The president’s three personas

“And will the real Donald Trump please stand up!”

“And will the real Donald Trump please stand up!”

These famous words originated from the old game show, “To Tell the Truth,” which aired beginning in the late 1950s and then returned for a time to end in 2016.

President Trump presents three personas in his role as our chief executive: Teleprompter Trump, Raw Meat Trump and Twitter Trump, according to a “Christian Science Monitor” article I recently read. Understanding these three personas will help to separate and to understand our president’s words and actions.

Teleprompter Trump: This is the persona you saw if you watched the recent State of the Union message before Congress. For 80 minutes, Trump played that role, pushing for bipartisan cooperation with the Democrats, patriotism and economic growth.

He played this role well, using average people of many races and nationalities whom he held up to praise as examples of the best of humanity: a firefighter who had saved 60 children in a California summer camp, trapped by a blazing wildfire; a Coast Guard petty officer who had helped rescue people from Hurricane Harvey; and a North Korean defector who risked his life to escape to freedom, losing his leg in the process, but holding up his crutches as a sign of defiance to North Korea’s Kim Jung Un.

Most viewers saw a president trying to reach out emotionally to bind Americans together rather than to divide them. It was his most presidential speech.

Raw Meat Trump: This persona is usually found at Trump’s rallies where he uses his “dog whistle” phrases to stir up his base of support which numbers somewhere around 30 percent of the voters. “Dog whistle” phrases are the catchwords he uses to appeal to racism and white nationalism and America Firsters – things that got him elected in the first place, like “murdering immigrants,” “fake news” and “build a wall.”

It’s very unusual for standing presidents to continue to campaign after they win the election. Most presidents try to heal the divisions that every presidential race creates and bring the nation together again. Playing to one’s base is usually seen as counterproductive. But Trump is a political novice who is only slowly learning what it is like to be a politician. It’s an art form that is usually learned while holding office at lower government levels, something Trump has not experienced.

Twitter Trump: This is the Trump persona that bypasses formerly-normal channels of communication with the American people through the news media. It appeals directly to his supporters. It is a unique form of direct democracy that our president has used thousands of times during his first year in office.

Most of these Twitter messages have confused and embarrassed his Republican allies in Congress, outraged and united his political opponents, and frustrated his White House advisers. They have forced his vice president, his chief of staff, his secretary of state, and others to try to explain them away to the nation and to foreign leaders.

Twitter Trump is often contradictory to what he said the day before will say the day after. It shows Trump’s lack of impulse control and reveals his thoughts as they change from moment to moment. These Twitter messages have not served him well in getting his agenda turned into policy and law. Federal judges have used them to decide that his thinking is both biased and unformed. They have weakened his presidency among the general populace.

Which of these personas is the “real” Trump? They all are. Our president is a complex personality who is unused to people listening to his every word and taking those words seriously. One thing I teach my civics and government students is that, when dealing with law and government, words matter. Any politician worth his salt quickly learns to choose his words carefully lest they come back to bite him in the future.

The majority of Americans favor the Teleprompter Trump, wishing the other two personas would go away. His political base loves Raw Meat Trump because it makes them feel like he cares for them and their issues. Twitter Trump is a mixed bag: his supporters are both embarrassed and pleased at the same time. They love his honesty and directness, but they are also embarrassed by some of the stupid and contradictory things he tweets.

Don’t expect any of these personas to disappear.

All we can hope for is that time and experience will cause Teleprompter Trump to dominate. Until then, depending on your perspective, either rejoice at your president’s personas or cringe at this caricature of a positive role model in high office.

More in Opinion

Container math: Divide your roots to multiply your plants

By the month of November gardeners and gardening goals have moved indoors.… Continue reading

George Will and ‘conservative sensibilities’

The journalist is a Constitutional Originalist, but the framers’ sole focus wasn’t solely freedom.

No cost to vote, but million spent to influence it

Check out the numbers behind the November 2019 general election.

Which veggies to keep, and which to compost

The third week of October is a good time to dig in… Continue reading

Limp competitive (boring?) election season in Olympia

OLYMPIA — Nine of the most powerful political jobs in Washington state… Continue reading

Letters to the editor for the week of Oct. 18

Reader credits Pavone for giving them a voice Dear editor, What do… Continue reading

Reject dishonest vehicle taxes, vote yes on I-976

Taxpayers are getting ripped off, everybody knows it and politicians refuse to… Continue reading

Mum’s the word: incorporate this plant into your season displays

If your landscape is not a blaze of autumn glory this week,… Continue reading

Lawmakers to governor: How dare you mess with our budget!

They want Jay Inslee to halt his planned $175 million reallocation of state transportation dollars.

Letters to the editor

Renton Councilmember, Mayor Law support Armondo Pavone Dear editor, For over 20… Continue reading

Making sense out of the census

2020 Census Renton needs your participation

Letters for the week of Oct. 4

Reader loves our coverage Dear editor, Thanks to you all for keeping… Continue reading