- Bill Clinton
- Barack Obama
- Bernie Sanders
Democrats who tend to have Velcro when it comes to Trump-style bullying:
- Jimmy Carter
- Hillary Clinton
- Michael Dukakis
- Al Gore
- John Kerry
And for good measure, let’s throw in the mainstream media as easily bullied by Trump.
This is not to imply that B. Clinton, Obama and Sanders are “better people” or even better statespersons than Carter, H. Clinton, Dukakis, Gore or Kerry. It’s simply to say that some are better than others at not letting the taunts of a bully like Trump get under their skin.
Why this is so, I don’t know. However, I do think that the American people, and particularly the media, have shied away from trying to answer these questions. And they have been abetted in distancing themselves from tough questions like these because the American Psychiatric Association has long abided by the “Goldwater Rule” which prohibits therapists from “diagnosing” politicians who they have not seen on a professional basis. Since I’m not a professional in these fields, but like everyone else an observer of human behavior, I’ll search for some insight.
It might be that Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders harbor fewer self-doubts than the others and thus are more resistant to the bullying. This is clearly a subjective view. The problem is, that even for professionals, there is an element of subjectivity in every diagnosis. It may be good that in our private lives we don’t go around diagnosing others and asking questions like “What’s your syndrome?” but for people in the public arena, it’s important for voters to know what makes them tick.
Fundamental to the problem is the role that the media plays, or better said, the role that they do not play. While both liberals and conservatives believe that “the media” is biased, those in the mainstream media insist that they are “objective” and “fair.”
In some circumstances, that is healthy. If the media is covering a fire or a flood, it is sufficient to just give the facts. Reports from victims or witnesses provide us with more information, but they put their own perspective on it, and thereby slant the story, even if in just slight increments. Problems in the reporting arise if two witnesses do not agree on what happened. If Witness ‘A’ said that it rained before the flood and Witness ‘B’ said that it didn’t, and in fact it did rain, then the media could be fair without giving Witness ‘B’s’ account. There is not an equivalency between the person who said it rained and the one who said that it didn’t when it obviously rained and they were both at the same location.
Back to politics, the media often fails to recognize false equivalencies. What is a false equivalency? It is saying that two things are equal when they are not. If a reporter said that eating a pound of carrots contained as many calories as a pound of brownies, that would be false reporting and a good editor would catch it in advance.
Reporting that Donald Trump calls Hillary Clinton a crook as a stand-alone statement is not good journalism. There is no context to it. The report must include what it is that Trump says that Clinton did that was crooked. But that still is not enough. Unless the media looks at Trumps record of skirting and breaking the law, then it is very incomplete. Too often the media, particularly local television outlets, will simply report that Trump calls Clinton “crooked” without explaining the absurdity of Trump saying that. If Clinton calls Trump dishonest, that too might be reported, but it is only meaningful in context.
Almost by definition, the bully dominates what is seen and heard, and thus what is reported. While the likes of Trump might personally irritate a Jimmy Carter or a Hillary Clinton while not phasing a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama so much, the Trump bully is still powerful enough to absolutely stymie B. Clinton and B. Obama’s agendas. It wasn’t Trump, but bullies like Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and Mitch McConnell foiled virtually everything progressive that the last two Democratic presidents have tried to do. Had the media reported to the American people the negative consequences of gridlock and partisanship to the extreme, the American people might be better informed as to how to move the country forward.
To the here and now, if the media did a better job of informing the American people about how Donald Trump is no better qualified to run the country than a schoolyard bully is to run the school, then the playing field would be less hostile to someone like Hillary Clinton who otherwise seems weak and unsure of herself in comparison to Trump.
Progressives often think that the media has a conservative bias. But if there are more bullies on the Republican side, then it may simply be that the media can easily be pushed around. Don’t expect Hillary to take a “bullying pill,” so unfortunately, this bias will probably carry up to election day and beyond.