Guys who are really tough do not boast and bluster about how tough they are. The commanders who won World War II were certainly tough guys. They did not beat their chests and proclaim how tough they were.
They did not have to. Their actions provided ample evidence of their toughness. When you have no record of government service and thus no political accomplishments to speak of, you are obliged, if you somehow get the idea that you should be the president, to adopt a posture and a persona that shows unremitting political toughness.
Anyone who mistakes it for the real thing does not know what tough is.
Recently, I suggested that Donald Trump’s act, his performance, would set a bad example. After all, the president is a role model. Being at the top of the status hierarchy, he shows what success looks like. If a Bill Clinton abuses and harasses women he is telling the world that it is fine to abuse and harass women.
Precious few people have been paying very much attention to the role model issue, but Heather MacDonald has done the best job of explaining it. I doubt that this is going to change anyone’s mind, but here is MacDonald’s analysis:
But Trump’s conservative supporters should consider at least this: his likely effect on civilized mores. Trump is the most gratuitously nasty public figure that this country has seen in living memory. He is the very definition of a bully: at every opportunity to kick someone when he’s down, Trump takes it, while shamelessly trumpeting his own dominance. Long after former Texas governor Rick Perry had withdrawn from the primary race, Trump was still sneering at Perry’s glasses and intelligence during campaign rallies and gloating about how he had forced Perry’s withdrawal. New York governor George Pataki held out longer in the campaign, but he was never a threat to Trump. Yet nearly every Trump stump speech still includes a mean-spirited reference to this nonentity. Trump followers defend his penchant for ceaseless, obsessive attack on the ground that he lashes out only when he has himself been criticized. But there is virtue in proportionality. Trump escalates a conventional campaign sally into the excuse for nonstop, self-aggrandizing war.
Trump is the embodiment of what the Italians call “maleducato”—poorly raised, ill-bred. Indeed, judging by the results, his upbringing seems to have involved no check whatsoever on the crudest male instincts for aggression and humiliation. Trump is unfailingly personal in his attacks. Nor is his comportment merely a refusal to be politically correct. Trump was on solid ground when he responded to Fox News’s Megyn Kelly during the first Republican debate that he had no time for political correctness. A repudiation of political correctness means truth-telling, however. Trump’s personal sneers are not truth-telling but merely the self-indulgent gestures of someone who makes no effort to control his desire to humiliate.
Everyone thinks it’s about policy and posturing, about talking tough and blustering. And yet, it’s also about good manners. Without good manners social harmony degenerates and people find themselves involved in class struggle and endless psychodrama.
Conservatives, of all people, should understand the preciousness and precariousness of manners. Boys in particular need to be civilized. That task will be more difficult with Trump in the White House. There is no reason to think that Trump will change his tone should he get elected; he shows no sign of a capacity for introspection and self-correction. Any parent trying to raise a boy to be respectful, courteous, and at least occasionally self-effacing will have a hard time doing so when our national leader is so reflexively impolite, just as it is harder to raise girls to be sexually prudent when they are surrounded by media role models promoting promiscuity. The culture has been coarsened enough already. It doesn’t need further degradation from a president.