OK, boys and girls, let’s take a little survey as we head toward Election Day. It might help resolve any questions you might be wrestling with concerning the two major candidates for president of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump.
The survey has no right or wrong answers and it’s not multiple choice. It’s just you, perhaps thinking about what you want, need, or feel might be required in the next person who will have something to do and say about the direction of the country, the national economy, your personal economy, your future, your family’s fortunes, your health care, your retirement, war, peace, and your own peace of mind—basically your life or at least a big part of it.
I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that most of us, hopefully a majority, would rather not have a nutcase or a clown taking the oath of office in January. Nobody likes to be embarrassed.
Oh, that reminds me. No matter what you think of Barack Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office one thing is absolutely certain: He and his family have given the country a flawless, scandal-free example of how to behave in a brutally withering spotlight.
Now, the survey. Please take your time. I don’t want anyone rushing into the polling booth without thinking about the choice for at least as long as you think about whether to watch a ball game or a re-run of Ray Donovan. That way you might not wake up Nov. 9 saying to yourself, “Jesus. What did I do?”
So let’s list a few attributes you would want in the next president. And you can put your own priority on them.
Competence: It’s a pretty big one. We don’t need someone who is totally clueless about how things work and how things get done or don’t get done.
Courage: The ability to make a tough decision without using polling or focus groups as a crutch is a pretty good indicator of leadership ability. And a president often doesn’t have a whole lot of time to make that kind of decision so that leads to…
An ability to listen and take advice: Only a meathead would plow forward without gathering a few of the best thinkers, the best strategic minds to bounce ideas around. But you need a pretty good attention span to collect all the information before a decision is made.
Humility: Sure, a president, any president, is surrounded by suck-ups, gofers, favor seekers, and a ton of folks telling whoever holds the title that they are the greatest thing since the invention of the washing machine. But you need a mirror that talks back and tells you the truth once in a while like, “Boss, you’re great, but you just screwed up.” Humility almost always wins a one-on-one battle with vanity.
Honesty: Tough one. The job comes with a trimmer in the top drawer. Just hope the next president doesn’t use it too often to give truth a haircut. Ask Johnson, Nixon, and George W. Bush how that worked out for them.
Patience: Can you imagine the frustration level involved in dealing with some of the numbskulls in Congress? Most of them are holding the best job they’ll ever have, and IQs that match their waist sizes.
But let’s move on. Those are just a few characteristics and there are plenty of others too. And I realize while the country seems so polarized (it’s not, really, but cable TV is) that some of you might be going back and forth between Clinton and Trump in this survey.
Here is the tie-breaker: Empathy.
Donald J. Trump is without empathy. He proves it over and over each and every day. He has no understanding, no grasp of something that binds almost all of us together: a sense of what it’s like to suffer a loss.
Where do you want to begin? With the Khan family? A mother and a father who lost a treasured son in war. Part of them died and was buried with their boy at Arlington. Another part of them survived a bizarre attack from Trump, who actually thought he was a victim.
Check out almost every one of his tweets. They are laced with venom, sarcasm, ridicule, scorn, and contempt for anyone he feels was critical of him in any way. His ego is larger than his fortune but at least it’s on public display, unlike his genius tax returns.
How about the loss of pride? Or self-esteem? That was the thrust of Trump’s attack on Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe who he went after once Hillary Clinton dropped her name during their first debate.
There are legions of others who he has tried to tweet to death. And I’m sure some of you probably think his tweets are funny. It’s always funny until it’s about you.
Anyway, good luck. After all, it’s not just the next four years we’re talking about; it’s about a whole lot more and empathy for the human condition cannot be lacking in anyone called to lead this nation.