Vail Daily column: Office of president trumps the Donald
In late July, radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh lavishly praised Donald Trump. He’s a fan of “The Donald” because Trump acts the part of a decisive boss. Rush riffed about how he and Trump hate to collaborate with others.
Like an ancient Greek god on Mount Olympus, Rush in his studio makes political judgments, condemns those who disagree with him as “losers” and pontificates without having to deliver on the consequences of his edicts. He’s boss.
With a petulant tone, Limbaugh acts unilaterally. Listeners see his mirror image in Donald Trump.
Rush, by praising “The Donald’s” take-charge politicking, ironically offered the No. 1 reason Trump isn’t fit for the presidency. The Constitution doesn’t allow for a president to boss his rivals, fire foes or treat as inferior the government’s judicial and legislative branches.
There’s an enormous difference in skills between running a real estate corporation and serving as president.
“If Donald Trump blows up a real estate deal, he loses the Doral Country Club or the Old Post Office Building,” notes GOP political consultant Alex Castellanos. “But if Donald Trump blows up our relationship with Russia, he could start World War III. Businessmen candidates tell us they can run a company, so they can run a country, but voters appear to know it is not nearly the same thing.”
The Constitution describes a president who collaborates, splits differences, invites rivals to dine at the White House and cuts deals where the art is not to win but to compromise.
Look at history to understand how a president operates with rivals. Thomas Jefferson extended a conciliatory hand across the political aisle. When Congress was in session, he entertained political friend and foe. Political adversaries’ emotions were checked when they ate and sipped wine together.
Shrewd presidents acquire power by engaging in give-and-take. They work social media to their advantage. Building coalitions, they employ confrontation as a last resort.
Contrasted with Jefferson’s respect for constitutional restraints on the presidency, Trump bosses people. He orders, leverages deals and threatens employees who don’t fall in line. He’s made billions because, unlike the president of the United States, he doesn’t have to share a stage. His bloated self-image takes over platforms.
The presidency isn’t like hosting a reality TV show. Trump’s outburst “You’re fired!” on “The Apprentice” doesn’t work in the White House.
At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, brash Alexander Hamilton demanded the president exert unbridled power. On June 18, Hamilton monopolized the podium for a six-hour speech. He advocated “an elected monarch” leading the government who served for life. Biographer Ron Chernow dismisses this ridiculous assertion of electing a bossy president like Trump. Chernow finds Hamilton’s speech “brilliant, courageous and completely daft.”
The debate at the Constitutional Convention over the president’s job description demanded more time and energy from delegates than any other issue. They struggled over how much authority the nation’s chief executive should exercise. Some preferred a troika to rule, representing the northern, middle and southern states. Arguments erupted about how the president should be elected and the grounds for impeachment.
Finally, delegates settled on a presidential office in which the occupant worked largely through collaborative initiatives. Most delegates disagreed with Hamilton. They believed a president ruling with an iron will would destroy the Republic.
Benjamin Franklin, along with virtually all delegates, assumed George Washington would be the presidency’s first occupant. During the Revolutionary War, Washington practiced humility when using power. Washington’s requested two officers review his speeches and correspondence. They deleted over-the-top language from speeches. Washington erased off-the-cuff remarks that sparked debate from correspondence.
The Constitution rejects a king in charge of the U.S. The Declaration of Independence asserts, “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.”
“A stone is heavy,” teaches a biblical sage. “And sand weighs a lot, but annoyance caused by a stubborn fool is heavier than both…” (Proverbs 27:3). The weight of Trump’s bossiness crushes limits of presidential power.
On Aug. 7, the Editorial Board at The Washington Post reminded Americans of why collaborative skills are necessary for effective presidential candidates. “Presidential politics in a democratic society is about determining how to honor principle in a world that demands practicality. It requires persuading voters who may not already be on your side and winning allies who do not already share your goals. Some candidates appear to regard these skills as signs of weakness or tantamount to treason.”
The majority of Americans are too intelligent to elect a president who acts like a monarch. Trump won’t occupy the Oval Office because he can’t give up being boss.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.
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