Donald Trump, Acting “Presidential” and The Media

“Sleaze. Piece of work. A real beauty.” Donald Trump used these words and others to describe the media in his press conference earlier this week. The conference was called to account for the $5.6 million raised for the veterans when Trump boycotted a Republican debate in January. The press have been asking questions about the amount of money and its recipients for months. Not surprisingly, the conference was highly contentious and brought back memories of Nixon’s relationship with the media. It is easy to see this interaction as undesirable for American democracy, but I propose an alternative viewpoint. I am sure you have heard how presidential candidates need to act “presidential.” They must not do things which would “degrade” the office of the Presidency- such as swearing, personal attacks or gossiping. They should elevate the discussion and be an idealized role model for Americans, according to the conventional political wisdom.
 However, the president is still a human being, and this idea of being “presidential”, in my view, is an unrealistic standard. To me, the idea of being “presidential” is often a synonym for being fake. Politicians at all levels often cater to the masses without being authentic. The standard is even higher with the presidency. Many presidents who appeared on the surface to be “presidential” acted quite differently in private. Nixon’s antagonistic relationship with the press is legendary (classic Nixonian tactics) and John F. Kennedy faced accusations of philandering and having ghost writers for his book “Profiles in Courage.” (JFK’s alleged affairs, questions of authorship) If you give yourself a few seconds, I am sure you can think of “non-presidential behavior” from almost any administration.
 I think it is refreshing to have a candidate who is authentic in public. To me, the idea of “being presidential” is fundamentally deceiving. What difference does it make if a candidate is polite, gracious and elegant in person but when the cameras are off becomes a rude, divisive and nasty individual? You don’t have to agree with Trump’s perception of the media- I do not for the most part. However, I do like how he criticizes people to their face, instead of unleashing a verbal tirade when the cameras are off. While the conversation between Trump and reporters became intense, ultimately both parties exercised their free speech rights without major incident. I disagree with most of Trump’s statements but I do appreciate his blunt honesty- he lets you know what he thinks of you, and I think this honesty is more important than being “presidential.”
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Originally published at on June 4, 2016.

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