Donald Trump's biggest weakness

tags: election 2016, Trump

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his."

… There are many things that we don't really learn on the campaign trail. Candidates make all sorts of policy promises that will never come true. They present portraits of themselves and their families that are often at odds with their private reality. They talk about new eras of civility and bipartisanship that have no chance of surviving the realities of a polarized Washington. The organizational and strategic challenges of campaigning are very different than those of governing.

But there is one lasting characteristic of a candidate that does become apparent as presidential campaigns drag on, and that is their temperament. The way that candidates respond to the immense pressures of the campaign trail and the way that they do or don't withstand the inevitable onslaught of attacks that they face from their opposition gives us a very good glimpse into what kind of person we would be electing to this job.

And temperament matters in a presidency. Having a good temperament, being able to remain constrained in the public eye, showing good judgment on how to speak about adversaries and allies, being able to contain moments of anger and outrage that will be a key part of four years in the White House, making certain you know the facts before making potentially provocative statements -- all of this matters very much.

Temperament is essential to successful diplomacy. The words that a president says in public and private have a huge effect. Many of the more successful moments for presidents have taken place when they chose to use the right words rather than rely on bluster in moments of crisis.

President George H.W. Bush, continues to receive accolades from many historians for remaining silent as the Soviet Union collapsed. Rather than boasting about the triumph of the Western forces, he allowed the process to unfold so that this would not become a story about the U.S. His son George W. Bush, who remains one of the most controversial presidents in recent years and still comes under criticism for his false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, does receive credit for making an extraordinarily moving speech soon after 9/11 reiterating that the U.S. would be engaged in a battle against terrorism rather than against Muslims….

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