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Experience Trumps All

Donald Trump

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October 19, 2015 15:36 EDT

Is the GOP front-runner a public servant or just another man with servants?

Billionaire Donald Trump is telling the political establishment, “You’re fired.” Trump is delivering the message like only he can: bold, brash, gold-plated and rich. He believes he is the disruptor-in-chief. His poll numbers and growing list of disciples show idolatry plays well. His screed, entertaining as it is, is not new.

There have been “anti-establishment” candidates before. And while there’s no debating Trump breaks the conventional political mold, he’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura or H. Ross Perot.

Trump has Perot’s wealth and the star power of former Governors Ventura and Schwarzenegger. But these most recent well-known “disruptors” served others before they ran for public office. Perot, a data tycoon and a billionaire, went to the Naval Academy and served his country. Ventura was a Navy Seal. Even Schwarzenegger served as the co-chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness before he was California’s governor.

Trump, who is often compared to one of these candidates, simply lacks their commitment to others.

He has money, notoriety and an endless amusing array of one-liners. Sounds like keys to success right out of a Trump University class. It isn’t.

As impressive as Trump seems to himself and his supporters, he is missing a fundamental element of the presidency.

His lack of service and utter disregard for relevant presidential experience will be his undoing. In fact, every successful nominee has had a record of public service, either through the public sector, the military or previously elected office. Trump has none.

Trump is known for real estate deals, casinos, bankrupting his businesses four times, accusing President Barack Obama of being foreign-born, insulting women, denigrating immigrants and being a reality show ringmaster.

It may come as a surprise to many, including Trump himself, but Americans value service in their leaders. When an NBC News poll asked about specific presidential candidate traits, no prior political experience (public service) gave respondents reservations and made them uncomfortable the most. Having military experience and being a governor made voters enthusiastic.

Is no military or public service in Trump’s background enough to make him step back from his own reflection and realize he may not have what it takes to be the leader of the free world? No, not even close.

Does Money Matter More?

As Trump demonstrates on a daily basis, money matters most in our electoral system. Most candidates don’t make it because they lack cash. And as Trump brags, he has “lots of it.”

The other reason candidates lose or drop out is an embarrassing past or offensive gaffe.  Relentless scrutiny and humiliation the press and social media reserve for a shaming worthy of Game of Thrones usually kills a healthy ego’s designs on the presidency.

Trump eats attention.

The year 2016 will be unlike any presidential campaign Americans have witnessed, and Trump is a very different type of candidate. Like a tabloid celebrity, any press is good press to him, and his ego is not only unscathed by embarrassment or doubt, but in an odd way strengthened by it.

On the campaign, the thrice-married billionaire has finally found his perfect match. His money coupled with an infatuation for attention is a relationship he loves. Don’t count on a game changing oops or a ghost from the past, haunting him away from the White House. This is the biggest stage Trump has ever had, and he is going to strut on it like a dancing peacock in a monsoon.

Service is an Honor

The only service in Trump’s record is to himself. When the press questions his non-existent political or military service experience, Trump responds with a story about his boarding school, and if that doesn’t work he resorts to an insult or personal attack.

Americans who have served their country and worked for their communities need to start highlighting Trump’s real reasons for running: himself. Other candidates in the Republican primary and the Democrats, too, can no longer afford to wait for The Donald to fall on his sword, the media to filet him or pray for an intervention from the “force.” People who have served their country and communities need to contrast their record of service with Trump’s empty file. The time to shine the light on the “huge” experience hole in his candidacy is now.

This will not be easy for Republicans, a party, which has spent the better part of the last three decades publicly shredding the merits of government and policymaking. Like it or not, service is the starkest contrast the rest of the field has to the current front-runner: Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

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Jeb Bush, who comes from a family of public servants, was by several accounts a good governor in one of the largest, more politically complicated states in the union, Florida. Why was he good? We know nothing about his actual record, but are well-versed in the facts or lack of in Trump’s incomprehensible immigration plan.

It is a disservice to the public to discount elected public service experience as a qualification for the most powerful elected position in America.

At the heart of this presidential campaign, as it has been with every election since the founding of our democracy, is a very basic issue: What does it take to be the leader of the nation?

The great presidents of the United States of America were elected to serve. It may seem quaint and antiquated in our modern times of selfies and social media memes. Regardless of where they came from, each of our presidents had a sense of duty and honor before they took office. Regardless of their popularity or poll numbers, they all made long-term policy decisions—not short-term, easy money, quick fixes.

This is a country where the Founding Fathers mutually pledged their lives to each other, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Let’s see Trump make that pledge.

The Founding Fathers, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, Kennedy…

Donald Trump. President Donald Trump. The record just got scratched. Trump does not measure up to the values enshrined in America’s DNA. Trump is a lifelong opportunist who inherited his father’s business. He is not a self-made businessman. His decisions have been driven by dollars and fame.

Are voters willing to give up on the criteria that gave us Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Kennedy and, more recently, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in favor of a man whose favorite saying is, “You’re Fired,” which he tried to trademark for himself.

Stranger things have happened in American politics. Just ask Speaker John Boehner and Representative Kevin McCarthy.

If the other 12 GOP candidates who have served and made actual effective policy do not bring up Trump’s “huge” experience deficit, it is possible an ego, a suitcase full of cash and a gold brand will become the GOP’s nominee and the next commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military.

Trump cannot buy or take a class, even at Trump University, to earn the experience every president and all of our great leaders sought and fought for before they asked for our support.  The other 12 Republican candidates and the entire GOP have to recognize history—their own as policymakers and public servants. The primary and the 2016 election should not be based on who gets the most attention, but rather which candidate has the best record of service.

Donald Trump cannot escape his lack of service. The responsibility to make service as a clear qualification to be president lies with every candidate. It is now their time to disrupt The Donald’s own reality.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: A. Katz / Albert H. Teich /

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