Not a Winning Formula
While we digest Trump’s recent Phoenix rant where he viciously attacked the First Amendment, we should also keep our eyes on what is happening in the Senate.
“In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, and berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.” (NYT)
Trump, instead of building a legislative team to enact his agenda, is publicly bullying them at every turn.
He desperately needs McConnell’s total support for budget matters and tax reform yet he openly attacks him and other Republicans.
It’s odd, but perfectly in keeping with his character: he readily deploys anger as his first (and perhaps only) leadership tool, a nasty and counter-productive trait in the real world.
And not just to members of Congress.
It’s reported that his generals were shocked last week in a Situation Room meeting over Afghanistan at how angry Trump became.
Trump’s anger is designed to intimidate opponents, even when the person it is directed towards is neither your enemy nor likely to be intimidated.
The generals are pledged to serve the country, so leading with anger gets Trump nothing and they will suck it up because they have to, but not so with Senator McConnell–he has his own shop to run, with the power to do it.
Trump is so apparently lazy and indifferent about governance that he fails to recognize that the Senate and Congress are endowed with their own significant powers, indeed the founding fathers planned it just that way.
There have been times in our history when Congress clearly led the country when we had either an especially weak president or a dysfunctional one, John Tyler is just one example.
Many people speculate about Trump’s “imperial”, nasty and angry behavior.
Trump didn’t rise to the top by working with and for people, learning to develop constructive and healthy relationships, he was born there and developed a leadership style of either simply issuing decrees or berating all those beneath him.
But even the “silver spoon set” can learn the rules of civility and human nature — Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind.
Roosevelt is so complicated that any single observation runs the risk of getting lost in the maze of his titanic personality, but he was born rich and entitled, enjoying a life of wealth and charm in Manhattan.
We know he stepped away from all of that, living in the West when it was still wild, and then rushing to serve in the Spanish-American War.
He forged enduring friendships borne of hardship and danger.
We also know him as the progressive “Rough Rider” but Roosevelt learned as both governor and president that playing nice with the other side, including Tammany Hall and less progressive Republicans, was the way to get things done.
For many the visual memory of Teddy is always with that gigantic toothy grin suggesting mirth rather than malice.
Theodore Roosevelt was the man, the leader, the president, that Donald Trump could aspire to emulate if he had the human decency and graciousness that Teddy often displayed.
Roosevelt could host a White House dinner, sleep next to a dying campfire on a bitter Dakota night, lead his men into the thick of battle or read the classics on a Sunday afternoon.
He experienced hardship and tragedy; his character surely reflected it.
Perhaps in the future we will be more critical of those who seek to lead but so obviously lack the character to do so.
Woe is the party of Roosevelt and our country.