Gary Wisenbaker Blog
Gary Wisenbaker
The serious business of presidential debates
Trump and Reagan and American Frustration

Trump and Obama and the self centric

“The hit dog hollers.”

“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

These and other colloquialisms easily find a place in any conversation concerning the “post-debate debate” following the recently aired FOX News GOP Presidential Debate. 

As the world has been so painfully made aware, Donald Trump is not happy about how that debate went down.  The “in your face” candidate took offence to being asked “in your face” questions.

Based on his attacks on Chris Wallace, Brett Baier, and in particular Megyn Kelly, one would have thought that Trump took the debate seriously and, therefore, he meant to be taken seriously. 
That’s hard to square with the exhibition Trump put on stage that night. In Trump’s world of show biz, the focus is the spotlight and where that spotlight is focused.  And the measure of success is being in that spotlight. So he shot from the hip and sensationalized, like telling a GOP audience he wouldn’t rule out a third party run.

That accomplished and intending to keep the spotlight on himself, the next day Trump started an attack against the debate sponsors with 3:00 a.m. tweets and continued his harangue over the following weekend on into the Monday morning news shows.

Okay, The Donald’s upset.  But why?

Maybe it’s because Trump’s uncharitable tweets about women were once again brought to the public’s attention. 
Maybe it’s because he had to discuss the three bankruptcies he filed on behalf of various corporations he controls to avoid repaying the loans that they voluntarily took out and promised to repay, then reneged.
Maybe it’s because Trump was asked to explain his support of a “single payer” health care system similar to that used in Canada “and Scotland”, the latter of which he didn’t understand was actually a socialized medicine country (and where it doesn’t work very well).

Maybe it’s because Trump publicly refused to rule out a third party run if he didn’t get the Republican nomination, an admission incorporating an indifference to the success of the GOP’s chances in 2016 and the classic “bad sport” attitude.
Clearly these issues, all of which he initially raised himself, would have been addressed in Trump’s debate briefing books which, as it turns out, he refused to review.  He even bragged a couple of weeks prior to the debate while at the Ricoh Women's British Open in Scotland that he didn’t need to prepare.  

And he didn’t.

Like Trump, the other nine candidates were also asked to defend various statements and positions that they had previously made or held.  That their “priors” didn’t involve personal attacks, ethically questionable but legal business practices or ill-informed statements about socialized medicine is not the fault of those candidates nor the debate panel.

Unlike Trump, however, they were prepared.  They were able to respond to the questions without vitriol (save for Christie and Paul) and with facts and articulable policies.
They did so because they understand that choosing a presidential nominee is serious business.  It’s serious because governing the largest economy and most powerful nation in the world (and in human history) is serious business. 
After all, the nation’s national debt cannot be cured with a bankruptcy filing.  And telling Putin that he’s stupid or having a PMS moment may well get you an ICBM in Topeka.

Trump’s intellect and unfiltered view on many issues is refreshing as is his directness.  That he has tapped into a throbbing vein of justifiable frustration pulsing through the body politic is undeniable. And is, quite frankly, a welcomed event.

But consider the Ronald Reagan model.  Reagan channeled that same sense of frustration and anger with optimism and graciousness, deferring to the greatness of the American people for a solution rather than himself. And it worked not only for candidate Reagan but President Reagan as well.

America already has a self-centric president with a vision of leadership that doesn’t go beyond securing a legacy for himself no matter what the cost.  Obamacare.  The Iranian arms deal. The Clean Power Plan.
Switching out one president who thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow with another accomplishes little. 

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