Wissot: A graceless exit
Nobody appreciates a sore loser or a boastful winner. How you handle success and failure speaks volumes about the content of your character. Both moments shine a light on whether graciousness is built into your DNA.
I was reminded of these qualities while watching the French Open men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic last month. Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer are arguably the three best male tennis players to ever pick up a racket. Between them, they have won 57 Grand Slam titles with Nadal’s French Open victory enabling him to tie Federer for the most men’s titles at 20 a piece.
Here is what Djokovic said of Nadal after being beaten handily in three straight sets: “Today you showed why you are the king of clay.” Federer chimed in with these congratulatory remarks on Twitter: “I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” followed by, “therefore, it a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory.
Politicians at the pinnacles of power want to win every bit as badly as do the best athletes in their respective sports. Politics is not referred to as a “blood sport” without good reason. Sometimes politicians exhibit grace in the face of defeat and sometimes they don’t.
One of the best examples of handling defeat badly was exhibited by Richard Nixon before a room full of reporters after he lost the 1962 California gubernatorial election to Pat Brown.
“As I leave you, I want you to know — just think how much you’re going to be missing. You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Nixon was wrong on both counts because six years later reporters could “kick” him around if they wished during his many press conferences when he successfully ran for president.
Ralph Nader sullied his reputation when after losing as the Green Party candidate in the 2008 presidential election when he referred to the newly-elected Barack Obama as an “Uncle Tom.”
John McCain put Nader to shame in the same election when he gave one of the most gracious concession speeches ever given by a losing presidential candidate. “Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and his country. I applaud him for it and offer my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day — though our faith assures us that she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.”
The closest presidential election in American history was Bush vs. Gore in 2000. Gore lost to Bush by 537 votes in Florida — 537 votes that determined who would be president. Nationally, Gore garnered over 500,000 more popular votes than Bush.
But when the Supreme Court of the United States overruled the decision of the Florida Supreme Court to keep counting uncounted ballots, Gore was forced to concede. His admission of defeat took place 36 days after the election, and in it he said, “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
In the popular in this year’s election, Donald Trump lost his reelection bid by more than 5 million votes and counting and a yet-to-be specifically determined clear Electoral College majority. But in spite of incontrovertible evidence, he refuses to concede defeat and encourages his followers to do the same. Instead, he goes around sulking, pouting, whining, posting baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and voting irregularities that court after court has refused to hear because his allegations of shenanigans on the part of Democrats are without merit.
None of his antics should surprise anyone. He is going to end his presidency the way he began it — by sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion. His first act as president was to institute the legally ill-fated Muslim travel ban. His last act as president may be to create a hostage crisis by refusing to participate in a peaceful transition of power and, by so doing, holding the Constitution and the country as hostages.
If he does, it will be consistent with his penchant for denying reality. He denied that Barack Obama was born in the United States, instigating the Birther Movement long before he became president; he denied that the coronavirus was anything more serious than the seasonal flu which we know now he knew wasn’t true based on Bob Woodward’s taped interviews with him.
Claiming that “I WON THIS ELECTION BY A LOT” was his way of inventing a reality that comforted him rather than accepting the painful truth that he had been defeated. When the legacy of the Trump presidency is written sometime in the future, it needs to acknowledge the fact that he will go down in history as the president who willfully ignored reality until reality willfully ignored him.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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