No, it’s not a skit for Saturday Night Live — at least not an intentional one.
On August 26, on the day before the Republican Convention officially begins in Tampa, Florida, the Sarasota Republican Party will honor Donald Trump as its Statesman of the Year in an award ceremony in Sarasota.
In making the announcement of the award on July 9, Joe Gruters, the Sarasota Republican Party chair, said to Jim Meyer of Newsmax “He is a very sage, skillful, and respected leader. Jobs and the economy are the important issues in this election year, and Mr. Trump is one of the few people who can command respect from people in all walks of life.”
This is the same Donald Trump who conservative commentator George Will referred to, on ABC’s This Week show on Sunday, May 27, as a “bloviating ignoramus.” Frankly, we were stunned by the Republican Party’s decision and even more baffled by the explanation of the rationale. This selection caused us to run to our dictionaries and history books to see if our conception of what and who is a statesman is fundamentally flawed.
The Free Dictionary offers the following definitions for statesman: “a man who is a leader in national or international affairs” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language); and “a political leader whose wisdom, integrity, etc win great respect”(Collins English Dictionary). Aristotle said, “What the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.”
Who are statesmen/stateswomen exemplars? From America, to name just a few: Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, and Condi Rice. From around the world: Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli, Charles DeGaulle, Golda Meir, Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela. Let’s extend the list to include those from outside the political arena who have had considerable ecumenical influence world-wide, consider Louie Armstrong, Arthur Ashe, the Beatles, Roger Bannister, the Harlem Globetrotters, Michael Jackson, Roger Federer, Bono/U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Yo-Yo Ma.
We concluded that The Donald didn’t qualify as a statesman by definition and did not match up well with any of the aforementioned role models. This caused us to surmise that the Sarasota Republican Party had simply misspoken in its announcement and what they meant to say was that Donald Trump was the Statements-Man of the year and that he was selected for reasons other than his statesman-like qualities.
Mr. Trump appears to agree with us. In a July 16 interview with Patrick Gavin of Politico, he said, “The problem with this country is we don’t take controversial issues head on. ‘Statesman’ is not a word that I would necessarily say has been applied to me over the years, but what I do is good for the country.”
According to Gavin, Trump also said that the Sarasota Republican Party is particularly attracted to him because “they like my statement on China, which three years later Obama is starting to pick up on. They like my statement on OPEC, which Obama has never picked up on.”
What were those statements? We’re not certain exactly, but following are selected quotes on China and OPEC from a May 27 interview with former Congressmen and Newsmax columnist John LeBoutillier:
“The country’s in serious trouble. We owe $16 trillion. We have other countries making our product, particularly China. We have OPEC taking advantage of us and laughing at us all the way to the bank.”
“This year China’s going to make $350 billion from us, and they take our jobs and they manipulate their currency. What they do is unbelievable, and they laugh at us. They think we’re stupid. They think we’re led by a group of fools.”
While the content of these quotes is not controversial — many on both sides of the aisle have made similar points — the manner in which they are presented is. They display Mr. Trump’s confusing the capacity to make controversial statements with the competence to address and solve “controversial issues”.
As most Trump quotes go, however, these are fairly milquetoast. Here are some other quotes posted by Daniel Kurtzman for About.com Guide that Trump is alleged to have made:
“Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country. The reason I have a little doubt, just a little, is because he grew up and nobody knew him.” -on why he thought Obama wasn’t born in the United States
“I have a great relationship with the blacks.” “These are stupid people that say, ‘Oh didn’t Trump declare bankruptcy? Didn’t he go bankrupt?’ I didn’t go bankrupt.” – on filing for bankruptcy on parts of his various businesses
“The man that wrote the second book… didn’t write the first book. The difference was like chicken salad and chicken s**t.” – on President Obama’s books
“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.” – while teasing a presidential run in 2000
“You know the funny thing, I don’t get along with rich people. I get along with the middle class and the poor people better than I get along with the rich people.”
Trump’s statements can be outrageous, over-the-top, and frequently humorous. They enable him to gain significant media attention and coverage because of his larger than life celebrity profile and their entertainment. They definitely qualify him to be Statements-Man of the Year.
Statesman of the Year — we think not. On the other hand, the Sarasota Republican Party’s choice for Statesman of the Year last year was ex-Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. If it can’t do better next year, then it should be three strikes and you’re out. Or, maybe more appropriately, in the words of The Donald himself from The Apprentice, “You’re fired.”