Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Humbling, Part 2

In the Age of Botox reading faces has become a lost art. At least, it has for people of a certain age.

And yet, your ability to read someone else’s face is crucial to your ability to function in society. The quicker you pick up subtle cues the better off you will be. After all, human conversation is not the same as an exchange of epistles. Presence matters. Your ability to connect in non-verbal ways matters.

It is not an accident that practitioners of deconstruction—you know, that philosophical version of the pogrom—believe that those who privilege speech are establishing a culture that represses everyone’s inner troll. In its own peculiar way deconstruction promotes social dysfunction and dislocation. When people converse, when they overcome the urge to text, they form social bonds that are vastly better than those they establish by sending out text messages.

Anyway, yesterday I remarked on the humility I had recently seen in both President Obama and President-elect Trump. Since several of my friends had seen the same thing, I was confident that I was not hallucinating.

Then again, you never know.

Yesterday in the New York Times Mark Leibovich explained what he saw. His analysis is salient and consistent with mine.

Leibovich begins by pointing out that, to some extent, vanity must drive any presidential candidate. Of course, it's always possible to have too much of a good thing. As I have occasionally pointed out, during this election cycle the Republican Party had too many vanity candidates.

But, that was for another day. Leibovich writes:

There’s something inherently vain about running for president. You spend months touting yourself as someone who is better suited to an impossible task than anyone else in the United States. This is not normal. It takes immense chutzpah and (no doubt) self-delusion. And then you are granted the wish, and everything changes. Your vanity is suddenly joined by — if not overrun by — a sense of shock, fear and, you would hope, humility.

But the, he continues, being elected is a transformative event. And it will be so for anyone who possesses a moral sense.

He continues:

But something happens to prospective presidents the moment they are elected, historians have observed. It’s difficult to describe, but the enormity hits fast and hard. “There’s something about the office,” the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said in The Times last month. The context of her remarks was whether it would be possible for even Trump to be transformed.

Trump’s humility was on display when he acknowledged that he had won on Wednesday morning. And it was clearly on display when he met with President Obama in the White House on Thursday.

In Leibovich’s words:

I watched Trump again Thursday, as President Obama hosted him at the White House. The president-elect was deferential and gracious as the media entered the Oval Office. He also conveyed the same hesitant vibe as he did on election night, which was oddly reassuring. “The fact that the president-elect looks a bit shocked and more somber today is the most heartening thing I’ve seen in days,” tweeted Tom Nichols, a professor at the United States Naval War College and a vocal Trump critic during the campaign.

At least Trump was human enough to be nervous, or humble enough to let it show all over his face. Yes, this was really happening, and the realization was sinking into Donald J. Trump like the initial drips of anesthesia: His life had changed utterly, and so had the world.

As I suggested yesterday, it’s a hopeful sign.


Ares Olympus said...

No arguments from me, on both accounts - running for any high public office demands a belief in something superhuman, while gaining that office demands a different sort of attention.

And leaving office is just as humbling, even when you pass it to someone you completely disagree with, like George Bush's letter to Bill Clinton:
Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you.

Good luck,

OTOH, arrogance is possible too and we might recall Bill Clinton's staff removing the W keys from keyboards when they left. Perhaps that was Hillary's idea? If so, revenge is yet sweet as the doorway back in was left firmly locked.

Trigger Warning said...

Trump knows, as any experienced, successful negotiator knows, that magnanimity for the vanquished is simply good policy.

Having said that, I doubt we will see any uplit styrofoam Greek columns and Hollywood-style searchlights slashing the sky.

One of the markers I noted during the soon-to-be-defunct Obama Administration is how they lived large, like a trailer park family that hit the Lottery, renting entire hotels and flying their kids around listed as Senior Staff, all on our dime.

And let's not forget that Barack Obama is the First President to Name His Dog After Himself.

Yeah. Humility is Barack's trademark. Just like Jay-Z.

Trigger Warning said...

Frankly, if The Donald takes a victory lap, he's earned it. Here's a delightful compilation:

Dennis said...


Well stated. Reading people's body language is important to understand what they really thinking and saying. Another reason why I detest texting. There is nothing to connect human beings as human beings in texting. It is far harder to think ill of someone in face to face dialogue.
Another reason why free speech and the arena of ideas are so important. Some times one might actually note that someone who disagrees with you wants the same thing you do, but has a different way to get to that solution. I had a good friend who was my political opposite and we used to argue with each other to the point where others might believe we are about to come to fisticuffs. I came to enjoy the clash of ideas because it forced me to know why I believe what I believe and to have a well reasoned argumentation for those beliefs. No name calling, et al because that denoted you were losing the debate.
Imagine if people actually talked to each other, and here is the important part, and actually LISTENED, they might recognize that no one side has all the answers and that the solution may be in a little of what both desire.
The sad part is that we have reached the point where we have allowed those who do not have our best interests at heart to divide us into enemies in order to gain power over both sides. We are so busy battling each other we don't recognize the real enemy. It is what happens when we allow our emotions to overpower our rational side. Especially interesting because they basically come from the same place.
My hope is that good people on both side begin to realize we are Americans and have the ability together to create the conditions where good results can happen.

