Donald Trump shows grace under pressure
On Monday, immediately after President Trump started his press briefing, Secret Service agents suddenly appeared and hustled him away. It turned out that there had been a shooting so near the White House that the Secret Service believed the president to be at risk. After the danger had passed, President Trump went right back to the press conference, dismissing even the possibility that he might be shaken. By comparison, his opponent in the presidential race refuses to come out of the basement even to accept his nomination.
As every parent knows, if something bad happens, the last thing you want to do is panic in front of young children. After all, they are looking to you for emotional guidance. The same is true for a nation's leader. As our children do with us, we look to him (or her) to know whether we should be worried.
Additionally, when there's a crisis, we grade a leader's performance — can this leader handle the heat? When the going gets tough and scary, will this person be there for the nation? Will the leader show grace under pressure?
We've seen examples of that grace under pressure over the years, especially from Ronald Reagan. In 1981, while John Hinckley thankfully failed to assassinate Reagan, he did give Reagan a collapsed lung and a bullet less than an inch from his heart. Arriving at the hospital, Reagan ignored his extreme pain and smiled as he walked into the emergency room, only to collapse once the doors closed behind him.
On the way to surgery, Reagan quipped to Nancy, "Honey, I forgot to duck," and, while being intubated, he wrote a note to the nurse: "All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." W.C. Fields, who originated the line as a mock epitaph for himself, would have been honored to hear that. Drawing on amazing reserves, when Reagan saw the assembled medical staff, he joked, "I hope you are all Republicans." Now, that is grace under pressure.
That wasn't Reagan's only demonstration of courage and calm. While he was speaking in Berlin, a balloon popped so loudly that it sounded like gunfire. Reagan, who could have been excused for responding with fear after almost dying just six years before, without missing a beat, said, "Missed me." He then went right back to his speech:
Thankfully, Trump was not hurt today, but, to the extent there was gunfire right next to the White House, he had every reason to be worried. After all, what happened was serious enough that the Secret Service believed it necessary to remove Trump from the press room and bring him to the Oval Office's greater safety.
This video shows the moment the Secret Service hustled Trump out of the briefing. When the agent softly says to him, "Shots have been fired," Trump calmly and quietly walked out:
An apparent Secret Service agent just interrupted Trump's press conference and escorted him out of the briefing room. pic.twitter.com/m4xSq37h1Q— The Recount (@therecount) August 10, 2020
Around eight minutes later, President Trump returned to the press room. He matter-of-factly told the assembled reporters, "There was a shooting outside of the White House, and it seems to be very well under control." He thanked the Secret Service and added, "It seems that the person was shot by Secret Service."
Trump says there was "a shooting" outside the White House. He has returned to the briefing room.— The Recount (@therecount) August 10, 2020
"Law enforcement shot someone," he says. pic.twitter.com/wWuboOxQJo
After providing a few more details, Trump opened the floor for questions. A reporter asked, "Are you rattled by this at all, Mr. President?" Trump's response was simple. "I don't know. Do I seem rattled?" In fact, he didn't seem rattled. Trump acknowledged that the world is a dangerous place and then quickly got back to business.
It's worth contemplating Trump's aplomb and contrasting it with Hidin' Biden, who's left his basement hidey-hole only a handful of times over the last several months. In mid-June, Biden's campaign said he would travel to Milwaukee to accept the presidential nomination in person. Last week, though, the campaign announced that Biden would not go to Milwaukee because of Wuhan virus fears.
Biden is not showing grace under pressure, and he's certainly not showing that he has any leadership potential. It was bad enough when Obama announced that his administration would lead from behind. At least he was out there walking at the back of the parade. Biden, by contrast, is not even in the parade. Instead, he's doing the political equivalent of crouching in a corner, sucking his thumb, and waiting for the danger to pass. Any voters who are still undecided should think long and hard about which man is best able to lead America through dangerous times.
Image: Screen grab from C-SPAN.