The President of the United States of America serves many critical duties beyond the mere title of the office: chief of state, chief executive, chief diplomat, and commander-in-chief of the military. He (because it has always been a man) also has many unofficial responsibilities: chief of his political party, guardian of the economy, and leader of the free world.
There’s another unofficial responsibility the President takes on and it is more important than all of the other unofficial and official responsibilities combined: Role-model-in-chief. The US President is the leader of behavior in this country—both for positive and negative ends—and represents this countries values to the rest of the world.
This is completely independent of his political outlook and are even separate from policies, although the policies are the actions through which the measure of the man might be taken.
Donald Trump is a bully. He has regularly spoken about excluding members of our country from meaningful discourse. He has encouraged violence at his own rallies. He is threatens to sue anyone who criticizes him. He has personally said that he can grab woman without their permission. As President, he is normalizing attitudes of coercion and intimidation. I say this as a simple, demonstrable fact.
I have heard some say that he simply said these things to get elected, that he didn’t really mean them, that he will now moderate his tone. Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, his behavior and attitudes set the norm for US Citizens and represent our values to the rest of the world.
Whether you agree or disagree with the President’s statements, policies, or actions, he is the one who sets the standards we will all be acting on and reacting to for at least the next four years. If that person talks about exclusion, encourages violence, constantly threatens litigation, denies experts, and speaks positively about personal assault, then those traits begin to become acceptable within our society at large.
As the Role-model-in-chief—whether — whether you agree with his politics or not — President Obama was always calm, always informed, always engaged, and always present. Even at the most outlandish of accusations, he kept his cool. He could not keep all of the promises he made, but I never felt this was for lack of belief in the promises themselves, only the circumstances he found himself dealing with.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, flies off the handle at the slightest slight. He attacks anyone who criticizes him and then, in a typical bullies fashion, tries to make out as their fault and expects them to apologize. He plays this game time and again, and it seems to work. His attacks do not have to be accurate, realistic, or even reality based. In fact the more outlandish, the accusations, the more impossible they become to refute.
How do you answer the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” These are the kinds of rhetorical situations Trump’s opponents find themselves in when dealing with him, and he can now officially be declared the grand-master champion of this tactic.
This is actually the smart bullies tactic: attack, attack, attack and then act conciliatory. You put your opponents on the defensive by barraging them with insults, condemnations, and accusations, pushing them off-balance, forcing them to try to attack back just as viciously and then offer them the olive branch. If they don’t take you up on your “peace offer,” then can act unapologetically hurt that they have acted with so little compassion. If they take your offer, you act like they are your closest friend and confidant, making them feel special, because the bully isn’t bullying them anymore.
We see this again, and again, and agin in Trumps play book. Whether it’s “blood streaming out of her whatever” Megan Kelly, “lyin’” Ted Cruz, “little” Marc Arubio, or countless others, he initially attacks outrageously and then makes peace. His opponents accept so that he will stop attacking them and, as a result, they stop attacking him back. And they did, and some began to support him, even if only tepidly. The one case where this did *not* seem to work was with Jeb Bush, but that didn’t end up costing Trump anything in the end, so effective were his attacks.
And that’s who we have chosen as our Role-model-in-chief to represent the United States of America, a country many were already fearing as the great big bully on the block, threatening their neighbors, ignoring the world community, and only worried about themselves. It looks like we have proven them right.