Now Who Doesn’t Look Presidential?

From Donald Trump’s perspective, he did well in last night’s debate because he didn’t say some nasty things he was thinking. And, indeed, he did refrain from most personal attacks. But he also managed to reveal that he lacks presidential temperament and judgment.

He was easily provoked and distracted.  He occasionally blathered.  He accused Clinton of fighting ISIS her entire adult life.  What was that about?

He considers all things under his businessman banner as justified, even if it means not paying taxes.  About not doing so, he said, “That makes me smart.” Even though, as Clinton pointed out, this short changes the very people Trump claims to care about, including active military, veterans and schools.  It prevents the support of a country’s infrastructure — something he described as woefully inadequate.

He used business to justify not paying people, even if they finish the job he hired them to do. He should have realized that many Americans who vote work for a living and can barely make ends meet.  They would lose their homes if “stiffed” by their employers.

He was rude to the debate moderator, Lester Holt. He even abruptly said at one point to justify yet anther interruption: “You asked me a question.  Did you ask me a question?” Holt was very professional and restrained. He did not take these moments personally, but they were dismissive.  An occasional insistence on completing a thought or responding is fine in such debates. Trump took it too far — with Clinton and Holt. It revealed the volatile temperament he denies and a sense of superiority and entitlement that he so frequently manifests.

He did have some moments when he sympathized with the plight of people suffering from violence. But his emphasis on “law and order” implied reliance on racial profiling.

Clinton was superbly prepared. When the presidency of the United States is at stake, preparation is paramount. Yet, she was natural in her style and humorous when appropriate.  She was serious and knowledgeable when the topics were about significant issues. She knew the facts with little reference to notes.  Her nonverbal expressions were responsive to what was said by Trump rather than gratuitously derogatory and directed at him.

She used his words to support her premises regarding his disparaging views of women. She quoted him rather than making things up, what John King of CNN referred to post-debate as Donald Trump’s “casual relationship with the truth.”

What we saw last night was a presidential look that now includes women.  Clinton demonstrated that being a woman doesn’t mean you lack stamina, as Trump stated.  She was strong, informed, direct, relaxed, confident and capable at the podium. When he went low, she went high, which is the approach she attributed to President Obama when harassed for years by Trump about his place of birth.

For Trump’s part, he did manage himself in terms of vicious retorts. He was, however, easily distracted and comparatively uninformed. That he brought up in a presidential debate a feud he’d had with television personality Rosie O’Donnell, revealed a shocking lack of judgment, if not a fragile grasp on reality. With regard to having supported going into Iraq, he feebly replied that the press should “ask Sean Hannity” for the truth.  This defense, let me be generous here, bordered on infantile.

Yes, we saw “presidential” last night.  We saw an extremely accomplished woman who knows what matters, how the world works, that good businesses don’t take an anything-goes-approach to their people. Being in business does not justify making exorbitant profits on the backs of underpaid, unappreciated, hardworking people.  Moreover, being president is not the same as being a CEO.  It is also not a position earned by inheritance of a fortune in the absence of experience and knowledge.  And it is certainly undeserved by a candidate who shows up to debate his opponent unprepared, pompous and petulant.

 

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What Could Make or Break Hillary’s Chances? – Idiosyncrasy Credits

Our perceptions of others depend upon a number of factors. Among them is the extent to which people seem to be like us. Another is attraction — appealing in some way due to characteristics we’ve learned to appreciate or perhaps a sense of humor. Accomplishments can enter into our perceptions of others, especially regarding those running for political office. What have they done that we find admirable or disappointing?

Aside from such perceptions, we also formulate expectations regarding how people should behave. In my first book, Persuasion in Practice, described by Public Opinion Quarterly as a “landmark” review of persuasion theory and research, I wrote about behavioral rules that each of us develop pertaining to what’s obligatory, prohibited, preferred, permissible, and irrelevant in particular situations. Without such rules, civil society would not be possible.

Take the simple rule that a “hello” should elicit a return greeting. In the absence of such a response, assumptions are made about the mood or politeness of the person who flouted the rule.  Adults, as a rule, should not talk loudly in libraries. Of course, there are exceptions to all rules. If there is a fire in a library, shouting a warning is not only permissible, it’s obligatory. Why? Another rule tells us we should care about the wellbeing of others.

