Trump and the Character Question

At the midpoint of Donald Trump's presidency, those in his party who seemingly should be supporting him are as critical as ever.  Now it's the issue of his character.

NeverTrump Jonah Goldberg recently penned an article, "Character is Destiny," proclaiming that "Trump's character will be his downfall."

Evidence of this poor character is "[t]he president's style, specifically his insults and Twitter addiction."  Goldberg goes farther, saying, "They are the product of astonishing levels of narcissism, insecurity, and intellectual incuriosity."

He cites examples of how Trump fires Cabinet members or other officials, not face to face to face, but through surrogates, and his "[p]raise for dictators and insults for allies, his need to create new controversies to eclipse old ones, and his inexhaustible capacity to lie and fabricate history."

Let's start unpacking this.

Tweets?  It's Trump's way of bypassing a hostile media establishment.  Looking at Twitter at the time of this writing, the Trump hostility is obvious.  I see one tweet from CNN: "Former President Barack Obama lists his favorite books, songs and movies of 2018."

And another tweet from CNN: "Trump's lies sometimes seem strategic.  But polls show that most Americans see right through it & realize he's untrustworthy."  Could the contrasting messages be more different?

Is it a Twitter addiction or the only way he can get his message out, running the gauntlet of constant adversarial and negative media coverage?

CEOs delegate authority and responsibility.  It's not at all unusual for the CEO not to personally deliver the pink slip, and typically, by the time it happens, it's no surprise to the person being let go.  Big deal.

Praise for dictators?  I'm reminded of the old saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  These foreign leaders, whether Vladimir Putin or Kim Jung-un, have huge egos.  What good does insulting them on the world stage do to further negotiations?  A better strategy is to be nice to them publicly to let them save face at home while getting tough behind closed doors.  Common sense.  Look at the results rather than the appearance.

Insults for allies? Like NATO allies needing to be shamed into paying their fair share, a term the left loves, for NATO, honoring their agreements?  Past presidents have raised the issue and let it go.  Trump is calling them on it.  Or challenging Angela Merkel on her side deal for natural gas with Russia, in violation of NATO.  It's called accountability.

Trump's history of womanizing as a character flaw?  Sure, but that blanket covers many past presidents.  At least for Trump, it was decades ago, not while he was president, something that cannot be said for many Oval Office occupants.

Let's look at an organization famous for building character, at least until the social justice termites chewed it up: the Boy Scouts.  Their mission is simple: "The BSA's goal is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance."

How would President Trump's character measure up as a Boy Scout based on the Scout Law?  Here are a few examples.

Trustworthy.  Trump is following through on his campaign promises: constitutionalist judges, tax cuts, better trade deals, getting our military out of foreign entanglements, trying (in the face of Congressional opposition) to secure the border.

Loyal.  Trump is loyal to his supporters and those loyal to him.  He gave General Mattis, fired previously by Obama, a second chance and stuck with him for two years despite significant differences of opinion.

Helpful.  Trump regularly visits disaster areas, whether a shooting, a wildfire, or a hurricane.  Some might call it a photo op, but he is there to assure local officials of federal support and assistance.

Friendly.  The media complain about accessibility.  But has a president ever been more willing to stop on his way to Marine One to chat with the press?  Sometimes he will spend 20-30 minutes, answering whatever questions they have.

Courteous.  Trump respects the White House and the office of the presidency.  He is rarely seen in public out of his suit and tie – unlike a predecessor who frequented the Oval Office in sweaty running gear.

Cheerful.  Despite overwhelming opposition from all quarters, even from many within his own party, Trump remains upbeat and optimistic.  He maintains a cheerfulness that few mortals could achieve under the weight of constant criticism and hostility.  Just look at any of his campaign rallies for his cheer and optimism.

Thrifty.  Trump, unlike the rest of Washington, D.C., realizes that our national debt is equal to America's yearly economic output and is growing year by year.  He has forgone his own presidential salary and is trimming the fat within the executive branch as much as possible – and urging Congress, albeit unsuccessfully, to do the same.

Brave.  Trump is no coward.  He is currently playing chicken with Pelosi and Schumer in the government shutdown, as well as with a host of foreign leaders, both friend and foe, getting the best for America.

Clean.  The current White House is free of rapper thugs, randy interns, race-hustlers, and other riffraff who frequented previous administrations on a regular basis.

Reverent.  It is impossible to know a man's heart, but Trump appears to have grown into his faith over the past several years, quietly and without virtue-signaling – unlike some of his predecessors, who used bibles and church attendance as props or photo opportunities.

By Boy Scout criteria, President Trump is certainly of good character.  Is he flawed, as we all are in our own ways?  Of course, but such is human nature.

Regardless, Trump was elected by the people, character and all.  He set out a clear agenda for America, attempting to reverse decades of mismanagement, foreign and domestic, pulling the country back from the brink of "radical transformation" into something most Americans don't want.

It's a testament to his strength of character that he is able to persevere, advancing his agenda, despite opposition from so many quarters.  Lesser men would fold to the establishment, seeking compromise with the uni-party and accolades from the media for doing so.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."  In Trump's case, the tree is what he is doing and accomplishing.  The shadow is everything else – the tweets and "character" that the NeverTrumps are in a lather over.

As the sun goes down, so do the shadows.  But the tree remains.  Critics such as Mitt Romney would be far wiser focusing on the tree rather than the shadows.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.