Will the real Donald J. Trump please stand up? #WordsMatter

By Carol / November 21, 2016 /

The election outcome has a lot of people wondering what Donald J. Trump as president will be like. The reason: President-elect Trump has taken widely different stances on the same topics, sometimes within hours. I find myself wishing for a return of the 1950s TV game show “To Tell the Truth.”

Which Trump will show up as president?

Which Trump will show up as president?

On “To Tell the Truth,” a panel of four celebrities sought to discern which of a group of contestants had an unusual occupation or had undergone an unusual experience. The two imposters could lie, but the central character was sworn to tell the truth. At the end of the questioning, the moderator said, “Will the real … please stand up?”

In our modern-day version, Trump plays all the characters – those lying and the one telling the truth. We in the public are left trying to guess what’s real.

Here are some examples:

A. Candidate Trump: He said to Hillary Clinton: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. … Because you’d be in jail.” (Oct. 9, 2016 – Presidential debate)
B. President-Elect Trump: “I don’t want to hurt them … They’re good people.” (Nov. 13, 2016 – CBS 60 Minutes Interview)

In the same CBS 60 Minutes interview, this exchange:
A. President-Elect Trump: “We have great generals.”
Lesley Stahl: “You said you knew more than the generals about ISIS.”
B. President-Elect Trump: “Well, I’ll be honest with you, I probably do because look at the job they’ve done. … They haven’t done the job.”

A. President-Elect Trump: On Twitter, “@realDonaldTrump – Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair.” (Nov. 10, 2016)
B. President-Elect Trump: “@realDonaldTrump – Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” (Nov. 10, 2016 – nine hours after first tweet)

A. Candidate Trump: The one who brags about assaulting women, attacks Gold Star parents, calls Latino immigrants murderers and rapists, threatens every person who is a Muslim.

B. President-Elect Trump: “Don’t be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don’t be afraid.” (Read the entire 60 Minutes transcript here.)

So, if the moderator said, “Will the real Donald J. Trump please stand up,” which one would it be? The one who rallied followers and votes around the idea of putting Hillary Clinton in jail or the one who lets her off? The one who praises generals or the egotist who claims he knows better? The one who believes people exercising freedom of speech is unfair or the one who speaks for all Americans?

The proof will be in the actions

As a public relations counselor for 30 years, I reinforced to my clients that their words were important, but equally important was that the words were backed up by credible actions.

So far, Trump appears to say whatever he thinks the audience in front of him wants to hear. Because of that, President Trump has a challenge on his hands.

To bring the country together, he will have to prove to people of color, Muslims, and women that they have nothing to fear. Yet, to satisfy the people who elected him, he needs to fulfill his campaign promises: bring back steel jobs, put Clinton in jail, build the wall, deport millions of immigrants.

Less than a week after the election, President-Elect Trump began backing off on the wall, on completely dismantling the Affordable Care Act, on mass deportation. Will his supporters stay with him now?

At the same time, Trump has named as one of his closest advisors alt-right Stephen Bannon who promotes anti-Semetic, racist, sexist views. Can Trump really convince people he supports all Americans?

For my part, I’ll be using one of President Ronald Reagan‘s favorite lines: “Trust, but verify.” Ironic that this is a Russian proverb, no?

Along with the rest of the country – and the world – I’ll be watching to see which President stands up.

Words matter. The actions behind the words do, too.

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  1. Shirley Hershey Showalter on November 21, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Carol, you have put your finger on an issue facing the whole country right now. T is so good at keeping everyone off balance. I have agreed with more than one of his utterances while strongly objecting to most of them. None of us are sure who the “real” person is.

    And yet 67 percent of the voters think he is honest according to the latest Pew poll.

    I wonder if this strategy is revealed in The Art of the Deal.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 21, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Trump has said a number of times that he intends to keep people off balance by not sharing his plans. I haven’t read The Art of the Deal to see if this is a regular strategy, but it may be time. It’s also true that once a candidate gets into office, the reality changes the rhetoric. I anticipate this will be true for Trump as well.

      I couldn’t find the Pew data on his honesty. When you have a moment, please share the link.

  2. Merril Smith on November 21, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Great post, Carol. You are correct that DT changes his positions constantly, and he often contradicts himself. But he also has a long history of not paying debts and sexually assaulting women, no matter what he says now.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks, Merril. Because Trump says something different now doesn’t make the fact/truth of his past any less true – and troubling. Unfortunately, too many take whatever he says as truth, without checking it out for themselves. Until now, I’ve lived my life on the political sidelines. Like too many Americans. This campaign and election, though, have gone down roads that I can’t abide. Hence these posts.

