In 1975, then-amateur boxer Michael Dokes told Sports Illustrated that his hand speed was so fast that you couldn’t catch them on camera. And then the 17-year-old proffered this warning to boxing legend Muhammad Ali, “I’m going to get you old man, so you better get out while you can.” Two years later, now pro-boxer Michael Dokes faced off against the aging Champ (Ali was then 35 years old, overweight and on the downside of his career). It was a three-round exhibition fight.
Ali was up to his old tricks – taunting, teasing and cajoling the young opponent – and then, at the moment the Champ could tell how frustrated Dokes became, Ali leaned back on the corner ropes, dropped his hands, planted his feet and dared the challenger to hit him. Dokes threw 21 punches in 10 seconds – and never touched the Champ. You have to see to believe it.
That Ali moment sums up the frustrations of many opponents of Donald Trump. Of course, the comparisons between Ali and Trump stop there – well, with the exception of avoiding the draft. Between Trump’s pathological lying, his inner circle’s enabling and his supporters’ unconditional love, opponents often wonder how to effectively lay a glove on this guy. Right when you think you have him pegged, he pivots (meaning he lies or feigns a new, temporary persona to escape criticism). Okay, so there is no fact that can nail him and no shaming that can penetrate his heart. As he has said all along, everything is a deal. He feels justified to say anything and do anything to make the deal.
Those of us who believe Trump is unfit to be president can’t present any case or design any scenario where Trump, himself, would ever agree. He’s a narcissist. His staff has settled into a bunker mentality. They are delusional in thinking all of the criticisms of Trump are based on political jealousies, ideological differences, and attempts by the Establishment to regain power. That may be true for many of his opponents. But it is not true for me.
If you have followed me, especially over the past two years, you know I am a “Never Trump” guy. I have argued consistently that Trump is unfit to be president. The basis of that conclusion is his character. I’ve said Trump is a pathological narcissist and would always put his own interests before his country’s interest, even if just to save face and personal embarrassment. While I think that has proven true, evidently his lack of character makes no difference to his die-hard defenders. But it should.
One of my dearest friends and a Trump supporter has told me for months that “it doesn’t matter.” All that matters is that Trump will overthrow the Establishment or, in Trump’s own words, drain the swamp. Another friend, just yesterday, told me Trump is better than Hillary and then asked me if there is anything I like about the Trump presidency. How about his Supreme Court nomination, for instance? He said, “We finally have somebody who is doing what he told us he would do…you’ll give that up over his style?”
I’ve pondered that statement. It’s a statement aimed at Trump’s character – he’s doing what he said he would do. To which my first reply would be, is he? It’s hard to tell given all of the personas he wears from day to day and from all of the lies he tells. But evidently, that collection of personas and all of those lies are justified by his supporters because, somehow, some way, Trump is doing it all for America.
My second reply to his unwavering faithful contingent is that character is more than keeping your word. It is that but it’s so much more. If Trump is doing what he said he would do, what’s he doing? If keeping your word and using any means to achieve it is the definition of character, most hardened criminals have character. But, of course, they don’t and they don’t because of what they do and how they do it. It’s not about style. It’s about character.
Before the election, I was working on a national project to define and rank the leadership skills of the presidential candidates. We graded candidates on right thinking, leadership skills and character. Donald Trump came in 20 points higher than Hillary Clinton. Evidently, this is the kind of basis the “lesser of two evils” crowd used to justify Trump over Clinton and the basis upon which they justify Trump today. But the “lesser of two evils” crowd misses the point. We also graded 23 other announced presidential candidates and all 23 rated higher than Trump and Clinton within their respective parties. Both Trump and Clinton received the lowest scores among the challengers. Those scores represent the lowest possible bar to pick between the “lesser of two evils.”
And that is what Trump supporters are doing – justifying their support based upon the lowest of character traits. It’s like choosing the better of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer – at least Bundy didn’t eat people!
“The Greek word for character literally means an impression. Moral character is an impression stamped upon the self. Character is defined by its orientation, consistency, and constancy. Today we often equate freedom with morality and goodness. But this is naïve because freedom is transcendent and the precondition of choice itself. Depending upon his character, an individual will be drawn toward either goodness or wickedness. Moral and immoral behavior is freedom enacted either for good or for ill.” (Awakening the Moral Imagination, Vigen Guroia)
If the fight for freedom is the sum total of defeating Hillary Clinton or the Republican Establishment, Trump supporters have missed the point of freedom entirely. Freedom requires virtue and virtues lead to a person’s character. If you wonder why some of us deeply reject Donald Trump, it’s because of his lack of character. And there is no justification we can devise, no substitute we can offer, that replaces that core belief. Trump is unfit to be president. Period.