January 13, 2017
Anytime you write about President-elect Donald Trump, you know full well that you’ll get a wide array of responses from readers. This is especially true when the piece is critical.
Some will declare that they totally agree with your take. Others will dismiss you outright amid telltale signs that they didn’t fully read what you’d written. Then, there will be a few critics who’ve digested your point and responded thoughtfully.
I’ve found engaging that latter contingent to be a source of insightful discussions. You know, the types of conversations we need more of if we are to bridge the chasm of divided America today.
Which brings us to Thursday, and my rethinking of the post-election stance that Trump deserves time and space for his purported efforts to unite the country, notably the thought that three months of actions to the contrary rendered that graciousness moot.
Just before 6 a.m. Friday, I woke up to an email from a reader named Peter, a self-described Republican who “has reservations about the President elect mostly because of his thin skin and behavior because I've been taught inclusiveness and caring.”
Over the course of roughly 200 words, Peter maintained that Trump was subjected to more media scrutiny than his predecessor (true, I guess) and how working-class people like himself felt left behind and see "a much better chance to succeed with this new President than what we've had and what we would have had under another Clinton” (that hopeful outcome from a reality-based outlook remains to be seen).
So far, so good-ish. But then came Peter’s closing line.
“Perhaps putting yourself in the President elect's shoes, and getting vilified by the MSM 24/7 will help you understand why he lashes out (even though he shouldn't),” he wrote.
Setting aside that Obama faced that whole ignorant, fake-news birther campaign – championed by a certain guy who currently has a sad about media meanies – I've actually performed that trading-places scenario suggested by Peter.
To do so, I had to set aside the sneaking suspicion that the only reason Trump entered the race at all was to get back at everybody who laughed along when President Obama’s eviscerated him at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
And, guess what: It only bolstered my fears about Trump’s capacity to effectively serve in the lofty office he’s about to assume.
If I were in his shoes, here are a few things I would do differently. I wouldn’t:
• Flip out on Twitter every time somebody says mean things about me, because I’d realize there are better uses of my time.
• Dismiss the need to sit through intelligence briefings, because I am the leader of the country and the buck will stop with me.
• Refuse to answer questions from media outlets that I don’t like.
• Appoint people to lofty cabinet positions not because they’re qualified for the role, but because they were loyal to me during the campaign.
• Use social-media in a fashion that impacts the bottom lines of corporate citizens or emboldens America’s foes.
• Act in a condescending manner toward anyone who’s taken issue with my behavior.
• Undermine my followers’ faith in a free press as a way to achieve a messaging stranglehold.
And here are a couple things I would do if were Trump:
• Use Twitter for good, not to rile up my minions behind me to settle a grudge (which would be tough, since that’d be a fun perk and tweetstorms are really, really, really enjoyable).
• Listen to the experts at my disposal since, knowing this is a foreign role in my life, others with experience will likely have some valuable advice to share.
• Field questions from media entities of all political leanings; it’s just as important to reach detractors as it is to rally your base.
• Listen to my critics and respond to them thoughtfully.
• Release my taxes.
• Admit I lost the popular vote.
• Be a leader instead of reverting to playground-bully mode each and every time something angers me.
Most important of all, though, is this:
Putting my feet in Trump’s shoes, I’d start acting like a thoughtful, dignified adult who understands that the greater good is more important than my bottom line.
His new job is bigger than he will ever be, and he needs to respect the great responsibility with which he's been begrudgingly entrusted. Spiteful score settling is no way to become a respected leader of a diverse nation.
Here’s hoping the president-elect starts doing that before next Friday’s inauguration, for my sake and for yours, too, Peter.
Thanks for writing, and please do so anytime you disagree with my stance.