AesopFan said...

What's that you say about taking off the Ws from the keyboards?
Joe Biden has some more creative ideas:

Ares Olympus said...

TW: And let's not forget that Barack Obama is the First President to Name His Dog After Himself. Yeah. Humility is Barack's trademark. Just like Jay-Z.

I see, Bo is the dog, even has his own wikipedia page. Its not clear who actually name the dog.

Naming a pet after yourself is a bit strange, but perhaps no more strange than naming a son after you. Donald's oldest son is Don, right?

p.s. 60-minutes interview, and transcript online:
------------- Talkig about fear...
Lesley Stahl: Now you’re not scared, but there are people, Americans, who are scared and some of them are demonstrating right now, demonstrating against you, against your rhetoric--

Donald Trump: That’s only because they don’t know me. I really believe that’s only because--

Lesley Stahl: Well, they listened to you in the campaign and that’s--

Donald Trump: I just don’t think they know me.

Lesley Stahl: Well, what do you think they’re demonstrating against?

Donald Trump: Well, I think in some cases, you have professional protesters.

Lesley Stahl: You think those people down there are—

Donald Trump: Well Lesley—

Lesley Stahl: are professional?

Donald Trump: Oh, I think some of them will be professional, yeah--

Lesley Stahl: OK, but what about – they’re in every city.

Lesley Stahl: When they demonstrate against you and there are signs out there, I mean, don’t you say to yourself, I guess you don’t, you know, do I have to worry about this? Do I have to go out and assuage them? Do I have to tell them not to be afraid? They’re afraid.

Donald Trump: I would tell them don’t be afraid, absolutely.

Lesley Stahl: But that’s not what you’re saying, I said it-

Donald Trump: Oh, I think, no, no, I think-- I am saying it, I’ve been saying it.

Lesley Stahl: OK.

Donald Trump: Don’t be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don’t be afraid. You know, we just had an election and sort of like you have to be given a little time. I mean, people are protesting. If Hillary had won and if my people went out and protested, everybody would say, “Oh, that’s a terrible thing.” And it would have been a much different attitude. There is a different attitude. You know, there is a double standard here.

It has been five full days since the election and anti-Trump demonstrations, driven in part by Hillary Clinton’s edge in the popular vote, have been significant.

When we interviewed him on Friday afternoon Mr. Trump said he had not heard about some of the acts of violence that are popping up in his name… or against his supporters.

Nor he said had he heard about reports of racial slurs and personal threats against African Americans, Latinos and gays by some of his supporters.

Donald Trump: I am very surprised to hear that-- I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that--

Lesley Stahl: But you do hear it?

Donald Trump: I don’t hear it—I saw, I saw one or two instances…

Lesley Stahl: On social media?

Donald Trump: But I think it’s a very small amount. Again, I think it’s--

Lesley Stahl: Do you want to say anything to those people?

Donald Trump: I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, ‘cause I’m gonna bring this country together.

Lesley Stahl: They’re harassing Latinos, Muslims--

Donald Trump: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, “Stop it.” If it-- if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.

So we shouldn't be afraid, and we shouldn't beat on the minorities. Will his enthusiastic followers listen? Of course everyone in any childish fight always says the other side started it.

Ares Olympus said...

AesopFan said... What's that you say about taking off the Ws from the keyboards? Joe Biden has some more creative ideas:

I see it here too. So maybe pranks aren't about arrogance, but just having fun after a horrible campaign season finally over?
Instead of a graceful exit, the internet imagined Biden plotting pranks against Trump and Mike Pence on his way out. Obama, always the adult, isn't exactly onboard.

Or as they say, people don't prank you, unless they really like you?

And it does sound like Trump now has a little bromance on Obama:
Donald Trump: I found him [President Obama] to be terrific. I found him to be-- very smart and very nice. Great sense of humor, as much as you can have a sense of humor talking about tough subjects, but we were talking about some pretty tough subjects.

Meanwhile straightman President Obama is preparing his legacy:
The way ahead
America’s president writes for us about four crucial areas of unfinished business in economic policy that his successor will have to tackle

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I do have two modest requests of President-elect Trump, as part of his "Drain the Swamp" campaign:

(1) Cancel the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Forever. It's a disgusting combination of cozy press relationships with the executive branch, and a nauseating celebrity gala. It's un-presidential. It's the ultimate swamp affair. End it.

(2) Do not do a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Just send a letter... that's what presidents did until the advent of television. It's a stupid political speech about all sorts of policy goodies. It's not necessary. End it. Spare us.