he donated $1 million is that there would have been records – some charitable agency or agencies would have said it or they got $1 million from him.

But if he said he did – and he didn’t – there would be a question as to whether he was just looking for approval without doing anything to deserve it.

The simple answer, of course, is to do it. Then say you did it, and let whoever gets it say, hey, we got some money from the president to help with rescue costs or rebuilding homes or feeding people or any of the other gazillion tasks that need to be done.

This is one of those rare times, as a journalism professor, that past sense seems preferable to present or future. Donated money is available to help. Money to be donated isn’t real yet.

But it also fits another rule of good writing – the active voice is better than the passive one. You donated money – active. Trump is going to donate money – passive.

Let’s see if he puts his money down. For real.

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