We’ve heard a lot about whether Clinton or Trump is more presidential. This discussion assumes that we have a set of rules regarding how presidents should act — what’s obligatory, preferred, prohibited, permissible and irrelevant. Again, there is variation, especially this election cycle. Some people appreciate candidates with whom they could comfortably have a beer. Personally, that’s rather low on my list. But, in the U.S., it’s not uncommon to hear that one admired candidate or another is that type of person.

Whatever our rules for how a candidate should behave, what they should have accomplished, and what emotions, for example, they should elicit from us, some can deviate from these rules without paying dearly. Others cannot.  This is where we get into who could win the next presidential election.

Most of us have friends who we like but for some reason they don’t fit well with our other friends. They break the rules. They may be too loud or brash.  Taking them to parties is a risk. Yet, we like them.  We may have come to do so at another period in our lives when such behavior was humorous.  Or, other things about them compensate for their deviations from rules.

We have given such people social extra credit to spend nearly as they wish — what psychologist Edwin Hollander called “idiosyncrasy credits” — the ability to deviate from norms or rules without being punished. “There goes Ed just being Ed,” we might think when a friend tells a ridiculous joke or does something that offends others.

Idiosyncrasy credits are like social assets in the bank. The more idiosyncrasy credits you have with a person or a group, the more they excuse untoward behavior.

Donald Trump has loads of idiosyncrasy credits with many of his supporters. How he got them is the subject of another blog.  How far away from the rules can Trump stray without paying a price at the voting booth?  No one really knows.  This week he suggested Clinton’s security should have their guns taken away, essentially that she be unprotected to see what happens.

Hillary Clinton has worked diligently over the years without fanfare.  Like so many women, in particular, she does her job and likely finds it unsavory to brag. As a result, much of what she has accomplished hasn’t been proclaimed for all to see. This is where a lot of women, and certainly many men as well, go wrong.  They don’t share what they do when they do it or close in time.  They assume the work and good things will speak for themselves – that bosses, for example, will notice.  Donald Trump has never assumed this. He seeks credit without apology.

Clinton is also not flamboyant and not particularly funny in public.  She has admitted that she isn’t the most natural speaker. She’s been demeaned for her pants suits and described as screaming and whining. She has a bout of pneumonia and we have a media circus over what that means.

Never mind that Trump has provided far less information about his health and that he looks like he could knock off quite a few pounds.  Never mind that we haven’t seen his tax returns because his children say we’re incapable of understanding them.  Trump insults and offenses roll off.  For many people, “That’s just him being him.”

Assuming that Hillary Clinton does suffer from a deficit of idiosyncrasy credits, can anything be done at this late date?

Presidential candidates can complain about the unfairness of idiosyncrasy credits being given to the unworthy, but it rarely changes things – especially not quickly.  Instead, they need to take a hard look at what’s standing in the way of being liked and admired by the groups that can make a difference.

In Clinton’s case, supporters need to be out in droves loudly singing her praises, giving clear examples, drawing upon her contributions rather than simply responding to Trump’s latest attack. There should be a “DID YOU KNOW?” campaign for Clinton starting today.

There is no one but yourself to blame if the accomplishments of your career are only available to your inner circle and in your resume.  While research clearly indicates that women have far less latitude when “bragging” than men, and gender does influence her in other ways that are problematic, her campaign and Democratic Party leaders need to loosen up in terms of letting us know what she has done.

Her supporters need to drive home what she has accomplished, promises she has kept when others did not, care she has shown, and competency rarely credited to her. In the debates, we should hear in response to a Trump attack, “You mean the time I did x, y, z while you did nothing?”

Hearing from those who know her is crucial to building idiosyncrasy credits. This is part of the vice-presidential candidate’s job.  And we need to hear more from him.  But he can’t do it alone.

Lack of appreciation in one area can be balanced or overcome by credits garnered in another.  It’s time for the Clinton team to strategize in this way. They can’t wait for the press to do the right thing.  Some journalists will.  Others just want a promotion.

It’s not enough to let people know who you are and what you’ve done via a website. Idiosyncrasy credits in presidential races require getting the word out far and wide, loud and clear, again and again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Art Exhibit in Ireland

Aside from blogging at this site, I have an art page.  Getting to it just requires going to the headings section under the “Kathleen Kelley Reardon” poster at the top of the page and clicking on “Artwork.”

Also, I’m posting art from a current exhibit I have ongoing in Ireland at www.facebook.com/kathleenkelleyreardon.  Stop by if you have a few minutes.

