OMG, he’s tweeting again! He called himself a genius. He thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. He won’t stop poking at Kim Jong Un. He is going to start a war. He is a paranoid idiot who eats McDonald’s in bed to avoid the risk of being poisoned. He is incapable of understanding even the most basic facets of governance. He’s a thin-skinned, attention-seeking, man-child who gets all of his news from cable TV.
Why can’t he act more presidential?
Many of the above comments come from places like Facebook, Twitter and general conversations I’ve had with a wide range of people and backgrounds. This is what I hear much of the time — even when some of the above comments are patently absurd. But, if you say something over and over enough, even if it’s untrue, it will become its own form of truth in the public consciousness.
Mulling over this idea of what is presidential, I found myself pulled in a few directions.
Is it the style of speech? We often believe an eloquent speaker who crafts Faulknerian length sentences at a post-graduate comprehension level is a reflection of an intelligent, deep thinker. Looking at the prior president, one could argue that Barack Obama may have been one of the more articulate speakers we have had in the role of Commander-in-Chief. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews once nearly had an on-air orgasm following a speech by President Obama, telling listeners it sent a thrill up his leg. For Chris Matthews, a well-delivered speech is what makes someone presidential.
Is it the style of dress or appearance? Looking at our 44th president, many swooned over the perfect crease in his pants and his trim build. New York Time’s writer, David Brooks, commented during the primaries, “I remember distinctly an image of – we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” For Brooks, that is what makes someone presidential — creased pants.
Is being presidential a reflection of someone’s social media use? As mentioned above, it seems the way Trump uses Twitter sends a huge number of people into exaggerated eye-rolls and deep sighs, while former President Obama recently mentioned leaders need to learn how to be responsible when using social media. Thus, being presidential is learning how to use social media appropriately.
Is it the food one eats? Trump has been lampooned for his two scoops of ice cream, love of fast food and consumption of Diet Coke. Apparently, this is not how presidents should dine.
Taken as a whole, it seems we want someone who eats well, dresses well, is articulate (as Vice President Biden remarked about Barrack Obama), looks good and delivers speeches with fiery aplomb. This is how one acts presidential.
Based on all of the above, it’s clear. Donald J. Trump does not act presidential. Outside of his billionaire status and the fame surrounding his name, he does not behave in a presidential manner. He employs an odd comb-over like many middle-aged men do. He is packing more weight around his middle as a majority of Americans have. He enjoys eating fast food. He speaks in simple sentences. He uses crude language and has been known to engage in “locker room” talk. Donald Trump acts like most of us and we all know the role of President is only reserved for the elite who have been bred since childhood to seek the highest office in the land.
But let me posit just a few thoughts from a little different perspective and see if we can find any glimmer of hope for “The Donald.” (Though the examples are numerous, in an effort to be brief, I will settle for just a handful.)
There is no doubt that the attack on our embassy in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2012 was a planned and coordinated attack. But the President of the United States took to the airwaves, both personally and through authorized spokespeople, and did his best to convince the American people (and the world) that the attack was the result of a YouTube video. Tens of millions of dollars were spent on buying ads across the Middle-East to put the lie out there to obscure the fault of our own country to protect its citizens. Let’s not forget, Obama was in the midst of his re-election campaign, and the last thing he wanted was to have a blight like that pulling his numbers down.
Susan Rice, our then Ambassador to the United Nations, was sent to all of the major Sunday talk show programs to sell the lie. Hillary Clinton was caught both emailing some officials, calling it a terrorist attack, and sending other emails to the families of the fallen and the American people, blaming the YouTube video. It was an orchestrated cover-up going straight to the presidency.
For all his speeches and eloquent words and sharply creased pants, this does not seem presidential.
