Time to Be Boring, Mr. President
For the last two months I’ve been writing about the Trump administration. It may appear all my thoughts are centered on criticism, but it is important to point out the criticism is meant as a series of road signs. Trump and his advisers have no experience in running a government and little experience in Washington, D.C. and it shows. So my criticism is meant to mimic the advice you might give to a teen-ager learning to drive a car. If it sounds harsh at times, it’s only because I’m trying to avoid a crash.
In that spirit, I offer this week’s advice: Mr. Trump, please live up to a campaign promise you made in April of 2016 on the Today Show and in other media appearances. Back then, when an interviewer pointed out that your demeanor was upsetting because it was un-presidential you said, and I quote:
“I will be so presidential. You will be so bored. You’ll say ‘can’t he have more energy?’”
Don’t take this the wrong way Mr. President, but we need you to be boring. Not because your behavior has made you the life of the party and we are all exhausted in delight (though we are exhausted), but because your behavior does not reflect well on the country or the presidency and to many people it is unsettling and the last thing a leader wants to be is unsettling.
Your behavior has consequences. A president’s words have consequences. Let’s not beat around the bush — your campaign rhetoric was dangerous and there is little doubt that at least a fraction of the anti-other behavior we are seeing across the country stems from a certain comfort level you have given to those whose first reaction to adversity is to hate or blame someone else. What’s most troubling is that this wink and nod is coming from a man standing behind the presidential seal.
Your anti-Mexican rhetoric necessitated a fence mending trip by your new secretary of state and homeland security secretary to Mexico at the start of your second month in office. Your ludicrous promise to build a wall with Mexico that Mexico will pay for drew a predictable rebuke from the Mexican government, as everyone expected it would. Of all the troubles in the world, why are we in any kind of dispute with Mexico? Aren’t there better ways to spend your time? Let me answer that question for you; Yes, there are many more important things for the president to worry about, and just to be clear, Sweden is not one of them.
You have been attentive so far to making progress on the list of promises you made during your winning campaign, but so far you have reneged on the most important one — the promise to behave like a president. Modeling yourself on the public behavior of past U.S. presidents does not make you boring it makes you a serious leader. It’s what is necessary to do the job. You may think you have cracked that code and cast a new mold for presidential behavior, but the polls suggest what worked for you in the campaign is not working for you in office.
This week a poll from Quinnipiac University — a respected pollster that is not failing — said 55% of American voters believe you are not honest, 55% say you do not have good leadership skills, 63% say you are not level headed and 64% say you are not a strong person. Taken together, the negative perceptions add up to an approval rating of 38% — which is in the range scored by elected officials who historically decide re-election is impossible. All this stems from your unorthodox, sometimes juvenile, behavior. Are you beginning to see a connection?
I point this out, Mr. President, because you seem to be impressed by polls. Perhaps you think numbers don’t lie. They have always served as a strong measure of your success in business and as a candidate. Things are much different now. For the first time in decades you are an employee and your boss is the American people. All of us, not just those who voted for you. It is not only in your own political interest to be boring, stable and somewhat predictable, it is your job.
Please live up to your campaign promise and act like a president of the United States for the sake of the county and people from around the world who look to us for leadership. Do it before you wear out your welcome and risk being fired.