No, Mr. President, You Do Not Speak for Me

No, Mr. President, You Do Not Speak for Me

I’ve lived during the administrations of 12 presidents. Not one of them was a saint in office. Not one of them lived up to the highest standards of professional competence and moral integrity every day of their tenure.

Pause for a moment to re-read those lines carefully.

Would you disagree with me? I doubt it.

Every president is a human being and, consequently, imperfect. Some have reveled in their imperfections. Some have been oblivious to their most serious flaws. And some did their best to be their best and, despite best efforts, failed from time to time.

All of which has applied to me, too . . . and much of it still does.

If you read this blog with any frequency, you probably suspect that I’m not President Donald Trump’s biggest fan. You are correct.

And if you read with any frequency, I hope you understand why.

President Trump’s approach to public leadership is largely inconsistent with the model of public leadership I advocate for and seek to develop in those with whom I work. If I believe what I teach, and I do, then I’m not going to be impressed by our current president’s leadership style much of the time. And that’s okay: The president is under no obligation to follow my lead.

And neither am I obligated to follow his.

As I write, however, I feel compelled to do more than disagree with the president’s approach to public leadership.

Early Wednesday morning, President Trump retweeted unverified videos showing individuals and groups, purportedly Muslims, doing terrible things.

The two showing violence toward individuals are hideous. The video showing the destruction of a religious statue is offensive.

What we don’t know is whether the videos show what they claim to show. Neither appearances nor declarations prove that.

More importantly, even if these are Muslims, the videos tell us nothing about Muslims, any more than video from Stephen Paddock’s brutal assault on a Las Vegas concert tells us anything about whites, males, or people over 60. They only tell us about a small number of people who have engaged in hateful acts.

But that’s not how they are likely to be received by @RealDonaldTrump’s vast audience.

I have two fears. One is that President Trump does not understand that his statements, whether tweets or jokes or talk-show banter, are no longer simply his personal musings. Because he is the president of the United States, even his casual statements are statements on behalf of a government and, more critically, a nation. When the president smears a people with hateful propaganda, all Americans get spattered by the brush.

The other fear: that President Trump does understand all of this, that this is strategic communication to stimulate the worst instincts of some Americans by denying the legitimacy of millions of other Americans as Americans, and nearly 2 billion human beings as human.

Either way, Mr. President, let me be clear.

You do not speak for me.



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2 Responses to No, Mr. President, You Do Not Speak for Me

  • Mtch Timberlake

    I find it interesting that after eight years of an administration that pitted American racial, religious and social groups against each other for their political gain, you react to President Trump’s Tweets highlighting the actions of extremist trying to destroy America. Worse yet, you seem to promote the false narrative that says distain for Muslim terrorist somehow is distain for all Muslims. It is not.

    You seem to have missed the point that President Trump to change Washington and a system controlled by political elites. It is refreshing to have a leader who puts American interest first,

    Mr Paine, you do not speak for me.

    • Dr. Scott Paine

      Thank you for your comment. While we obviously disagree, I am grateful that you chose to share your perspective.

      For the record, the individuals in the videos were not addressing any of their activities toward America or Americans. Reminding us of the actions of extremists (of any ideological stripe) that were addressed toward the United States would be a different matter, in my opinion.

      I accept that your opinion may differ and that I do not speak for you.

      I’ll add that neither you nor I have a particular duty to speak for others. But elected officials do.