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“The Donald” Near “The Button”
by Bruce L. Cohen ©2015 August 11
“A rich man can afford to answer roughly; but person of lesser means must practice courtesy.” – King Solomon, Proverbs 18:23
It seems to this writer the political world is missing the main point of concern regarding Donald Trump as a possible President, as highlighted by the aftermath of his exchange with moderator Megyn Kelly in the first Republican Presidential Debate on August 6, 2015.
Far more worrisome than Trump’s comment about where metaphorical blood might be coming out of Kelly, was the vicious, venal, self-indulgent outpouring of rage he threw at her the following day on his Twitter account, merely for being crossed. Trump claimed he was outraged for being “treated unfairly” – but it was clear, he was merely angry at the particular question Kelly asked him, which included quotes from Trump that were degrading to women. Trump did not respond as a statesman, saying perhaps the quotes were from unrelated situations sewn together into an inaccurate picture: Trump virtually confirmed Kelly’s question as a valid concern by launching a personal attack on her, calling her a “lightweight” and “bimbo.” The comedy of it is hard to pass up: it reads like a Doonesbury cartoon. KELLY: “Mr. Trump, would you care to comment on the allegation that you degrade women?” TRUMP: “Shut up and sit down, bimbo! Next question, anyone?”
What a person has long been trained to be, that is what that person will most reliably be.
Hard-wiring as a monarch seems a likely disqualifying personal history for a possible President. Donald Trump has spent his entire adult life as a king – hiring, firing, buying, selling, making decisions affecting individuals and whole communities – nearly always with unilateral and unconstrained authority. He owns it – he can do with it what he likes. If you cross him, “You’re fired.” It is his signature catch-phrase.
The trouble with a possible Trump presidency is that the United States of America is not something Trump owns: it is a structure designed to be the opposite of a monarchy, full of hindrances we call “checks and balances” – and it was created specifically to make it hard to move, and resistant to individual will.
The American Presidency is simply not a job for a king.
“I’m so rich,” Donald Trump boasted early in the present US Presidential Campaign – and let the sentence finish in everyone’s imagination, “I don’t have to care what anyone thinks.” This is the worldview of a king: his word is law, his edicts are unilateral, and woe betide the one who does not jump when he says, “frog.” While it may be true that Trump has no reason to feel genuinely threatened about reactions by journalists or in regard to lawsuits – it would not be true of a President Trump handling international affairs in which a misjudgment about the ego of an opponent could result in thermonuclear war. Trump would not own the chessboard of international politics: he would merely be one of the players. Integer inter pares – one among peers – is not a role among the world’s statesmen for which Trump is in any way formed to play.
Trump’s likely unfitness of character and temperament for the Presidency was brought into bold relief by his recent reaction to Megyn Kelly. In Trump’s reactions on the spot and in the day following, we all caught a glimpse of what to expect of “The Donald” in the ill-fitting suit of The President.
The Ego could not let go without his vengeance.
What if the offender of The Ego was the President of Russia?
Imagine an exchange between The Donald and Vladimir Putin? Two hyper-egos who cannot handle being seen as anything but “the guy no one messes around with?” Putin would tear off his shirt in Mussolini homage, and Trump would go into his bloviating default reaction – and what would the world experience as a result? Can anyone sincerely envision a President Trump having the combination of foreign policy savvy and self-restraint necessary to do the kind of diplomacy that has kept the world from nuclear war for the more than half-century since the invention of The Bomb?
Perhaps the two greatest moments of American Presidential international diplomacy in the past half-century were when Presidents Kennedy and Nixon found ways to keep their personal egos and our national pride in check, and gave the Soviet Union a way to back out of conflict without intolerable loss of face. Kennedy averted the Cuban Missile Crisis escalating to war by treating Nikita Khruschev publicly as a sincere patriot serving his nation’s ideology, and Nixon prevented Soviet support for Syria during the 1973 “Yom Kippur War” against Israel by quietly putting every American soldier in the world on high alert rather than directing Russia publicly to back off. If either man had an ego the size and shape of Donald Trump – it is not only possible, but chillingly likely, that humankind in 2015 would still be living in recovery from nuclear winter.
Perhaps equal in concern regarding a possible President Trump are The Donald’s last two decades spent with one of his hallmark activities gaining him his objectives having been outrageous speech. He is hard-wired by his business life to shock and offend, because for a person in business or show-business, very often “there is no such thing as bad press.”
Donald Trump is a shock-jock: Howard Stern in politics. People are tuning in to Trump in the news for the exact same reason Howard Stern fans said they tuned into his radio show: “I just want to hear what he’ll say next.”
He is habituated into saying out-of-bounds things for three main reasons: (a) when his ego is crossed, rage and insult expression are natural to him, (b) he is habituated by his wealth not to care about the consequences of reckless speech, and (c) outrageous speech has been advantageous to his bottom line.
Do we all want a President regarding whom we are always either listening to spin of something he just said – or worried about what he will say next?” It was tough enough watching America’s emotional and time capital bled out by handling one Clinton scandal after another – do we really want a Commander-in-Chief universally seen as having a hair-trigger temper?
Do we really want someone in The Oval who makes Joltin’ Joe Biden seem like the Dalai Lama in terms of wise speech and self-restraint?
We do not hire our Presidents to go out and pick fights with people upon whose good will the American republic’s quality-of-life depends, and the actual safety of the world relies.
We hire them to make our lives safer and better, and make the world a safer and better place. It is not implausible that Trump might make some economic realities better. It is not even outside the realm of possibility that he might, with his “get it done” and “I can’t be stopped” atttitude make improvements in a political situation here or there. However – what is even more likely is that Trump as President would be persistently offending people with whom he needs good will, and that his ego under provocation when the tools of the most powerful man on earth would be within his reach would literally endanger every one of the six billion human beings presently alive.
The Donald in The Oval would simply not be worth the risk.
The likelihood is too profound that he would indulge his reflex for outrageous speech at our less-cooperative allies, and dismantle the peace-keeping international infrastructure, replacing it with an ill-will-soaked atmosphere through which his unimpeded ego would strut, consuming the political oxygen while the rest of the world asphyxiates.
The Donald is entertaining now.
We can only hope that when election time comes, America reawakens from its brief romance with this political shock-jock of the preliminary season – and moves toward focus on candidates with perhaps less media buzz, but more qualifications for the most serious job on our tiny, precariously continuing planet.
Let us hope our society is not so inculcated with mass-media values that we would elect a President based on his star-quality and market-share.
We need a President who can govern.
We need a person capable of seeing and acting upon nuance.
We need a Chief Executive who has silence and modesty in his political toolbox.
We do not need a king. We had one, a long time ago. What did America say to him?
Bruce L. Cohen ©2015 August 11