The man of a thousand deaths
“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.” Ernest Hemingway, “A Farewell to Arms”
President Donald Trump has a big problem. He’s a coward. He’s tried to disguise this problem by building a bubble around himself, made up of alternative facts and realities, filled with people who will protect him. But that bubble is starting to crumble.
For example, on May 17, Trump gave a commencement speech to the graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. What did he say to these young men and women? “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
Instead of focusing on these young people, Trump played the victim, blaming everyone else. His refusal to accept any responsibility for his actions demonstrated his cowardice, never a sign of great leadership.
Trump has convinced his followers that he is a leader by Tweeting, by bullying, by embarrassing his communications staff and keeping everyone off balance. Now he faces a real challenge. On the day of Trump’s commencement speech, the Department of Justice appointed a Special Counsel, Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to investigate Trump and his Russia ties. Mueller should be able to determine the truth of the many accusations against Trump because Mueller isn’t afraid of Trump; that’s a new sensation for Trump, who has been intimidating other people his whole life.
Trump’s leadership style was shaped by the fact that he has never, in his entire life, ever worked for anybody but his father and himself. The Trump organization is a family-owned business, so Trump has never even been answerable to a board of directors. He has always been able to do whatever he wants with no accountability to anyone.
As a young businessman, Trump failed many times and his father bailed him out. Trump never learned how to deal with people who might disagree with him or have a different way of doing something. When he took over the family business, his way of dealing with conflict was to belittle, defraud and cheat anyone who stood in his way. That’s his leadership style.
For the first time, Trump now has a boss – the American people. He works for us, not for himself, and he should be accountable to us for his actions and his words. He doesn’t understand why he still can’t do whatever he wants or why people are pushing back on so many of his decisions; that confuses and frightens him. Trump proved his cowardice by the manner in which he fired FBI Director James Comey.
A real leader would have called Comey into the Oval Office, sat down with him, looked him in the eye, and explained why he wanted Comey to resign. Instead, Trump waited until Comey was across the country in California, speaking to FBI recruits, and then leaked the firing to the press. Comey found out he was fired by watching the news.
This was not firm, decisive leadership. There was no national emergency. Waiting until Comey got back to Washington D.C. wouldn’t have endangered anyone. These were the actions of a sniveling coward. I challenge any Trump supporter to explain why firing Comey, long distance, in the most humiliating way possible, was a better procedure than acting like a true leader and firing him in person.
When NATO was preparing for Trump’s recent visit, they had to make special accommodations. According to a May 15 story in Foreign Policy, “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing.”
Now Trump has returned from his overseas presidential trip. On this trip, did he show firm leadership by standing up for American values such as human rights? No. He praised tyrants and scolded our European allies, delighting Russian President Putin. Was this courage or just more cowardice?
We have an ignorant coward in the White House. Appointing a Special Counsel is a good first step, since Trump seems incapable of telling the truth about so many things. As the investigations close in around Trump, we’ll see more displays of his cowardice. Instead of behaving like a calm, rational adult, giving coherent statements about the issues, he’ll lash out like a frightened child who sees boogeymen everywhere. Then the whole world will see him die a thousand deaths right before our eyes.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.