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Blowing Being Presidential

Being presidential as commander-in-chief
(Flickr/White House) President Trump with Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz

Being presidential is not just about living in the White House and issuing executive orders. Unfortunately, the current White House occupant, President Donald Trump, has a limited view of his role as President.

As the head of the US government, Presidents take steps to defend the country against enemies. He (or she) sets the agenda for lawmakers and agencies. Trump seems to relish playing Commander-in-Chief and issuing orders to lawmakers and Cabinet officials.

However, being presidential also means functioning as the head of the United States. Here a president is functioning as a head of state, who comforts and unifies the country.

Unfortunately, as head of state, Trump has blown many chances to be presidential.

Presidential Comforter-In-Chief… Not

There are times when a President must comfort fellow citizens. After a tragedy, the nation looks to the President for solace.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Trump visited Texas on Tuesday.

Other presidents have physically reached out to catastrophe victims and expressed their empathy in touching ways.

I still remember President Obama’s hugs of catastrophe victims and his rendition of Amazing Grace at a funeral for a Charlotte shooting victim.

Going further back, both the Bush presidents comforted the victims of calamities in memorable ways. Bill Clinton was famous for his appropriate rhetoric, notably after the Oklahoma bombing.

On the other hand, Trump’s visit seemed particularly crass. Trump did not mourn the dead, visit with victims, or urge fellow-Americans to donate.

Rather, Trump marveled at the size of the crowd of supporters who had gathered to see him.  It seemed as he was using Harvey as an opportunity to sell merchandise, particularly his hats. Trump seemed to think of the visit as a campaign rally.

Not that this should surprise anyone. Trump still operates in his divisive campaign mode, not as a presidential unifier.

Presidential Unifier…Not

After the Charlottesville tragedy, Trump had the chance to demonstrate the nation’s revulsion against white supremacist violence. Instead, he continued to defend his initial remarks, a mealy-mouthed condemnation of violence of “both sides.”

Trump’s remarks got wide condemnation. Even Republicans like Senators Hatch, Rubio, and McCain and Speaker Ryan were critical – to a limited extent.

It seems many Republicans do not want to bear Trump’s ire. Trump has not hesitated to go after fellow Republicans who have dared to question or scold him.

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gently criticized Trump’s expectations, Trump went after him on Twitter. He has also picked fights with fellow Republicans like New Mexico’s Dean Heller, Arizona’s Republican Senatorial duo, and Tennessee’s Senator Bob Corker.

Apparently, Trump’s victory has given him the notion that party unity is not important. He is aware that Republicans need him more than he needs them.

Trump also criticizes his Democratic opponents, unsurprisingly. What is unprecedented and not presidential is his regular recall of his election and criticism of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Once elected, most presidents ignore those of the opposing party who ran against them. Sometimes, they may even reach out to them. But hundreds of days after the election, Hillary Clinton still looms large on Trump’s mind.

Trump is rewriting the book on what being presidential means.