Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Trump shows us the temperament of a loser

"I have a much better temperament than she does, you know," Donald Trump said last night, referring of course to Hillary Clinton.

The audience laughed at his assertion, which is rarely a good sign. But he continued.

"I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not know how to win."

Based on the evidence that was presented to some 100 million Americans last night, Clinton does know how to win.  She does have the temperament. Based on that same evidence, Trump does not.

Winning at this level requires the willingness to prepare, to study, to do the work, to master the issues. Because if you are too lazy or unfocused or arrogant to spend the time to prepare for a debate, if you disrespect the office that you seek that much, then you're likely to behave the same way when it comes time to do the work required of the presidency. So it's better that voters know that about you, and now they do.

And if you lose your cool under pressure, if you can't keep from turning angry and truculent in front a national audience that is already dubious about your ability to keep a rational head under pressure, then again, you're likely to do the same when handed the enormous responsibilities of the Oval Office. If you act that way, if you let your emotions drive you to do very things that you know you should not do, then the temperament that you embrace as your strongest asset may instead be the trait that makes you most unfit.

When you attempt to prove that yes, you did publicly oppose the invasion of Iraq, despite all the evidence to the contrary, you really should have a better argument than a claim that you whispered something to that effect to your pal Sean Hannity back before the war, yet somehow neither he nor you happened to mention it to anybody at the time. You're gonna want to do a little better than that.

When you are challenged on your strident support for birtherism, which continued long after Barack Obama's birth certificate was made public, you really should be able to offer something other than nonsensical babbling that confirms rather than refutes the notion that you're one tin-foil hat short of a loon.

When you've presented yourself to the country as a strong guy, as a tough guy, then it really shouldn't be necessary to resurrect your feud with Rosie O'Donnell as evidence of your manliness. Yes, she starred in "A League of Their Own," but Vladimir Putin doesn't play in that league. Neither do Xi Jinping of China and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. They're not going to be impressed that you dared to call an actress a fat pig, and I doubt they would care that "everyone would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her,” as you once again asserted last night.

When you've spent this entire campaign attacking your opponents' character, both in the GOP primaries as well as in the general election, when you've taken enormous delight in name-calling and the belittling of others, you also really shouldn't whine about some of the "not nice" things that people are saying about you in return.

Whining kind of destroys that tough guy image that you try so very, very hard to project.

And finally, at the close of the night, there was this:

"I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, I can't do it. It's inappropriate. It's not nice.”

As much as you might think otherwise, you don't get any points for charm, grace or restraint by talking like that or making threats like that. Quite the contrary. Because people know that people with a winner's temperament -- they don't talk like that.

That's the talk of a loser. And last night at least, that's who Donald Trump was.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.