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Apparently no one much cares if the president ‘acts presidential’, whatever that means


By —— Bio and Archives--August 17, 2018

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Acting Presidential
There are things you’ve always heard, and probably never much thought about, but for the most part figured must be true. It’s the inevitable result of an information age in which all kinds of notions float about and people have little time to think very deeply about any one of them.

You’ve always heard that low interest rates are good. That must be true. Everyone always says it. You’ve always heard that vanilla is a “plain” flavor. Must be right. People seem to agree. You hear it all the time.

You can be forgiven for not giving any one of these matters intense, deep thought. But it’s also a smart thing to be careful about just absorbing too much conventional wisdom. Sometimes that thing “you always hear” isn’t true at all, no matter how many people are saying it.

One of the things most people assumed had some truth to it, up until now, was that it was very important for a president to “act presidential”, or to conduct himself with “presidential comportment.” That presumably meant that the president needed to be very careful in what he said, to operate above the fray, to avoid inflammatory or divisive language and to maintain a statesmanlike demeanor at all times.

If he did not, bad things would happen. People would get upset. Ill-advised messages would be sent. International relations and markets would be roiled, all because everyone waits with bated breath to dissect the words of our leader.

And for the most part, all recent modern presidents have conducted themselves as if this was the rock-solid truth. Whether you liked their policies or not, from FDR to Obama, presidents were careful to maintain that very presidential comportment considered so important to presidential leadership. Had they not done so, the consequences for the nation and the world would have been severe. Or so we all believed.

I don’t think it’s a controversial statement to say that Donald Trump does not carry himself with the traditional comportment that’s come to be seen as presidential. He calls people names on Twitter. He goes off on foreign leaders. He casts aspersions on his critics and even attacks his own cabinet members publicly if he doesn’t like the job they’re doing.

Whatever “presidential” behavior is, it’s not what Trump does. This, we were told during the campaign, was one of the reasons he must not be elected. His demeanor was decidedly unpresidential, and if elected he would bring about disaster by behaving . . . in the very way he’s behaved.

And yet: There has been no disaster. There have been no dire consequences. Trump has not talked us into a nuclear war, nor has he tweeted us into a market meltdown, nor has he caused international incidents or national crises by behaving exactly as you might expect Donald J. Trump to behave. To be sure, the news media play up every example of such behavior because a) they want you to know what an uncouth rube you put in the Oval Office; and b) if there’s a chance something Trump does might spark a real crisis, they don’t want to miss the moment.

It would be a shame if a Trump tweet had the potential to start World War III but it didn’t happen because the media didn’t hyperventilate enough about it.

What has happened instead of what we were told is that Americans and the rest of the world have adjusted to the new reality with a new kind of president, and have learned not to overreact to things that seem off-kilter but don’t really matter that much in the big scheme of things.

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Even Kim Jong Un, as deranged as he is, didn’t fire missiles at the United States when Trump took to calling him fat and stupid on Twitter – probably because he knew that if he did we would nuke his country out of existence.

None of this is necessarily to defend Trump’s behavior. A lot of it I don’t like, although much of it I don’t think matters very much, and people overreact to it intentionally for political reasons. I liked George W. Bush’s comportment as president and I would prefer a president who acts more like he did. Trump’s constant need to bluster and return fire on absolutely everyone gets tiresome.

But it doesn’t apparently matter as much as everyone thought it did. The economy is still humming. The tax cut passed. We’re drilling more oil than ever in the United States and dominating international energy markets. We’re rolling back the regulatory state and putting the brakes on the left-wing activist judiciary. People are going about their business, working hard and living their lives.

Obviously there are activists who hate Trump and stage massive demonstrations – sometimes violent – against him. But so what? Attention-mongering activists can do what they want, but day-to-day life in America is pretty much what it’s always been, even with a president who doesn’t act presidential.

So maybe it doesn’t really matter, and never really mattered, if the president acts presidential. Or maybe “presidential” is nothing more than however the current president decides he wants to behave, and it’s neither here nor there anyway. Maybe we call just stop worrying about it because it was never as important as we were told to think it was.


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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain

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