However tempting it may be to compare Donald Trump in his bunker to Adolf Hitler in his, there’s an important difference: for all his evil, Hitler was not a physical coward. For all his evil, Trump is both a physical and moral coward. Of course, in the league table of all-time evil characters acting out on the world stage, Hitler has Trump beat by any sane metric. But that may just be a case of time in. Trump has murdered more people by his fourth year in power than Hitler had by his fourth year. Think of it yourself, imagine the sickening prospect of a Trump, younger by 25 years, with eight more years of power to go. In any case, Hitler retreated to his bunker. Trump cowers in his.
Be that as it may, before I venture too far into a rhapsody on Trump’s cowardice, it’s important for me to define what cowardice is, and, by contrast, what its antithesis, strength or courage, is. Courage comes not from the volume of the voice nor the flexing of power nor the bluster to use it. Courage more often than not comes from unexpected places, like restraint, like patience, like compassion. Worst of all for Trump, courage doesn’t seek recognition or reward, and that is one reason Trump will always be a coward.
Joe Biden has these qualities of leadership and courage that set him apart from Trump. His quiet and encouraging presence is what is needed just now to heal a nation. His are the qualities Kipling had in mind, “being lied about, don’t deal in lies / Or being hated, don’t give way to hating / And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.”
There seems to be some confusion here. For all his popular successes, Joe Biden still trails Trump in the polls in “strong leadership.” This isn’t a problem with Biden, nor is it a failing on the part of the Biden campaign team. I think the confusion is that many Americans simply don’t understand what strength is, and they further muddle the picture by confusing their definition of strength with their definition of courage.
Trotting out the old notion that all bullies are cowards, and Trump is certainly both a bully and a coward, doesn’t help much either. I’m not fond of sweeping generalities in any case, and I think there are certainly plenty of exceptions. Some bullies may have courage of a kind, but certainly bullying is still a cowardly act. And many people are afraid of bullies. Whether the bullies in question are cowards or not remains moot, because bullies usually stand inside a protected array of power, be it their own muscle, a bunch of goons or the United States Secret Service.
No, Donald Trump’s cowardice is manifest by his inability to deal with difficulties head on. Trump simply cannot handle tough questions or tough situations, and when confronted with them he retreats, blames or threatens, sometimes all three. Trump’s failure to adequately deal with the COVID 19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd isn’t down to incompetence alone. Indeed, incompetence can be overcome by the intrepid deployment of resources, and Trump’s resources as president are among the best in the world.
Trump’s inability to fend off failure is ultimately down to his own personal cowardice. He simply lacks the courage to do the right thing, to act decisively and according to wise advice, to shut up and wait. Trump wants results and he wants them now. His childish impatience is at the root of his cowardice.
Quiet competence and confidence are things difficult to convey in action movies, and that is whence many Americans get their cues on what courage looks like. Trump’s threats to put down the protests with arms is not strength but weakness, but it’s still seen as strength by many and the polls reflect this. Trump’s brand of leadership might make the idiot at the end of the bar happy, but it also makes bad situations far worse. Rambo solutions don’t work in a Metternich world. We need a statesman, not a petulant weakling.
Trump’s pachydermatous memory for the least slight or grudge keeps him constantly preoccupied on Twitter. Because his cowardly weakness for defending and justifying himself and insulting people he hates keeps him so furiously engaged, Trump simply hasn’t time to do anything else.
His cowardice is why Trump will not let reporters finish asking questions he doesn’t like. It is why Trump almost never grants interviews with anyone but Fox News. It is why Trump screams at governors for not stopping the protests against the murder of George Floyd. Trump is afraid of the truth. Trump wants solutions now, he wants economic growth and prosperity now and he wants to be loved now. Trump lacks the courage to endure trouble, particularly when solutions to those troubles require time, patience and wisdom.
My job isn’t merely to make sentences but to pronounce them, and I pronounce Donald Trump guilty of cowardice. It is an inexcusable failing for a president of the United States. It is one that has characterised not only his presidency but his entire life. Trump’s life of cozy privilege, his escape from active duty in Vietnam with a sham doctor’s excuse of bone spurs, his bankruptcies, his marriages ruined by lechery and abuse, his life as a spurious businessman punctuated by fraud, his numerous sexual assaults on women and children, his endless lies, his self-dealings, his self-congratulations, his self-justifications, his self-righteousness, are the composite parts of the quintessential coward.
There are a million reasons why Donald Trump must go in November, and this has been another of them. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.