Pete Sparby makes his case for “Why Republicans should back Trump” for president (Opinion Exchange, Sept. 5), citing three main reasons: Tolerable uncertainty, bravado and strength. While these attributes may engender intrigue, with the exemption of strength they are not the qualities a president needs. While I tend to lean more toward conservatism, of late I’ve found myself leaning farther and farther away from Donald Trump.
First, tolerable uncertainty. I want a president who is at least mostly certain of how he or she stands on pertinent issues, and whose beliefs are at least somewhat transparent. Trump is neither. Other than immigration, we don’t know where he stands or what he knows about anything, and when he’s confronted about what he knows, especially about foreign-policy issues, he becomes defensive and says that he’ll know about it when he needs to — meaning, I suppose, that he’ll surround himself with knowledgeable aides. (We saw how this worked for President John Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs imbroglio.) Politicians need to be smart and knowledgeable before they become a world leader. They need to take a stand on the issues of the day and let their feelings be known. Being a successful businessman and TV personality do not qualify one for the presidency. Conducting foreign policy involves a thorough knowledge and understanding of world history. Sarah Palin struggled with this as well. While many of us may be tired of politicians in general, politicians, in general, need to have a broad understanding of geography and history. This is critical, and there is no substitute for knowledge.
Bravado is a quality that some really good and some really bad notable politicians of the past possessed. Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind, along with Winston Churchill, and of course the king of bravado, Adolf Hitler. Bravado should not be confused with self-confidence. Reagan was confident. FDR was confident. Bush was confident. Bravado can present itself when one lacks confidence or becomes defensive. If you like Trump, you may refer to his bravado as swagger. I tend to call it by its other names: arrogance or hubris. The man likes to remind us how rich he is, how successful, and what a winner he is.
Trump’s bravado seems to stem from this picture he paints of himself as a business mogul rather than from the leadership, showmanship and oratory prowess Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt possessed. It’s this same lack of confidence that causes Trump to go on the defensive and say ridiculous things, like Sen. John McCain not being a war hero, and Megyn Kelly’s … issues. I believe he regrets these statements made while under duress — or, as he would say, while under attack. But, a president should count on being both under duress and under attack, by media, by opposition politicians and possibly by foreign powers, and he or she will need to remain composed rather than falling back on bravado. A president needs to exhibit decorum and confidence. Our country expects our president to possess these attributes.
I conclude with the matter of strength. I agree with Sparby that a president needs to exhibit strength, but what is strength as it pertains to presidential characteristics? There is strength of spirit, of justice, of morals, of fairness, of love for his or her fellow man. Strength can be seen in one’s convictions, one’s morals and one’s beliefs. A country’s leader needs to exhibit a strength of spirit that does not become retaliatory when one’s ideas are questioned. Strong leaders can take either credit or blame for decisions without becoming defensive and derogatory toward those questioning them. A president’s wisdom, knowledge and diplomatic skills should show through in defending acts or beliefs. Trump behaves like a child when any of his ideas are questioned, attempting to turn the tables on those who question him with some pejorative remark. Do we really want a president who behaves like this? Do we really think Trump can lead this country — can impress other world leaders with his knowledge and understanding of their issues and concerns?
As a conservative, I am embarrassed to have Donald Trump leading the Republican caravan of candidates. We need a president who is steadfast in his or her beliefs and confident in his knowledge. We need a leader who is experienced, strong and capable of diplomatic expression. Mr. Trump is not this man.
Richard Greelis lives in Bloomington.