January 19, 2016

Why I Look Forward to Hearing Donald Trump Despite Disagreeing with Almost All of His Views and Detesting Many of Them

At the outset, I should recognize that Trump’s supporters want to watch him because they believe that the substance of what he is advocating is right.  While I don’t agree with him on the majority of issues, everyone is, of course, entitled to his or her opinion.

What I am addressing here is why I -- someone who disagrees with most of Trump’s positions and the way he presents them, in many cases strongly -- will almost always stop and watch Trump when I hear he is about to appear on television. 

There are several reasons.

One is I find myself in something of a state of “wonderment:”  what zany idea will he come up with next?  It’s a form of entertainment.

Second, I have to admit I take a certain “smug sense of satisfaction” from hearing him, believing that my views are much more rational and humane than his.

Third, and most dangerous, I gravitate to watching him because as wrong-headed as I find many of his views, there are some of his qualities that I admire.  What do I refer to?  His genuineness.  His candor.  His utter authenticity.  I’ve often said that I like to hear it said of someone that “what you see is what you get.”  One thing that is true about Trump:  “what you see is what you get.”  And we had better pay attention to that, the substance of what he is saying.   Because if we don’t like or agree with “what we see,” or “hear,” and in many respects we shouldn’t, we dare not elect this man.

I don’t know if the reasons I’ve given here are shared by others.  But there is a danger in them.  One is that they explain why Trump is getting so much free air -time. Media treasure high ratings.

On George Stephanopoulos’ “This Week” program on Sunday, he had live interviews with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  The one for Trump was not only 4-5 times longer than the other two, but the nature of the interview was different.  Trump controlled it totally.  Now, George Stephanopoulos is an outstanding interviewer, one of the very best.  But Trump just ran over him.  George found it virtually impossible to follow up on Trump’s avoidance of tough questions.  Trump just carried on with his own message, uninterruptable.

Trump’s message is a siren’s song, just as autocratic, super confident leaders have been in the past.  I’ve never seen anyone in this country who so controls an interview like Trump does.  So audacious.  We have heard about people who came close.  Father Coughlin.  Huey Long perhaps.  Decades ago. 

I’m confident that in the end the Republican Party will not nominate Donald Trump.  I believe his positions and temperament will come to be seen for what they are:  out of line with our nation’s values, intemperate, unbalanced, immature, even if some are rooted in genuine, legitimate concerns that people have about our nation and their personal lives.  But we better be careful.  There is no predicting what a Trump presidency would be, and that is the “best case.”   The “worst case” is that Trump’s presidency would be exactly what he says it would be.  Building walls, insisting that Mexico pay for them; stopping all Muslims from entering the country, thereby alienating the Muslim allies whom we need with us to combat terrorism; telling Apple to stop making computers in China.  Of course, none of these things would happen.  But the Government would be in chaos as he tried to make them happen. And we would be the laughing stock of the world.

Having said all this, I’m torn on this question of whether I – and people who feel as I do -- should keep watching Trump.  On the one hand, I say “no.”  We are giving him credit beyond his due and in doing so he gets more free air time.  On the other hand, I say -- and this is my final position – “yes,” let’s keep watching.  But in doing so, let’s have the media start to vigorously challenge the truth of what he is saying and the rightness of what he is saying.  Let’s stop giving him a free ride.  Let’s force the truth to emerge.


January 2, 2016

Jon Meacham’s book brings alive as well as any biography I’ve ever read the reality that great men (and women), in this case Andrew Jackson, bring together great strengths and virtues with blind spots that as we see the world today make us cringe. For Jackson, those blind spots were slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. 
The book gave me a new appreciation of Jackson’s strength of character and how he held the Union together during the Nullification crisis of 1830-31 which came close to seeing South Carolina secede from the Union.  But he held it together.  And he fought the “good fight” for the small man as he battled the consolidated financial interests of the National Bank.  As Meacham says, Jackson “proved the principle that the character of the President matters enormously.”  

“Jackson had many faults,” said Theodore Roosevelt, “but he was devotedly attached to the Union and he had no thought of fear when it came to defending his country. The course I followed regarding the Executive is subject only to the people…it was substantially the course followed by both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.”  
“He wanted sincerely to look after the little fellow who had no pull and that is what a President is supposed to do,” Truman said of Jackson.
Meacham writes.  “The great often teach by their failures and derelictions.  The tragedy of Jackson’s life is that a man dedicated to freedom failed to see liberty as a universal, not a particular, gift.”  Meacham was, of course, referring here to Jackson’s repeated assault on Native Americans, abrogating treaty after treaty, pushing them west, feeling that, in my words, they were a breed apart.  He also refers to his support for the institution of slavery, being a slave owner himself, and fighting the abolitionists during the 1830s, including their fight against the Gag Rule in Congress.
“The triumph of (Jackson’s) life,” Meacham continues, “is that he held together a country whose experiment in liberty ultimately extended its protections and promises to all—belatedly, it is true, but by saving the Union, Jackson kept the possibility of progress alive, a possibility that would have died had secession and separation carried the day.”
In many ways, this commitment-- preserving the Union and finding a way to strengthen it -is what has characterized the great leaders in Procter & Gamble’s history.  The intent has always been the same:  building on the strengths of the past, responding to the exigencies and opportunities of the present, not only adhering to our values but finding fuller way to live them, and, in all ways, seeking to make Procter & Gamble a more successful and vibrant institution in the future.