It’s not that he doesn’t know how to win. That’s irrelevant.
It really isn’t about winning. He’s not a gracious winner, but he really doesn’t have to be. Being a gracious winner is a matter of courtesy and maturity. It’s ugly when you don’t know how to win with class, but in the end, you still win, and your opponent looks silly complaining about how you handled your win. He’s not a classy winner, he’s more the kind of guy who makes excuses as to why he didn’t win by a larger margin, or complains that his challenger, or any challenger, is unworthy, because he never loses.
In a very real way, it’s about losing. He never loses. Forget losing with grace. He doesn’t lose at all. He only wins. And not even in the way that people often turn losses into ‘alternative wins.’ Engaging in any sort of congress with The Donald is like shooting dice with Deebo — even when you win, you lose, and merely winning isn’t enough — the game doesn’t end until he’s won enough to satisfy himself. It doesn’t matter if your interaction with Mr. Trump is direct or in passing — or even merely observed from afar. It doesn’t matter if it’s of grave national importance or completely irrelevant.
He wins. Period. Or he keeps fighting until you lose interest, and then claim his victory.
Sometimes this can be a very good thing — on a certain level, his fortitude is admirable. It tends to make him a good negotiator. It’s a lot of the reason he was elected President in the first place, both in the short-view of overcoming scandal after error after embarrassing revelation during his campaign, and in the long view of overcoming a long history of business failures, bankruptcies, marital problems, public relations disasters, a long-running interaction with Howard Stern that can only be described as grody, if you’ll pardon my return to the 80s. This sort of tenacity is how Mr. Trump escaped the 1980s in the first place. And we all wanted to escape the 80s.
His adoring public seems to see him as a survivor. They admire him for the things he’s overcome, and the success that his bullheadedness has provided. Why not? The man lives in the gilded penthouse of a building with his name on the front. We’ve been hearing through the entertainment media – the only media that matters to many – about his success, his fame and fortune and glamour for decades. If you don’t look any deeper, Mr. Trump looks like a man who turned a million dollars into several billion dollars, employed tens of thousands of people along the way, married a couple of models and had a few beautiful children — the American dream!
I’d love to take a billion dollar write-off over a decade to fund my business ventures. Have you ever tried to fund even the smallest business? While I was struggling to provide a living for my family, my tax dollars were subsidizing Donald Trump. Where can I get some of that?
There are lots of things I wouldn’t do.
I wouldn’t wait until contractors complete work that can’t be returned and then force renegotiations. Not once, not dozens of times. Not for drapery or drywall or a half-dozen pianos, and not for architecture work. I had that done to me once – completed a huge printing job for a customer, who took delivery and responded to my bill with “I have the product, and I have the money, and all you have is a bill. Let’s negotiate.” He eventually went to jail for theft of services. Donald Trump went to the White House.
I wouldn’t cheat on my first wife, the mother of my beloved daughter, with my next wife, then approach my third wife while my date is in the ladies’ room at a party. I just wouldn’t. And not because it’s a bad look, or I’m worried about my image. There are a dozen reasons, starting with the example I set for my daughter’s expectations of men, but really it’s even simpler than that – keeping your word is the right thing to do.
It’s a question of character. And these are flaws, but this is not really about character flaws.
There’s this convention that we have in America that covers a deficiency in our language – we don’t really have an adjective set to describe abstract concepts like character in terms that make sense. We can describe the quality of character as good or bad. We use terms to describe intensity, like strong or weak. Sometimes we use terms of volume or quantity, like ‘a lot’ or ‘a little,’ but none of them are really adequate to describe the presence or absence of character, so we largely avoid describing concepts character, integrity, presence or charisma et. al. in those terms.
In this case, I believe we’re talking about the presence of character, so I’ll borrow a set of terms from the Man himself, a way of describing character that my own father often used, and that The Donald will understand. Please understand that I would never compare Donald Trump to my father – Mr. Trump on his greatest day couldn’t be half the man that Ron Druck is on any given Tuesday. Now that I consider this, it seems fitting that I’d use my father’s words to describe Mr. Trump’s character.
My father taught me that a man understands when a quarrel is insignificant. It is a small, weak man who must lash out at minor irritants, particularly when he has a job to do.
A man of character ignores the sweat in his eyes while he’s building a house, and the buzzing flies while he’s sowing the seeds that will feed his family. A man of quality is focused on the task at hand, and can easily tell the important from the inconsequential.
My father taught me that a man does not feel the need to avenge every slight, to respond to every attack, to impose strength upon those weaker than him simply because he can. A man does not strike a woman, not because she is a woman and deserves special treatment, but because it is a small, weak man who has to keep score, and an even smaller man who cannot forgive without retaliation. A man of character is the bigger man, and the bigger man does not feel the need to engage in the verbal equivalent of a slap-fight with his rivals – his actions speak for themselves.
My father taught me that a man is not easily provoked to speech or action. A man of gravitas and conviction has a certain reserve. He does not flaunt his strength, nor exploit your weakness in a manner that would embarrass you. He does not bray like a jackass, not about his own greatness, not about your weakness. A man of character knows when to shut the fuck up, and speaks when he has something of consequence to say. A man who loves the sound of his own voice, who writes his name in gold on everything he owns, who responds to every poke and prod with proclamations of his greatness is a small, weak man.
My father taught me that it is a man’s duty, even his privilege, to use his strength to protect the weary and the downtrodden, the disenfranchised and the weak. We believed in this as a nation, once – give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore – and a man of character still waits to encircle those who need his strength of protection. A small, weak man believes in showing the weak his muscle. A man of character knows that a man’s strength is not in his fists, but in the grip of his embrace.
My father taught me that a man doesn’t whine about problems, he offers solutions. A man has principles that are high-minded and reflect the better angels of our nature, and bases his ideas on those principles. A man of moral turpitude, a small, weak man, manipulates the fears and the struggles of other men for his benefit, and offers doublespeak and ‘alternative facts’ to reinforce those fears, and to give the appearance of substance. A man of character builds his ideas on a foundation of decency, and his plans on a foundation of stone cold truth.
My father taught me that a man is, above all, honest. If you would have to lie about it later, you shouldn’t say it or do it now. This is a very simple concept. A man says what he means in clear, straightforward language, and stands by his word and his deeds. A man does not offer his opinion as fact, nor does he dismiss fact as conjecture. It is a small, weak man who speaks out of turn using vague, empty declarations of grandeur, then shifts around his questioners by questioning their integrity, parsing the meaning of his own words, and declaring disloyal anyone who dares not to simply fall in line. A man of character lives in a world of truth, and speaks the truth, as a matter of honor.
- A man of character understands when and how to lose.
- Sometimes you lose because winning requires drawing your attention from a far more important duty.
- Sometimes you lose because you’re the bigger man, and that’s really a win.
- Sometimes you lose because flailing about makes you look foolish and you’d rather be a loser than a fool.
- Sometimes you lose because someone else needs to win, or deserves to win.
- Sometimes you lose because you are listen and learn and change your mind, and that’s okay.
- Sometimes you lose because you’re honest, and you accept defeat gracefully, because losing is not shameful, as long as you try your hardest. Everybody else is trying very hard to win, just like you, and sometimes they win.
- Losing is often the best lesson.
There’s one more thing my father taught me. It’s often said that losing builds character, but the truth is that mostly, losing reveals a man’s character. It’s easy to be a good winner, but it takes a man of great character to lose with grace. And a man who is afraid to lose? A man who refuses to lose? That’s likely a man who doesn’t want his character revealed.