Last week Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. After the meeting the two men addressed the assembled media. The immediate reaction on both sides of the border was that Peña Nieto had missed an opportunity to publicly challenge Trump on his promise to build a wall along the border at Mexico’s expense. Some mention was made to Trump’s demeanor and lack of his usual firebrand approach. Some even claimed he looked presidential.
Trump then returned to Phoenix and delivered a fiery address outlining his stance on immigration. Many feel that any gains he made in Mexico were almost immediately erased in Phoenix.
But what many people continued to remark upon was Trump’s presidential appearance in Mexico. You often hear people stating that a candidate does or does not look presidential. Can you imagine so-and-so as president? How would they do in meetings with foreign leaders? Do they instill confidence? What about in a crisis?
In my opinion looking presidential requires, among other traits, the appearance of strength with understanding. The ability to smile with genuine warmth, but only at the appropriate time. A deep sense of self-confidence, but not cockiness.
Abraham Lincoln was presidential, or perhaps we have come to believe that from his stately pose in his roost in his memorial in Washington. Jack Kennedy, in fact many of the Kennedys, were presidential in stature. Charismatic, toothy smiles, poise and that great hair. JFK was very presidential when he calmly debated Richard Nixon on television. Nixon was not. In fact Nixon was never presidential, even when he was the president. Ronald Reagan could look presidential, but then he was an actor so I suspect he was just putting it on.
Given some of the over the top things Trump has said during the electoral process thus far he tends to come off as anything but presidential in appearance. It would seem as though the bar that determines what is presidential in 2016 has been drastically lowered. Evidently as long as a candidate does not drop the F-bomb, mimic a disabled person, or threaten to punch someone in the face, he or she is said to have come across as presidential. Not great standards.
By dragging the campaigning process to perhaps never before seen lows, when Trump does not do or say something ludicrous he, in contrast, is deemed to be presidential. A very sorry state of affairs.