Ed.: 020518 – Words: 1798 – Audio: N/A
I’ve mentioned in a past post or two my early desire, going as far back as my pre-teen years, to enter politics. I have no recollection as to why I had that desire at such an early time of life; I don’t know the trigger moment. After all, it’s typically a time of wanting to be a fireman, policeman, or airplane pilot. My mother loved the idea, of course, and she’d entertain my desire likely more for her own imagination than mine. The crazy thing is that while I seemed to be interested in elected office so young, I really had no affinity for any politicians or even watching speeches from various politicians on TV. I rather vividly recall getting so damn bored watching (in grainy black & white) Eisenhower delivering a State of the Union speech way, way back in the day when I was about 5 or 6 years old. Kennedy was a little more exciting to watch as I could understand more what he was talking about as I was older.
Well, the passage of time and making personal choices and raising my own kids, I took a different path in life rather than pursue politics. But I was always interested in studying these politicians and vicariously placing myself in their crazy predicaments and “what if” scenarios.
Then along comes the great political anomaly, Trump. I’ve always been a bit of a behavioralist.. even got a degree in the subject. Never pursued the profession as some sort of counselor but it helped greatly in my management and business ownership career. So I studied Trump.. still am actually. Yeah.. my blog might suggest I’m a pissed off old coot barking at Trump’s idiocy, but in the background I’ve been measuring his impact on being President; which means I’ve been watching how people around him are affected, and specifically public reaction… and of course, the media
In the past when I’ve activated my internal “Walter Mitty” persona and imagined what it might be like being president the usual elements pop up… a persistent press, a demanding public, people hating me because I am breathing, looking and acting presidential, making speeches (wondering how I could fight off the butterflies in my stomach in front of audiences), meeting other world leaders, etc. I devoured all the political TV shows and movies so it was easy to imagine situations to play off of… and remain presidential. Well, Trump introduced a variance of “non-presidential”… an almost “screw you” attitude. In spite of my abhorrence of his lack of ability for the position, he was/is a study to behold, which oddly means that I was more interested in how people around him reacted to him.. and less about himself.
Part of the Trump experience as president has been reflected by some Hollywood people, singers, and certain celebrities, who recognized… “Hey… Trump is doing such a crap job even I could do it better.” You may recall Oprah making a similar statement. There’s the revelation through Trump’s inability that you don’t have to have all the elements of being presidential.. or even knowledge… to be in the office; maybe on-the-job training isn’t so bad. I don’t need a law degree or 10 years in the Senate as a pre-requisite. Literally, any idiot can be president… it was true what they have said all my life about opportunities in America!
Essentially when you study Trump you are studying how far you can go to get away with anything you do… or don’t do. So I came up with some notes, elements, observations that might be helpful to the next president.
It’s The Media, Stupid!
A vast majority of Trump’s effect is through the press, then the press reports to the public. It’s not been so much that the media has been right or wrong or purveyors of fake news as much as the press has just been deluged with Trumpian behavior in the area of not being “traditional- presidential”, and reactions to his randomized Tweets. The press in turn clamors for more Congressional interviews to explain his behaviors, on top of their constituents back home bitching one way or the other. Toss into that mix the politics of trying to meet some Congressional agenda. Everyone is working overtime simply to process Trump’s actions, non-actions, and ill-placed words. But here’s the takeaway… he’s still the President no matter what he says or does, or how badly it’s done.
I think Americans in general have grown used to the idea that there is an accepted “presidential-ness” behavior for the chief executive. This includes (although not always, depending on the individual) a basic verbal articulation, some experience in law or having had experience in a lesser elected office, some sort of social pedigree, a general appearance of authority, academic degrees from an ivy league school, yada, yada. A “proper” president recognizes ALL Americans, as Americans… acts as the nation’s cheerleader in hard times, promotes American ideals equally, and despises all forms of racism as being un-American. Well, in fact, we now know that none of that is a requirement for serving in that office, and it bothers people… and it bothers me as well. Of course most of us always understood those traits and behavioral elements were never some hidden requirements to be President. But we’ve gotten used to our Presidents being all that.. and sometimes more (and sometimes a little less, but not far off). In effect, Americans got spoiled with the caliber of past presidents. BUT… this prescription of what we have accepted as being presidential has made this country as great as it is for over a hundred years. If anything.. the example of Donald Trump becoming President absolutely confirms that truly anyone can become president in this land of opportunity (see Constitutional note below).
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
In reality, had a candidate promoting exactly the same political agenda as Trump, but had more of the presidential “traits”, I’d likely not have even started my blog against that person. It was Trump’s behavior, abrasive persona, reckless speech, idiot tweets, outright lies, yada, yada, that has made him so despised by over half of the country. The paradox is that over a 40% of the country’s (popular) voters thought that was his best offering.
Elements To Consider For The Next Presidential Candidate
- Don’t be afraid of the press; embrace them… use them because they are using you. Our current mood toward the media suggests you might garner some populist public opinion if you openly despise the press and make yourself out to be a victim of their extravagances. . I’d personally prefer to make them “buddies”, at arms length.
- Handling the press; press conferences, etc. Not every question has to be answered. Not every question needs to be answered “intellectually”. Know your subject, and if you don’t know your subject always impart that you do as you defer the question. If what you say or how you respond becomes news itself… so what. In the morning you are still president.
- Be “almost” presidential. Obama was presidential in his actions, thoughts, and deeds. Trump was/is a buffoon. You want to be somewhere in between, up a little bit toward the Obama side. That means your speech should be less “intellectual” and more the caring brother or father image. Most importantly… while there was “no drama Obama”, make sure the American people know what gets you ticked.. and use a well-placed “hell” and “damn”, “crap”, ”ass”, even “son-of-a-bitch” on special occasions to show your anger or make a firm point. The days of an unemotional president are over. Mild cursing is acceptable, if infrequent. Emotionalism makes you appear like the average American… but only controlled emotionalism.
- If you Tweet make it about typical daily things; Tweet to be average, not political. No surprises in a Tweet. This is where you show your relaxed human side.
- Get a couple pets. Having a pet or two (different species for variety) helps in Tweets (spontaneous events or funny poses).
- Don’t get pissed at people who hate your guts. As president people will always hate your guts. But always remember they are still Americans and you are also their president.
- Be VERY presidential when visiting world leaders out of the country; you represent the country, not yourself or the office.
- Words matter but what also matters is how you present those words.
- Totally avoid being confrontational in words and actions.
- If you screw up… just remember Trump; the news cycle of a presidential screw up is about… overnight, or, screw up again, but differently so as to offset (distract) the first screw up. No matter how often you are caught screwing up, you will still be president in the morning.
- Don’t play to your base. Play to making your base larger.
- Don’t forget the school children of America. They represent the future. Visit them, interface with them… do the occasional PBS address to them. For sure, those kids will become future elected officials, and maybe a couple will have your job someday. They need inspiration because you have inherited the office once held by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Do yourself a favor.. never talk down to students; talk with them. Let them ask you questions… and channel your answers to their level.
Oh.. and one more…
You might be president but you will never truly be in control.
There is another thing to remember that we can borrow from the early Romans that is well worth remembering by any president. The following is a quote from Gen. George S. Patton (you will likely remember was echoed by George C. Scott’s “Patton”).
“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”