Most of us cling to normal. Certainly normal means different things to different people, but normal feels safe. To some normal is a life of surprises and the unexpected, while others thrive on routine and the predictable. Some have the need to be in total control of their environment and those around them. Others are more comfortable rolling with the punches and take pride in their ability to always come out standing on their own two feet. However, regardless of how we perceive normal in our lives, we do define stability and predictability as necessary characteristics in our leaders in order for us to feel safe. We do expect them to act with rationality, maturity and wisdom. We do expect our leaders to be normal. The impact of the abnormally erratic, inconsistent and childish behavior of our current leader has been cause for great concern both within and beyond our national boundaries.
Trump has often boasted, that in part, his great success is a result of being unpredictable. In business negotiations not laying all of your cards on the table and being somewhat circumspect can be an asset. However, on the world stage confusing our allies is a liability. Alliances are built on trust and mutual interests. They are codified with detailed agreements outlining expectations and obligations. They are the foundation of the world order. As we have experienced in past history, when those alliances crumble so too does the world order. When leaders speak carelessly about those alliances and potential international actions their stability is shaken and the equilibrium on which our world order depends is placed in danger of moving off-balance. Trump must learn that “normal” on the world stage is being predictable to our allies.
The most successful administrations understand that truly important legislation requires the development of coalitions. It is rare that any given piece of legislation is able to garner the necessary support to pass without going through the process of negotiation and compromise. Few bills go through this process unscathed and unchanged. The unwillingness to accept this reality and expect instant adherence to the wishes of leadership is both naive and self-destructive. No clearer evidence of this fact has been presented than the recent attempt by the house to pass a new healthcare bill. Trump was taught a very harsh lesson. The power of the presidency has limits, and no more so than at the entrance to the capitol. The clumsiness with which Trump attempted to bully this legislation through congress exemplified the lack of experience and arrogance that flourishes within his administration. Trump must learn that being “normal” in the legislative arena is working to build coalitions and developing acceptable compromises.
Truth and transparency have been the hallmarks of our great presidents. Certainly, there are issues and activities that cannot be shared openly. The world is a dangerous place and the president must have access to the tools and information to protect us. However, as Americans we respond most favorably when we feel that the president is leveling with us and sharing all that he can about his goals and hopes for our nation. Those goals and hopes must be coherent and well thought out. They must represent the best of who we are, reflecting our values and providing a sense of purpose both at home and abroad. First and foremost they need to make us feel safe. We need to feel that those who are making the decisions that most impact on our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren do so with a gravitas and wisdom that we trust. The statements coming from our president cannot sound like childish bluster tweeted in the early hours of the morning. Trump must learn that “normal” communication from a leader requires careful forethought with careful consideration of potential reaction.
Finally, most Americans have never and will never be around the kind of wealth so pretentiously exhibited by Trump and his family. While the wealth can be accepted, the potential conflicts of interest are of significant concern . A cloud of dishonesty has hung over this administration from the beginning. Never has a president started his journey under so many investigations and so many unanswered questions. Trump can easily resolve these issues by behaving as every president since Nixon. He must provide access to his tax returns, do what is necessary to shed his business interests and provide all necessary information regarding any and all communications with Russia during and since the campaign. Trump must learn that it is “normal” to be honest and truthful if he is going to serve effectively as our president.
There is a great deal about the Trump presidency that is abnormal. We cannot lose sight of what it is for a presidency to be “normal”. We must continue to demand that Trump’s presidency accepts those norms.