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Monday, February 1, 2016

The Bully Pulpit

So here we are. Caucus day in Iowa. It is an odd kickoff to determining the persons most likely to change furniture in the White House next year.

The parties do their caucuses differently. Republicans start with the Pledge of Allegiance at 7 p.m. central. The activists begin selecting their presidential candidates in a binding vote. According to CNN, “Each campaign gets the chance to have a representative make a final pitch to any wavering voters before a secret ballot. Some caucus sites might use a printed paper ballot. Others just go with a candidate's name on a scrap of paper. Raw totals of votes are tallied by local party officials and sent to Iowa GOP headquarters, where a running count is kept.”

The Orlando Sentinel provided a layman’s explanation for what happens in the Democratic caucus. “They excitedly gather in school gymnasiums where each candidate gets a designated corner. Supporters for that candidate then beg, plead, and chant at everyone else who's begging, pleading, and chanting to join another candidate in another corner.

After 30 minutes, if your candidate doesn't have 15 percent of the beggars, pleaders and chanters, you're no longer “viable.” You then have 30 minutes to choose another campaign corner. So the begging, pleading and chanting starts again.”

Iowans do not necessarily get it right. Especially for Republicans. Mike Huckabee was their choice in 2008. Rick Santorum in 2012—although the early published results had Romney as the winner. The vote was incorrect and changed later.

In recent weeks, Ted Cruz was the Republican leader. But that changed in the latest poll with Donald Trump pulling ahead. Barely. Statistically, a dead heat, with Marco Rubio not far behind.

Among Democrats, Bernie Sanders has been steadily gaining on Hillary Clinton. He claims that a large voter turnout for the caucus gives him a win. Lower turnout goes to Hillary. Martin O’Malley is nowhere to be found.

The election of a US President is a major event. That’s because the role is described as the “leader of the free world.” One would hope that would be true. But it may be a misnomer. Or at least an incomplete descriptor.

Certainly our nation holds preeminence worldwide as a free society. But when it comes to “leader” and “leadership” we owe it to ourselves to select a person who earns the most stars for inspiring character and behavior. And that brings me to Donald Trump.

Most of America is aware that “The Donald” (his majestic nickname) pulled out of the last Republican debate. His family feud with Megyn Kelly and the Fox News Channel got too deep under his skin. So he bailed. (Megyn once worked as a lawyer in Chicago.)

Incredibly, in describing his rationale, The Donald said, “It’s time that somebody plays grown up.” And as I noted on my talk show, he was right. Only it wasn’t him. Grown ups don’t play this way. Playground teams know a true loser will “take his ball and go home” — thus ending the game for everyone when things don’t go the way Mr. Ball Hog wants.

Trump couldn’t go quite that far. The “ball game” debate still aired without him. But he knew his withdrawal would take significant television ratings with him.

The Donald was demanding Fox pull Kelly from the panel of questioners. And that Fox apologize for a disparaging tweet. Or he would pull a Frank Sinatra and do it, “My Way.” Which he did.

Welcome to the circus. The most powerful elephant just left the room.

Odd, isn’t it? In an era of so much publicity on anti-bullying tactics, we find a bully running for president. With a fan club.

Who wants to play with a kid like that? Unfortunately, too many desperate kids. People who don’t mind being bullied as they take their conservative convictions and cower behind Mighty Mouth. His aggressive, rude, and intolerable-of-others style might make him a ballot king.

And this is why I challenge the notion that the term “leader of the free world” gives us an accurate picture. True leadership embodies so much more than a title. I have tons of books on leadership. Good leadership. Great leadership. Not one of them has anything close to encouraging the leadership style of The Donald. Well, maybe one. The Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun.

Most material these days has ample encouragement to become servant leaders. Ironically, I see very few of these books from the so called “public servants” of our land. Most of this class wants to be served.

Jesus warned His disciples about this power greedy mentality. Again and again. His words: “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” He said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” (Mark 10:42-44, MSG)

I hope Iowans—and all Americans—call bad behavior to account.

With a bully pulpit, the last thing we need…is a bully.

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