  3. Nan Johnson on November 21, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    The idea of keeping us off balance by not sharing his plans makes me uneasy, and is no way to treat the citizens of this country. I feel for our allies as well. While we may have confidence in our system of checks and balances, our friends across the globe may not, and shouldn’t have to worry about what the US president is going to say or do next.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 21, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Many of us (U.S. & globally) are uneasy because he’s keeping us off balance. I believe some of his comments in this regard relate to his lack of experience with politics and world relations. For instance, one of the things he said he would not have telegraphed was the plan to take back Mosul. What he may not have understood was the reasons those attacks are announced: to give civilians a chance to protect themselves; to ensure our allies are on the same page with us; to the extent possible not to damage our national reputation as the ‘know it all, ugly Americans, who go in where they aren’t wanted.’ As he gains more knowledge and experience, I hope/believe he’ll change his position in a positive way.

  4. Sharon Lippincott on November 22, 2016 at 7:44 am

    I’ve had my head in that same political sand, Carol. And like you, I’m ready to start doing whatever.

    About inconsistent messages: a dozen years ago I was bewildered and thrown off balance by a person who changed messages like a bouncing ball, sometimes seeming deliberately hurtful and destructive. She has since been diagnosed with serious mental illness and hospitalized several times. Just saying …

    If anything good comes of all this, it’s getting pervasive racism and other intolerance out in the open. While I was initially horrified to see its extent, I suddenly realized that shining light on something is the first step toward effectively dealing with it. So, let’s keep it out in the open and discuss it one-on-one. Question it without judgement. Change occurs one heart at a time.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 22, 2016 at 9:06 am

      You’re on point, Sharon. I, too, was horrified and disheartened to realize the extent to which racism, sexism, and homophobia remain rooted in the hearts of Americans. Like you, I came to the conclusion we can’t do anything about something we don’t know about. We will not move the needle easily, but Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” advice comes to mind. This is a task for each of us, individually, and we must have the courage to have the conversations. Thanks for stating it so well.

  5. Laurie Buchanan on November 22, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Excellent post, Carol. Words more than matter — they are how we communicate — our global currency. DT has proven that his words/communication is fake, forgery, worthless. Unfortunately, a good portion of the population bought into his smoke and mirrors sham.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 22, 2016 at 10:11 am

      President Donald Trump will have to live with the legacy of the words of Citizen Trump and Candidate Trump. Not an easy legacy to convince people to set aside. Voters who cast ballots for him did so for many reasons, not all of which were because they believed him or even liked him. I try to stay open to what people saw in him, yet it is hard for me to separate voting for him from supporting his often hateful rhetoric.

  6. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on November 22, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Your neighbours in Canada are watching with bated breath to see how this will all turn out and how it will affect us as well as the rest of the world. I read an article recently about how WWI began with a very minor thing and just snow balled from there. It doesn’t take much to set the world on fire, but oh the work of putting out those fires!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 23, 2016 at 9:37 am

      I’m particularly struck by your point about how easy it is to start a fire and how difficult to put it out. All the more reason to be thoughtful and judicious in what we say and do. The ramifications don’t always show up right away, and we live the effects forever. A sobering thought, Elfrieda.

  7. Janet Givens on November 23, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Great collection of contradictory quotes here, Carol. I share your dismay and like you, plan (and hope) to stay vigilant as the months unfold. I’ve also begun supporting organizations designed specifically to help me stay vigilant. History is unfolding before us, and we, as white, straight, post-menopausal Christian women have the luxury of watching from afar as it does.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on November 23, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Our white privilege makes it possible for us to watch from afar, if we choose. To remain vigilant and involved will take effort. I’m curious about the organizations you’ve identified to help you. If you’re comfortable sharing, please do.

      • Janet Givens on November 23, 2016 at 9:55 am

        My standard was the issues that DT identified as in his aim: Planned Parenthood, ACLU come immediately to mind. I list others in last week’s blog post, “We Always Have Choices.” [] There are environmental (Climate Change) groups we all know and love, gun sense groups (I listed the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, but there are others), immigration support organizations. I’ve joined CAIR (Counsel on American-Islamic Relations). It seems to me I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I can check out the histories of these groups, see if I like what they’ve already done, and support them to continue. Nicholas Kristof also gave a list of things to do in his Sunday column, “A 12-Step Plan…” Thanks for asking.

        • Carol Bodensteiner on November 23, 2016 at 11:06 am

          Your blog post was great, Janet. (I just subscribed so I don’t miss out again.) I agree, we don’t need to invent the wheel. Lots of good organizations out there already doing good work who only need more of us to get involved.

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