It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The “in the arena” image resonates with humans. Practically from time immemorial to the present, the stark binary scene of the confrontation to the death of two beings, humans and sometimes animal, grabs us by the gut and doesn’t let go [or “does let go” if I miswrote]. Where would we be without the stories of these one-on-one encounters?
These images stick. Achilles and Hector. David and Goliath. The Battle of O.K. Corral. The showdown at high noon. We know the images. We remember the stories. The names may change from culture to culture, from one time period to the next, but the story line endures. It is part of who we are as a species.
So how do/did our two presidential contestants in 2016 match up against this standard?
The first confrontation occurred in the second high school debate between the two candidates (Predator in Chief, Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood: A Presidential Election Retrospective). Democrats, in their typically misguided way, think their champion prevailed. Her talking points made her the superior warrior. She trashed the know-nothing simpleminded ignoramus in this one-on-one confrontation. To the victor belongs the spoils. She had triumphed over Trump. The presidency was hers based on the merits of her performance.
Democrats still live in this artificial reality. They still don’t understand. They don’t understand how the talking points could lose. Still unbeknownst to them, while this verbal debate ensued, a second battle was underway. The arena may have been the same stage but the game was different. This game was Survivor; its rules were not of the debate but of the warrior in the arena.
In the second high school debate a known predator roamed the stage.
In the second high school debate a known predator stalked his prey.
In the second high school debate a known predator feasted on his victim.
Everyone knows she was a fighter. She wanted to be a marine. She wanted to be an astronaut. She wanted to be an Olympic athlete. She wanted to be your champion. She would fight for you. Except when the moment of truth came, she didn’t even fight for herself. And everyone saw it live on TV.
As it turns out, her opponent and eventual winner had his “into the arena” moment live on TV as well. Summit meetings sound like confrontations among the gods. Actually, the first summit in modern times occurred on June 11, 1939 between FDR and King George VI at Top Cottage in Hyde Park. It’s a nice place to have dinner if you can swing it with the NPS. They met not as adversaries [or “as adversaries’] battling to be king of the mountain, but as allies seeking to prevent others from becoming king of the mountain.
Since that time, there have been numerous showdowns between the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union in World War III. Nixon and Khrushchev meet in a kitchen debate at an exhibition. People feared the young Kennedy would be no match for the fearsome Khrushchev. People feared the old Reagan would no match for the fearsome Gorbachev. But lo and behold, contrary to the wisdom of the elitists of the 1980s, the world was not divided for eternity into two camps of “some people are capitalists, some people are communists, why can’t we all live together.” It was folly to think otherwise, to think we could prevail, that there would be no Soviet Union. All the experts knew that. Then the Iron Curtain collapsed.
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
We have now experienced another such encounter between the leaders of the United States and Russia. This meeting scarcely qualified as a summit and nothing was expected of it. Perhaps the only issues were now that the American President had been played by Kim Jung-un, would he also be played by Putin. A second issue was what compromising material did the Russian have over the American. In terms of traditional geo-politics it didn’t seem likely that anything would come of the meeting.
Then the Friday before the Monday meeting, the Special Counsel investigating the Russian violation of the United States and possible collusion, perjury, and obstruction by candidate and his associates dropped the bomb: 12 Russian nationals were indicted for a comprehensive cyber assault on the United States in the 2016 presidential elections. The timing seemed like a setup coming so close to the scheduled visit, but here is where the story gets interesting and overlooked.
First, promptly in his opening monologue at 9:00 on the Bulltrump network, Trump’s Brain referred to “the so-called big news.” Really? Was December 7, “so-called big news”? How about 9/11? Instead we witnessed the immediate denial of any significance to the indictments. They simply were another example of the desperate actions by the Deep State to keep the focus on Russia instead of crooked Hillary. Imagine of all the ways to interpret the disclosure of the Russian assault on America, would ignoring the beneficiary of the violation and focusing instead on crooked Hillary be the first thought that came to mind?
Second, as it turns out, the Department of Justice had given the President a heads-up about the indictment. It even offered to defer the announcement until after the summit meeting if the Commander in-chief deemed it in the national security to do so. He did not and the announcement proceeded on schedule. That guaranteed that it would become a topic for the summit…or the press conference afterwards. Considering what has happened since, one can help but wonder if the very stable genius was played by his smarter Special Counsel.
Why did the target make that decision? To answer that question provides critical insight into the thinking of our narcissistic immature child-president. He genuinely believed that it would not be the big deal it has become. He genuinely believed that since neither he nor anyone associated with his campaign was indicted, that there was no downside to the indictments. He genuinely believed that since no Americans were indicted there was no downside to the indictments. He genuinely believed that since all the events occurred while Obama was president there was no downside to the indictments. Since it always is about him and there was nothing in the indictments about him, the indictments were nothing more than proof positive of Obama’s failures as president. They were part of a Deep State witch hunt against him that had turned up nothing. It never occurred to him that he had an obligation in the present to stand up for America against an adversary who had violated his country. His loyalty is to himself and not his country. Why should Truman care about a war that started under Roosevelt’s watch? So go ahead and make the indictment announcement. And then when it happened, Trump’s Brain and the Bulltrump network were ready to make it all about crooked Hillary and Obama and no one said anything about putting America first over Putin.
The problem is, everyone saw the press conference. The problem is everyone saw and heard a reporter expose the truth. The problem is everyone saw the weeny passive President defer to the stronger Macho Macho man. Everyone. Not just the usual suspects in the fake news media that almost always gets it right, but the media throughout the world. The headlines tell the story. The photograph tells the story. The actual words even with a “not” added tell the story. He no more stood up to Putin than his Democratic opponent had stood up to him during the second high school debate when he stalked her. This time, he was the one with his tail between his legs obedient to his master. And if Putin doesn’t have any compromising information on the American weeny, that only makes the American President deference to him worse.
From this point forward, it is easy to denounce our Commander in-chief for being a weeny wimp wus.
From this point forward, it is easy to call on his supporters to explain why they support a coward who lacks the right stuff to go into the arena and prevail against our Russian adversary.
From this point forward, it is easy to demean him for his lack of manliness. When he was 13, his father put him in military school in the vain hope that he would man up. It didn’t work. He is still the immature child he was then and now the world has witnessed his cowering before the dominant alpha male who helped elect him President.
4 thoughts on “Putin and the American President: Who Has the Right Stuff to Go into the Arena?”
Clear as can be.
Good to see you at the Hudson Valley conference in Kingston. I didn’t realize you got my political blogs. I don’t send them to the history community.
It was good to see you, too. I consider myself a member of IHARE even though I haven’t sent a check yet. I’m learning.
Loved Trump Rough Rider image and your post on Putin and the American presidency.
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