If there’s one complaint we constantly hear about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s “unpresidential.” He doesn’t talk like a president is supposed to, we hear. He doesn’t act like someone in the office should — with decorum and dignity.
I’ve always found this to be one of the more preposterous arguments against Trump. President Andrew Johnson, the man who took over for Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, was a barely-functional alcoholic who was so soused at Lincoln’s second inauguration he couldn’t even deliver his speech coherently. (A series of speeches given by Johnson supporting candidates for the 1866 midterms were also plagued with very public bouts of insobriety.) Franklin Pierce, who preceded James Buchanan in the White House, somehow managed to be an even bigger alcoholic. Warren G. Harding had an affair in an Oval Office closet and William Jefferson Clinton didn’t even bother using the closet.
But Donald Trump — a man who has never taken a drink or been accused of using the Oval Office for the purposes of carnal knowledge — is somehow much more unpresidential than anything this country has ever seen before. Right.
Regarding the charge of unpresidentiality, Trump has had his fun with it. And he managed to have even more fun on Saturday, when he appeared at a huge campaign rally for Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone, who is in a tight race for a vacated seat in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
According to The Hill, Trump decided to respond to a Wall Street Journal article which asked if the president was “a good speaker.”
“You know, how easy it is to be presidential?” Trump said. “But you’d be out of here right now, you’d be so bored because I could stand up, right?”
However, if you wanted presidential, presidential you would get: Trump did an impression of what he would sound like if he were a traditional commander in chief type.
“I’m very presidential. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here tonight,” Trump said in a mock presidential voice, all while moving robotically.
“Rick will be a great, great congressman. He will help me very much. He’s a fine man and Yong is a wonderful wife. I just want to tell you on behalf of the United States of America that we appreciate your service. We appreciate your service.”
Trump: "You would be so bored" if I acted presidential pic.twitter.com/H6ZluTgRdk
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 11, 2018
“See, that’s easy,” Trump said as he concluded his impression of “Presidential Trump,” all to laughter and applause from the crowd.
“That’s much easier than doing what I have to do. But this is much more effective. If I came like a stiff, you guys wouldn’t be here tonight,” he added.
There is a certain truth to what Trump said. After all, the crowd loved it. His supporters love the fact that he’s taking it to a media that demands politicians play by their rules of decorum. The media may say that they hate it, but yet they report on it (and the issues that the “unpresidentiality” is in regards to). When you’re talking about Donald Trump, you’re doing exactly what Donald Trump wants you to do.
Oh, and there were plenty of other moments of “unpresidential” behavior during the speech. Trump intimated he might like to follow Asia’s lead in using the death penalty against drug traffickers. He went after Maxine Waters, Chuck Todd and Oprah Winfrey, inter alia.
He was clearly having fun — and so was the audience.
Whether or not this strategy remains productive is anyone’s guess. Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania was prompted by the underperformance of the aforementioned GOP House candidate Rick Saccone, who’s in a tossup race in a district Trump won by 20 points. Part of this has to do with the fact that the seat was vacated by a Republican who left in scandal and part of it is the fact that Saccone is about as inspiring as Ben Stein’s teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” while his opponent has gotten all kinds of uncritical press which has painted him as a kind of Jon Ossoff redux.
That said, if Saccone is boring and ineffectual at turning out the voters, it was clear from Saturday’s rally that the president still has the ability to add a spark to any campaign. Sure, it may not be “presidential.” Then again, Trump wasn’t slurring his speech incoherently like Andrew Johnson, nor was he going back to the Oval Office for a tryst in the closet or finding new uses for cigars. If that’s presidential, there are plenty of people who would take Trump and his tweets any day.
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