Early in the first term of President Obama’s administration, his Attorney General was caught up in the gun-running scheme to Mexico that ended up getting two American border patrol agents killed by some of those very guns. Eric Holder eventually had to step down over the entire Fast and Furious obstruction issue. The House Oversight Committee released a 300 page report stating, “More than five years after the murder of Brian Terry, the family still wonders about key details of Operation Fast and Furious. The Justice Department’s obstruction of Congress’s investigation contributed to the Terry family’s inability to find answers.” Though Holder did all he could to deny his knowledge of the scheme, the report says the Justice Department knew full-well about the program.
Not very presidential.
But some might say, listen, the Benghazi scandal was more about Hillary Clinton since she was Secretary of State at the time, and Eric Holder, though the appointed AG of Barack Obama, could have been acting on his own without the President’s involvement.
So, let’s look at the times President Obama chose to side with a criminal rather than law enforcement. From the Harvard professor incident where President Obama remarked how some officers acted stupidly, to saying if he had a son he may have looked like Trayvon Martin, to the Michael Brown case and more, the President was always quick to side with the assailant, while casting aspersions on the police. He was wrong in almost every case. He did his best to prejudice potential jurors and the communities-at-large with his comments and his allegiance to the families of those who were found to have committed criminal acts once all of the facts had been presented in a court of law. How much harm did he do to police and to race relations by acting as he did?
Is that really how we want to define presidential?
Was the Presidential commutation of Bradley Manning (now Chelsea), who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act, a proud moment for the Obama administration? How about trading five dangerous leaders of the Taliban for a soldier who would be found guilty of desertion? Was that an example of acting presidential? Should we delve into the unmarked palette of $400 million dollars handed to Iran in the dead of night at the same time we were getting back 10 of our US sailors being held illegally? Oh, and then illegally wiring $1.3 billion more in “interest” payments to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror?
And now, with growing evidence, there is a gathering cloud of how the Obama administration weaponized the IRS, the DOJ, the FBI and many of our intelligence agencies to not only go after conservative groups, but also the candidacy and transition team of Donald Trump. If it comes to pass that a made-up opposition research document by Fusion GPS was used to approve a FISA warrant to listen-in and unmask those in the Trump election and transition team, it will make Watergate seem like a fraternity prank.
There is no doubt at all, President Trump does not act “presidential” in the way we have come to know. He is not polished. He does not triangulate to figure out how to maximize his polling. He is blunt. He can be a jerk. He is tough. He is crass. He loves to spread misinformation among his enemies and leave them lost and confused. He continues to tweet because the media cannot stop lighting their own hair on fire every time he does. He acts like a blue collar guy most of the time — which is why he won so many blue states that had previously voted for Barack Obama. They had been sold a bill of goods spoken by a sharp-dressed man with a silver tongue and after eight years, no longer wanted to be held sway by a Svengali. When given a chance to elect someone who spoke, looked and acted like they did, they chose someone real, flaws and all, over another empty suit.
Will it pay off? It’s still too early to say, but considering this president has received the most negative press coverage of any president in our time and is obstructed at every turn by the opposition party, it’s amazing he has any accomplishments at all. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the passing of the tax reform bill, the elimination of federal regulations at a rate of 22:1, the move toward energy independence and pulling us from many agreements designed to harm the United States, are just a handful of positive accomplishments he has amassed.
When it comes down to picking descriptors for determining whether or not someone acts presidential, I’ll side with actions that protect America and our interests over a creased pant leg, a polished speech or a forked tongue. I do wish he was a little more polished, but we may look back years from now and repeat the line spoken at the end of Christopher Nolan’s, The Dark Knight:
Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now, so we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it, because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector.
Well, okay, maybe not so silent, but the comparison still applies. Trump may just be paving the way for someone to follow — the hero yet to come. In the meantime, he’s what we deserve, wading through the swamp of Washington, D.C. and doing all he can to clean up as much as possible. It’s dirty. It’s nasty. It’s thankless. And it makes him a target of those who have made a living leveraging the cesspool to their own ends. The elite, the mainstream media and the Left will not sit still and we have seen the lengths they are willing to go to remove him from office.
The fact that Donald Trump is willing to withstand it all in an effort to restore America’s greatness seems like a pretty good measuring stick for what should be called presidential.