President Donald Trump continues to manifest his lack of the qualities conducive to achieve his desired ends, such as a continuation of peace. In threatening to unleash fire and fury on North Korea, he has shown himself to be weak, unwise, fearful, self-aggrandizing and full of vanity — clearly a bad leader.
I am quite aware what this small, poor country led by a madman could do to us. But a wise leader would understand how to maintain peace and not threaten this bully. Kim Jong Un, a person subject to his own mental pathologies, has not responded well to threats. Threatening him with war merely reinforces his paranoid view of the United States as a true enemy — a condition that benefits China and Russia.
We need now a wise person at the helm of our nation. Based on our ancient sages’ teaching on the qualities of the wise, Trump clearly lacks the necessary wisdom.
Our rabbis told us that the best indicator of wisdom is keeping quiet. In their view, the difference between the wise person and the unwise is the ability to contemplate and to “guard his tongue from speaking evil and guile.”
The unwise, unlearned person is like a can that has only a few coins in it and makes a lot of noise when it is shaken. In contrast, the wise person is like a can full of coins, which is quiet when shaken.
Isn’t that what Theodore Roosevelt proposed should be the essential quality of our leader? His advice was to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Our president does the opposite. His lips are loose, and he threatens others by bragging about our power. He is like a teenager who needs to show off and flex his muscles in public.
The president does not need to act like a puffer fish and inflate his importance and the power of the United States. Only weak people do that. (The only other person I remember who assumed a similar posture by sticking out his chin was Mussolini in the 1930s.)
Trump seems constantly afraid and concerned about his appearance as a weak and vain person who lacks true courage. For sure he is not a Goliath, nor is he a David, a true man of courage.
Were he a courageous president, he would not be afraid to seek accommodation with others. By now he has given us ample evidence that in spite of his claim of being a master negotiator, he lacks those skills. He falsely equates his abuse of power and his usual TV declaration of “you are fired” as strength instead of his weakness in human relationships.
A skillful negotiator does not have to threaten his opponents, nor does he have to browbeat them. A true negotiator does not act as a bully who lacks the courage; instead, he seeks to be just and from a sense of justice seeks an accommodation with the other person.
To be a skillful negotiator, one must first and foremost be a human, in the fullest sense of the word, and must be able to understand the other person’s position and needs. This president cannot do that.
The purpose of negotiation is not to defeat and crush the enemy or the opponent. It is to be able to seek accommodation between two or more people.
Skillful negotiation is a method by which two opponents seek an agreement through which a new modus vivendi can be achieved. To do so, the parties, or at least one of them, must be committed to achieve an accommodation — that is, to achieve a state in which both parties give a little to find an equitable way to live with each other.
Negotiation is a most important practice in world politics, for we must use it to replace war. But negotiators must be people of reason. Negotiation is a process that requires the skill and above all the ability to restrain oneself, as well as the ability to show the opponent how both sides can gain what is necessary through peaceful coexistence.
A fearful man cannot achieve this. A fearful man will either run away from the problem or attack the opponent — and it seems that the president is the latter.
It is now that a bipartisan congressional stance is desperately needed. More than ever, this country is in physical peril. Even if we somehow achieve some reduction of hot-headedness by the president, we have lost our credibility to be a world moral leader. After this, which country and which leader in the world will trust this nation again?
It seems to me that we are experiencing a déjà vu of 1914, with the same conditions and stupid pride that led to World War I. Perhaps with a strong, bipartisan effort, we can bring another miracle like the one that was wrought by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. I hope so.