Style Vs. Substance: The Election Choice

Photo by Gage Skidmore

The debates may be ahead, but this weekend’s bombings in New York City and New Jersey provide an important and unexpected glimpse into the leadership ability and style of both presidential candidates during a time of crisis. Out of its complexity comes a simplicity that creates its own short form preview.

Donald Trump’s techniques for verbalizing anything, even in a crisis are important to look at. Facts be dammned. If you focus on the methods he uses for making points, we begin to level a playing field for choice. He’s conversational. It’s the way he talks that makes things he says digestible no mattter how outrageous. Simple words. He verbally drops major thoughts or words or statements casually in a matter of fact manner so that they don’t seem like the big deal they are. He has the gift of verbal dynamite. Beware. Be alert. Report.

Shortly after news of the explosions in NYC broke, Trump couldn’t contain his need to quickly comment even before the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and new Police Commissioner James O’Neil held their news conference. They had the facts. He didn’t. Trump told a group of Colorado supporters:

“I must tell you that just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on, but boy we are really in a time — we better get very tough folks. We better get very tough. We’ll find out.”

The Twitterverse lit up. Trump publically said “nobody knows exactly what’s going on” planting seeds of fear. He didn’t have a clue but that didn’t matter. The negative phrase was already put in people’s minds. “We better get very tough folks” was equally well suited to be negatively repeated. And then, as he does with great frequency, he dropped his zinger in a trail off voice that eerily planted his point — “We’ll find out.” ….

By the time the Mayor said it was “too early to determine specifically what the incident was caused by”, Trump’s mission had been accomplished.

Hillary Clinton sounded a position that anyone in the sane political or business world would call calm and professional in crisis:

“We need to do everything we can to support our first responders — also to pray for the victims. We have to let this investigation unfold.”

In perspective please, her remarks reflect one of Clinton’s major challenges against Donald Trump. Hillary’s words didn’t leave us hanging on to phrases to repeat or that incite passion. As pathetic as it is to say, this election is as much about communication skills as it is about real knowlege and ability. He plays to emotions, she plays to our intellect.

On Tuesday as the NYC bombing details continued to unfold, Hillary said:

“This threat is real, but so is our resolve. Americans will not cower, we will prevail. We will defend our country and we will defeat the evil, twisted ideology of the terrorists.” She went out to say, “Terrorists are using Donald Trump’s rhetoric as a recruiting tool”.

She looked and sounded presidential as she spoke to reporters. How much of her statement will people remember?

Trump used the same Tuesday morning to do a phone interview with “Fox & Friends” and boast about being the first one to call Saturday night’s explosion a bomb:

“I was criticized for calling it correctly,” said Trump. “What I said was exactly correct. I should be a newcaster because I called it before the news.

Taking a cue from Trump, I’ll close by saying we can either get on the sane talk express or be prepared ….

(published in Political & Otherwise www.marilynsalenger.com )