by: Brent Smith at the Common Constitutionalist
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President Trump did himself a real disservice by agreeing to the Oval Office interview with democrat hack and former Clinton hitman, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. It was never going to be a fair interview, but like many other things, I’m sure Trump figured he “had this.”
But what Trump clearly didn’t have was a governor on his cool – especially his expression.
Anyone who has followed politics can tell you that it is all and only about optics. Everyone knows this. Sure, particularly those of us on the right, insist that substance should be king. And indeed it should. This country would be a lot better off if this were the case, but it isn’t, and ever since the first televised presidential debate, it’s unfortunately been this way.
How someone looks on camera is sadly much more important than what he or she says. It’s why someone like Abraham Lincoln could not be elected today. Think about that. To many, Lincoln is one of the most significant figures in American history, but because he lacked, shall we say, physical attractiveness, he would have no shot.
This descent away from substance and into the frivolous began with the first nationally televised presidential debate, which happened on September 26, 1960. This single point in history changed politics forever.
The debate was between a popular incumbent Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, and a relative unknown, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy.
Under the watchful eyes of the TV cameras, Kennedy took the debate stage looking tanned, fresh and confident. Prior to the debate, Nixon had been hospitalized for a knee injury. He had lost weight due to the injury and hospital stay. Consequently, Nixon looked thin and pale. He had a visible five o’clock shadow and was sweating. He also refused an application of makeup, which would have improved things greatly.
Most agree that from a substantive point of view, Nixon won the debate. And most also agree, that if the debate had been broadcast on radio instead of television, Kennedy would more than likely not have been elected.
This was the power of this relatively new form of media. And it was here to stay. It didn’t matter what Nixon said. He lost the debate solely on his physical presentation.
Ever since that debate, politicians have understood the power of the visual image. The old saying of a picture is worth a thousand words is no truer than in the political arena.
President Trump, as a savvy veteran of television, should know by now that this was not going be filmed like an episode of the Apprentice, where he can say cut and the cameras stop rolling, until “action” is again shouted. He should have known that Snuffleupagus would be up to no good – that the cameras would just continue to roll, just hoping to catch something to use against Trump.
And they got it. No one is talking about the interview itself. Everyone is instead concentrating on that short segment where Trump looked like a tyrant, ordering his Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, to leave the room for coughing while the president was speaking.
And again, if this were radio, it would not be a big deal. But America saw the extreme disappointment and utter lack of patience and empathy of a president over a cough, which, by the sound of it, came on quite suddenly, as they sometimes do.
It wasn’t what Trump said: “Let’s do that over. He’s coughing in the middle of my answer. I don’t like that – you know. I don’t like that. If you’re gonna cough, please leave the room.”
It was how he said it, and more importantly, the optics accompanying what he said – a visual distain over a simple situation.
For most Trump supporters, this won’t be a problem. We know who the guy is. He’s a take-no-crap kinda guy. It’s what his supporters love about him. And this exchange will have zero impact.
But for many, who are not die hard supporters, this visual may be very off-putting – possibly to the point of losing actual votes.
Right or wrong, and it is clearly wrong to judge him on this one exchange, some will see Trump as the bully the left has made him out to be.