Leadership is facing down your enemies with strength, no matter where and when they appear, no matter what form they take. If someone confronts you, you strike them down in that moment so no one, and I mean no one, ever messes with you again.
That’s why Donald J. Trump kicked a baby out of his Ashburn, Virginia, rally yesterday: leadership.
You’ve likely heard the story, but if you haven’t, watch the footage. Heck, if you have seen it, watch it again. He starts out friendly enough, telling the crying child’s mother, “Don’t worry about that baby; I love babies,” and then oddly calling the child “young and beautiful and healthy.”
Then, after a few moments speaking through the child’s cries, he shifted his tone.
“Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here,” he said to the mother. He turned to the crowd. “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s OK. People don’t understand. That’s OK.”
As the story grew into a firestorm, Trump’s supporters were quick to dismiss the moment as a joke. But joke or not (it wasn’t), it was almost unfathomably cruel. He didn’t just humiliate a woman already dealing with the extraordinarily stressful situation of a crying baby in a public forum, he made it clear to a roomful of people he wants to vote for him in November that his needs always, always come first.
The video is astounding. Trump can’t believe the woman didn’t pick up on his sarcasm. He can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t immediately understand that a baby crying while he, Donald Trump, is speaking is a Problem That Must Be Dealt With Immediately. In that moment, we saw Trump for who he is, a man used to having the world ordered exactly as he likes. Your baby’s crying while he’s trying to talk? Get that nuisance out of the room.
You’d think Donald Trump would be used to crying babies after fathering five children by three wives. He must have spent some time soothing them, right? Surely he’s changed a few diapers in his day?
As Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski uncovered, in 2005, when Melania was pregnant with his youngest son, Trump told the Opie and Anthony radio show he doesn’t change diapers.
“No, I don’t do that,” he told host Anthony Cumie. “There’s a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife.”
Act like the wife! Donald Trump thinks changing a diaper is woman’s work, not the bare minimum required of any parent in the 21st Century. We’re not talking about an equitable share of duties. Just a diaper change.
Do you think a man who doesn’t change a diaper is the one who comforts a crying baby? Or is Trump the sort of father who hands his child off to a wife – or just as likely, an employee – the moment parenting becomes inconvenient?
Hell, how involved was Trump throughout his entire kids’ lives? His four adult children each gave a speech at the recent Republican National Convention, and if you read the transcripts of all four, you’ll find exactly one story of Trump doing anything resembling parenting. His daughter Tiffany, a recent college graduate, told the story of what happened when a close friend died. She said her father called her.
That’s the closest thing to a heartwarming anecdote four of his children could muster. It’s the only story in all four speeches of his actual interactions with his children. The rest spouted generalities about Trump’s prowess as a father with no stories to back them up. (Chelsea Clinton’s speech introducing her mother at the Democratic convention, bursting with memories, provided a sharp contrast.)
How do four adults have so few stories to tell about their father? How does a man who raised children born between 1977 and 2006 still believe changing a diaper is “acting like a wife”? How does a man who has fathered five children so cruelly and publicly humiliate the mother of a crying child?
And what does Donald Trump’s inadequacy as a father say about the kind of president he’d be?
Dads who change diapers or soothe crying children don’t deserve special praise. That’s the minimum, the basics of the vast responsibilities you took on as a parent. Donald Trump isn’t even meeting that minimum standard.
His campaign for president, frankly, looks a lot like his parenting. Trump hasn’t bothered to develop a real policy agenda; his website has a few buzzwordy blurbs on a handful of subjects. He hasn’t learned the most basic facts about how the world operates; he suggested abandoning NATO allies and had no idea Russia had invaded Ukraine.
Just as his children speak of his parenting in bland generalities, so Trump talks about what he’d do as president in near-meaningless rambles.
He has no understanding of the task he’s undertaking as president, and if his parenting is any guide, he has no desire to take on responsibilities he doesn’t enjoy. What happens when running the country gets hard?
Being a parent isn’t the same as running a country. But parenting is, ultimately, a test of a person’s character. All parents are flawed because all people are flawed. (I’m too impatient with my kids, too quick to anger. I’m working on it.) But someone who refuses to lend a hand in the basic tasks of caring for his kids, someone who has left so little impression on his children they can’t recall a single story of his impact in their lives, such a man has failed that test of character.
That’s the sort of man who would stand in front of a crowd and humiliate a woman with a crying baby because a crying baby might take the tiniest bit of attention away from him, if only for a moment. That’s a man who has no business anywhere close to the White House.