Upon waking this morning I heard the news of Donald Trump spending 50 minutes in a nasty rage this weekend while in front of top-tier donors of the Republican Party. He threw Vice-President Mike Pence under the bus, cursed out Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and even verbally went after the leader’s wife, Elaine Chao.
This morning The New York Times summed up the bombastic behavior with, “Trump used the final night of the retreat to talk about himself, his grievances and how he plans to enact retribution against those who voted to impeach him.”
As I read those words my mind flashed to the writings about President George Herbert Walker Bush on the night that he lost reelection in 1992. While recalling a lot of the stories and facts I have read over the years I admit to having difficulty remembering from which source I obtained the information. So I spent several minutes locating online where the antithesis to Trump’s behavior was discovered. It was located in Jon Meacham’s ‘Destiny and Power’, a biography about Bush.
In the Houstonian Hotel’s suite 271 on the evening he lost his bid for a second term as president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush climbed out of bed and slipped into an adjoining wood-paneled living room. Weary but restless, he settled on a small sofa.
It was there he spoke for his tape-recorded diary.
For now, though, Bush needed a way forward through the shadows of defeat, and he returned to a few core truths that had always guided him. “Be strong,” he told himself in his living room musings, “be kind, be generous of spirit, be understanding, let people know how grateful you are, don’t get even, comfort the ones I’ve hurt and let down, say your prayers and ask for God’s understanding and strength, finish with a smile and with some gusto, do what’s right and finish strong.”With that, the forty-first president of the United States retired for the night, rejoining the sleeping Barbara. Now he had a plan. Now he could rest. He told himself something else, too, in the days after the de- feat. “It’ll change,” he dictated. “It’ll change.”
This weekend, and prior to the latest Trump outburst, I wrote a post about how it is best when a candidate shows class when conceding an election. There was a troubling episode locally which I was addressing following the April election.
Over the years I have been able to see in real-time how a concession is handled, while more often reading or watching such a happening through the media. But in each case, a concession following a hard-fought campaign shows the mettle of a person perhaps better than any other facet of seeking office.
I deeply respect the handshakes and quick banter that two professional tennis players allow each other following a mentally and physically punishing game. It is an honorable way to conclude the contest regardless of the outcome. When it comes to the end of a political campaign I also desire to see the best of one’s character shine.
The gracious nature of Vice-President Al Gore following the grueling legal wars of a recount in 2000 demonstrates the reasons character matters when it comes to our elections. The same rules of the road apply in local elections, too. Being graceful with concessions makes for a strong mark of character.
Bush was a classy man in many ways, both in politics, and out. His lack of vindictiveness has long been known. That his name came so easily to mind when reading about Trump proves the high road that he took in life.
And so it goes.