Post #3 – okay, more snide and angry, and still not the heart of the matter.
If we set the presidential bar at cynical, even I could do a better job than President Trump did last night:
1. Call George Floyd’s killing murder. Sure, that might make it impossible for there to be a fair trial anywhere in the U.S. but you’ve never been that concerned about the niceties of the legal process, so why start now.
2. Declare that you are ordering the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to set up a special unit right now to solve police brutality against African-Americans once and for all. You plan to be the president to do what no Democratic leader has ever succeeded in doing and you’re going to be the greatest protector of civil rights ever.
3. Co-opt the people you think are the “good protesters.” Don’t just give a litany of who all the bad ones are. Tell one of the many vivid stories of protestors protecting people or property. Your commanders surely told you that their job would be easier if the peaceful protestors had the upper hand on their own. Why not get the credit for making that happen?
4. Do some I-told-you-so. Say how the current protesters who are out in masks and respecting distance are just like the freedom-loving protesters against COVID-19 restrictions, and you are big supporter of everyone’s First Amendment rights. (That’s the Amendment right before the Second Amendment.)
5. Throw your opponents a bone. Mention that many of the violent protesters are actually using the past week to advance a pro-gun, anti-government agenda that has nothing to do with George Floyd. Call on them to clear the field and tell them “I alone can get that done”, so they should trust you or get ready to be put away for a very long time.
Presidential Speechmaking 101 involves telling stories of hope in the middle of a bad time. Bad transformed to good, that’s the arc. Sure, we see through that and it’s not enough. But it’s the formula you start with. Some even find it reassuring. The president has no ability in this area. Whenever he mentioned positive figures last night – a nurse, an African-American law enforcement “hero”, etc. – the sentence or thought always ended with disaster – “shot and killed”, “afraid to leave their homes.” Look through all his major speeches and this is the overall pattern. It’s all backward.
And that’s what scares me about the president. He doesn’t know what direction hope is in, even when constructing a sentence.
He doesn’t have the human emotions that go with telling those kind of narratives genuinely or even cynically. Which is just the starting point before you are anywhere near getting complex good things done. Why this is the case -- that’s for him and his loved ones to deal with if they so choose. The country is paying the price of having presidential power in such hands. That’s why I hold for dear life onto other leaders at all levels who are not like this, to get us through what I hope are the final months.