If you’re interested in the paintings or seeing more, just leave a message.  K

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Even in the White House, Women at the top Struggle to be “In The Room”

As I wrote in It’s All Politics, you have to be visible, central and relevant (VCR) to be promoted in most organizations. And this advice doesn’t just pertain to young women. For a while, young women are often “cute-and-little” and draw attention and mentoring. But this time is brief. Then the ability to have your ideas heard and attributed to you diminishes. Apparently, the White House is no different. Even early on in the Obama administration, women had to learn to help each other be heard, to assure that ideas they advanced were attributed to them. Fortunately, the women who worked with President Obama influenced a change of culture, and it didn’t hurt that people who thought little of women’s contributions eventually moved on.

Would a female president make a difference? Would a Hillary Clinton presidency change the White House culture that certainly precedes President Obama as is clear in this article. It’s worth a read.

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OMG! Pneumonia. Only Weak Women Get That!

When a man gets ill, he’s ill. When a woman gets ill, it’s a threat to her career. Take it from someone who had breast cancer at an early age and had to knock herself out to keep it from questioning whether she could teach, be promoted to associate and full professor.

Look at Stephen Hawking. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. He’s brilliant. He’s in a wheelchair. But we don’t doubt his competence. Pneumonia would’t change that. But for a woman, illness can be used against her. That’s what is going on right now.  There are ample articles about Trump’s mental health. He is older than Clinton and not the picture of fitness himself.

Women in business and government know you can’t let people know when you’re ill. It shows up in your promotion package, as it did in my case even though breast cancer had occurred years prior to that promotion. It’s disgusting to see the media frenzy on this issue that would have been just pneumonia had she been a man.

I’m angry.  Very angry.  I hope people don’t fall for this media attack for which so many journalists are being paid handsomely.  They are using the gender disparaging card that a woman’s brief ill health can provide.  If you use Google and type in “Donald Trump, health,” you’ll get very little about his physical and mental health.  Do the same for Hillary, even before pneumonia, and the situation is quite different.  It’s despicable.

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They Aren’t Your Generals! They’re Ours!

Words and phrases matter. If we slip into accepting a way of talking that threatens our basic values, we contribute to their downfall. And so it is with the all-too-common tendency to use “my” when presidential candidates refer to admirals and generals who will be on active duty during their administrations.  They aren’t the president’s generals.  They are “our” or “the” generals.  And the distinction matters.

The Supreme Court is not peopled by the president’s justices. We’d be shocked to hear a president refer to the SCOTUS as “my justices.”

“My generals” moves us away from democracy where such people work for the people.  In the U.S., the president has a Cabinet.  He or she may refer to these selected advisors as “my Cabinet” without deleterious effect.  The same is not true of military leaders.  The president is their commander-in-chief, but they ultimately work for the people.

I’m waiting for a press interview where a presidential candidate is asked:  “Will they be your generals?”  The answer will tell us a lot.

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Natural Communication Takes Work

We’re not surprised that olympians differ in their overall capability or ability to perform on a particular day. Yet, when it comes to communication there is a tendency to not think in these terms.  Nevertheless, effective communication, persuasion and negotiation take learning and considerable practice. Essentially, natural is not natural in these arenas. For some of us, it just looks that way. Here is what Hillary Clinton had to say about why she isn’t as natural as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Some of the problem is gender expectations. Some is that we all have different learning experiences, coaches, predispositions and opportunities for practice.

“I’m not Barack Obama. I’m not Bill Clinton. Both of them carry themselves with a naturalness that is very appealing to audiences. But I’m married to one and I’ve worked for the other, so I know how hard they work at being natural. It’s not something they just dial in. They work and they practice what they’re going to say. It’s not that they’re trying to be somebody else. But it’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens. It’s not bad. It’s just a fact. It’s really quite funny. I’ll go to these events and there will be men speaking before me, and they’ll be pounding the message, and screaming about how we need to win the election. And people will love it. And I want to do the same thing. Because I care about this stuff. But I’ve learned that I can’t be quite so passionate in my presentation. I love to wave my arms, but apparently that’s a little bit scary to people. And I can’t yell too much. It comes across as ‘too loud’ or ‘too shrill’ or ‘too this’ or ‘too that.’ Which is funny, because I’m always convinced that the people in the front row are loving it.” (Source: Humans of New York – Facebook)

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