by Steve Adubato, PhD
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t figure out the Donald Trump thing. I can’t figure out his appeal to so many voters and I’m amazed that the masses haven’t figured out how full of it he really is. Not only isn’t he a legitimate leader – by any reasonable standard of defining what a leader is – he’s the king of insults. Donald Trump is like the Don Rickles of presidential politics. He insults just about everyone. Except Rickles is funny, Trump is just mean. As Peter Wehner, a senior White House advisor to George W. Bush, recently said, “He shouldn’t be let near a Twitter account, let alone nuclear weapons.”
One of the things I find most unimpressive about Trump is not just that he is a bully who attacks those who criticize him or those who simply ask him questions he doesn’t like. It’s that he exposes himself as someone who isn’t a particularly deep thinker about things that matter in the process. For example, when Trump is asked a question about how he’s going to pay for “the wall” he keeps talking about that will apparently help solve the illegal immigration problem with Mexico, (experts estimate this nearly 2,000 mile wall would cost tens of billions of dollars to build and maintain) he says he’s going to get the Mexican government to do it. He boldly states that they’ll be glad to do it in the process. Yet, he doesn’t tell you how, and when pressed for more details he simply says, “They love me.” What is that supposed to mean? Who loves you, Mr. Trump? The Mexican government you have to negotiate with? Where is there any evidence of that? Trump just makes it up when pressed and backed into a corner. What conversations has Trump had with the Mexican government in which they’ve indicated they would do something specifically for Trump as president that they wouldn’t do for anyone else?
One of the biggest reasons Trump is no real leader is that he has no strategy other than the extremes of attacking others or saying people “love him.” What kind of strategy is that? Trump confuses momentary popularity with a sector of the Republican primary electorate with widespread multifaceted support from a variety of socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and other groups. There is absolutely no evidence of the latter.
While Trump may be entertaining in a reality show kind of way, you can’t confuse this with genuine leadership, which involves having to deal with all kinds of people who don’t agree with you, who look at the world in a different way, and whose support you need to get things done. Real leadership is dealing with Congress and with multiple constituencies and agendas, including leaders of the Hispanic community who Trump says “love him.” Yet, would clearly want to understand how Trump could call Mexican immigrants “rapists” and then refuse to apologize because of gains in the polls.
Leadership involves relating to large groups of women who are deeply offended by Trump’s cruel and totally disrespectful comments and his perception of their attractiveness. What serious leader who wants to be president takes the time, or even has the inclination, to talk about super model Heidi Klum as, “no longer being a 10” or to describe women as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals?” What man with any decency and respect for women talks like that? Donald Trump – that’s who.
Further, when confronted with his own words, Trump demonstrates his lack of leadership again and again by refusing to simply apologize for his grotesque use of language and for offending large groups of people. Trump has come to the conclusion that somehow apologizing makes him appear less of an alpha male or a strong leader when, in fact, the exact opposite is true. True leadership is about having the confidence and the emotional intelligence to know that you simply made a stupid mistake or said the wrong thing and need to own what you’ve done. Trump can’t and won’t do that, which by itself, should disqualify him from having any real leadership responsibilities. Yet, this is also something he has in common with the likes of Hilary Clinton, who seems to also have a tremendous aversion to apologizing and owning her own actions when she has made obvious mistakes.
As a world leader a president’s responsibility is to deal with Iran, Israel, and the complex world of the Middle East. As a domestic leader the president must deal with the U.S. Economy, job creation, racial tension often between Black youth and White cops, and countless other complex and serious problems. Yet, Donald Trump thinks part of his appeal is that he has the “courage” to make these outlandish comments. Further, when Trump was hosting his Celebrity Apprentice show, he said of one female contestant he found especially attractive, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees,” in response to an account that she had “begged” another contestant for help.
Trump is the one who is the pig! He’s a guy who is about to turn 70, and even if he were turning 50 or 40, talk like that and attitude like this, in many ways, makes it clear that he is not in control of himself. He is not in control of what he says, what he does, how he conducts himself, and comports himself and that is why he’s dangerous as a potential leader of the Free World. That’s why the former Bush White House official’s comments about Trump being dangerous with a Twitter account and the idea that he would have his finger so close to a “button” that could produce an all out nuclear war, are so prophetic and scary.
When someone lacks the appropriate demeanor and mindset to look at situations and circumstances in a reasoned fashion and just offers a simplistic one liner (often attacking someone) that comes to mind in that moment to avoid having to provide a substantive response – doesn’t one have to worry about what he would do if he had real power? Trump as a candidate is one thing because he’s kind of entertaining and outrageous (like I said in a kind of “can you believe he just said that?” reality show way) but Trump as president with the stakes so high… Think about that.
If a leader from another country said something that Trump didn’t like or criticized him in any way, would it be enough for Trump simply to say something nasty or hurtful back because he’s the insult king? Or, is it more likely for Trump, in a real leadership position aiming for people to see the world the way Trump does – meaning there’s Trump and everyone who doesn’t “love” Trump – to be the kind of person who has to show others, even the leader of another country, who the “boss” really is? We’re talking potential wars and innocent lives lost. Conflicts and totally unnecessary and unwarranted battles just because a person like Donald Trump in a serious position of leadership doesn’t like what someone else said about him or didn’t kiss up to him in the way he thought that person should… because everyone else “loves him.”
That’s not leadership – that’s just plain scary. It’s just plain narcissism. Maybe this leadership approach works in Donald Trump’s organization because every two weeks the people who work for him get a nice pay check – and I bet he’s a pretty good boss in that way. I bet he’s generous and I haven’t heard any particularly bad stories about him as a boss. But I do know that as a leader in business, instead of taking real responsibility every time he went bankrupt or showing any degree of empathy for those who were out thousands if not millions of dollars (because of the protection bankruptcy laws give to those who go belly up) Trump scoffed. All he would say was he is “smart” for taking advantage of those laws and that the only people who didn’t get paid were the banks (as if someone else wouldn’t have to pick up the tab for these unpaid bills sooner or later.) In the first presidential debate he even joked that nobody likes banks.
What kind of real leader doesn’t acknowledge that plumbers and contractors and countless others who worked in Trump’s casinos never got paid because Trump went bankrupt? Consider the hard working folks that couldn’t pay their bills and couldn’t feed their families. Did Trump have any compassion for any of them or for their kids? Did they not “love” Donald Trump enough to get paid? As I’ve said many times before, if he’s truly as rich as he says (“I’m really rich”), wouldn’t a real leader go back and pay the people he owes? Not Donald Trump – because, well, it’s all about Trump.
While I have no idea how the presidential campaign will play out as we enter the fall of 2015, I’m still amazed that someone with such obvious character and leadership flaws could be so popular and apparently adored by so many. Yet, this is no reality show. It’s not Celebrity Apprentice. It’s not a Trump sponsored beauty contest or golf event. This is real life, about real leadership involving very real problems because every life matters and there is so much at stake for our country. Yes, Donald Trump is no leader but he is very, very dangerous indeed.