There’s a lot of talk lately about Donald Trump acting more presidential now that he is close to the GOP nomination.
Even Trump himself talks in his rallies about when he’ll switch to presidential mode, admitting that if he switches he could lose the thousands who wait hours in line to attend his rallies, so he’s not ready to make the transition yet for fear of losing support in the final stretch of primaries that he needs to win to secure a first-ballot victory.
I don’t want Trump to “act” presidential. I want him to “be” presidential. “Presidential” isn’t a role. It’s a way of being.
Ronald Reagan, an actor, wasn’t playing a role as president (though his acting talent sure helped him a lot overall). He was the president. John F. Kennedy did not “act” presidential. He was presidential.
Being presidential is how you carry yourself. How you act under pressure. Not blowing up in reaction to something. Not calling other people names like “crooked Hillary” or “1 for 38 Kasich.” Presidential is being a leader, someone who can articulate a vision, not insult an opponent, or colleague.
Some presidents weren’t presidential when they were campaigning, and never could make the switch. Why? Because that was not their character. Jimmy Carter never quite hit that standard, for example.
No one is begging for Bernie Sanders, the quintessential quirky uncle at Passover dinner, to be presidential. His finger-waving, almost-never-smiling performances are who he is. He shouldn’t be otherwise. That would be fake. And I’ve seen no one calling on him to “be presidential.”
Donald Trump couldn’t be presidential if he tried without looking totally phony (uh, not that he doesn’t look totally phony already). It isn’t who he is.
Can you imagine Trump delivering a State of the Union and making that pushed-out-bottom-lip face when he makes what he thinks is a key point? Or, in the middle of his State of the Union saying that the Democratic Congressman in the fourth row is a “pussy?” Or that he’d like to punch that Republican who hasn’t been supporting him in the eighth row in the nose? Or demanding that female Congressman in the front row should have her seat changed because “who wants to look at a face like that?”
This, my friends, is not “presidential.” Trump knows if he could switch to presidential mode, his true supporters wouldn’t accept it. His angry voters don’t want “presidential,” they want the alleged “tell it like it is” act he is putting on now.
Indeed, if he has been playing a role up to know — he will find that he now has type-cast himself and couldn’t change that role if he tried.