The paradox of this election is how President-elect Trump defied gravitas, a defining quality of presence and leadership, and managed to survive a succession of socially inept blunders. Bullying, arrogance and racial slurs are typically career-destroying missteps and yet, instead of ambushing his campaign, these indiscretions somehow reinforced his “authenticity.” The rationale that he called-it-like-he-saw-it absolved him of every gaffe, excused his lack of empathy and provided cover for dishonest statements.
Despite his blunders, the difference between the almost right leader and the right leader, to paraphrase Mark Twain, came down to the competence-trust conundrum. Secretary Clinton had such a well documented “trust problem,” it eliminated her competency from the equation. Donald Trump, on the other hand, elicited a high level of trust as his authenticity and charisma kicked-in. His competency – the total absence of any public service or political experience – never became an issue.
Trust, competency and his cloak of authenticity aside, Donald Trump built a wall of social ineptitude so high it bears examination.
Trump’s top 10 gravitas blunders:
1. A Bully
Calling Mexicans criminals, banning Muslims, belittling his opponents with name-calling – “Little Mario, Lyin’ Ted, Low Energy Jeb,”– his vitriolic language galvanized educators at the NEA to launch a digital campaign against the dramatic increase in schoolyard bullying, the so-called Trump Effect.
2. Heartless, insensitive
To simply dismiss his behavior as “without boundaries” is to overlook his cruel mockery of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s disability or his remarks about Senator John McCain – “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured.”
3. Racial slurs
As someone who managed to dodge military service with bone spurs that never seemed to interfere with his tennis game, Trump’s lack of respect was particularly noteworthy when he spoke about the parents of Muslim American soldier, Humayun Khan, killed in Iraq. Referring to Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala: “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”
4. Emotionally abusive
Relentlessly contentious, he constantly baited Hillary with statements about her husband’s conduct. In his never-ending quest to humiliate and intimidate, “weak, stupid, moron and zero” were the recurring adjectives he used to describe not only his opponents, “Crooked Hillary has ZERO leadership ability,” but everyone who didn’t dance attendance.
5. A Liar
The Toronto Star‘s Washington Bureau Chief, Daniel Dale, followed Trump’s campaign for months and kept a running tally of his lies. In one 25-day period alone, he counted 378. Technically, some may not have been falsehoods only because, in the moment, Trump actually believed his statement.
6. Arrogant, conceited
A braggart to the core:“I was able to use the tax laws in this country and my business acumen to dig out of the real estate mess…Few others were able to do what I did.”
7. Dishonest or merely a lack of integrity?
“Trump University” and clever tax manipulations aside, his countless lawsuits tie litigants up for years with costly stall-techniques.
8. Flip-flops and one-eighty’s
“I’m not advocating guns in classrooms. But remember, in some cases … trained teachers should be able to have guns in classrooms.”
His constant flapping about how the entire electoral system was “rigged,” vanished on election night.
9. Superficial, shallow
“Show me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser – having a healthy ego, or high opinion of yourself, is a real positive in life!”
10. Sexual misconduct
The expression “binders full of women” helped bring closure to Mitt Romney’s presidential aspirations. He was severely castigated for trivializing women. Conversely, President-elect Trump sidestepped every assertion regarding his exploits in the underworld of misogyny and male chauvinism: Peeping-Don at beauty pageants; “locker room banter;” allegations of sexual transgressions by at least a dozen women.
In both victory and defeat, the President-elect and Secretary Clinton delivered memorable, atypical speeches. He appeared uncharacteristically docile – and humble. The brashness was gone, replaced by a positive generosity of spirit. Hillary too, presented an about-face; for the first time, she revealed her true, authentic self in a grand way that connected and touched people.
How will President-elect Trump conduct himself in the global political arena?
With the same audaciousness that marked his campaign? Or, could our first clue be the behavioral turnaround of his victory speech with its gracious words to Hillary and “bind the wounds and come together” message. His journey as a world leader has just begun.