The following editorial appeared in the March 24 issue of The Catholic Exponent, newspaper of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio. It was written by Pete Sheehan, editor and general manager.
Dear President Trump:
I’m guessing that you don’t generally read the Catholic Exponent, but because of your well-known awareness of media reports about you, I’m hopeful that these thoughts find their way to you. I’m writing not as a partisan but as a guy who simply wants his president to succeed.
I may not have been one of your supporters but I have to admire your beating the odds. And you seem to be making an effort to keep your promises — notably your Supreme Court nomination, your support for the annual March for Life and your trying to preserve blue-collar jobs. Some of your promises are more problematic but I’m trying to stay positive.
You won by convincing about half of the electorate. Now you have to worry about the other half.
Your comments immediately following your election and your recent address to Congress have given a lot of people hope. At other times, people are baffled by your comments and reactions to criticisms and by many of your proposals.
Consider the example of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken — a guy who, like you, made his name outside of politics. Franken also was elected by a close margin — about 300 votes. A lot of people regarded him as a goof ball — elected on a fluke — who would be a one-termer.
Sen. Franken however toned down his public persona and seriously went about his senatorial duties. As a result, he grew in the respect of his Senate colleagues and Minnesota voters and handily won re-election. Now, he is being taken seriously on the national level.
So, if a guy who rose to fame on “Saturday Night Live” can be taken seriously as a senator, there is no reason that a successful billionaire businessman who won a much bigger election cannot be taken seriously as president.
To do this, however, you have to change from getting elected to governing — from splitting off and mobilizing certain segments of the electorate to uniting the whole country as best you can.
The whole Obamacare situation is a case in point. You ran on repealing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and a lot of people cheered, but there are many who see its benefits.
Obama passed the law by ramming it through with his Democratic majority. You may very well be able to ram through its repeal with your Republican majority, but four years from now we might well be looking at a Democratic majority seeking to restore the original law. Instead, why don’t you, the ultimate deal-maker, try to make a deal with both Democrats and Republicans? Other issues, such as immigration, the budget and social programs also could lend themselves to “The Art of the Deal.”
Presidential leadership also encompasses issues of personal style.
My mother and father taught me not to react so strongly when people were mean or unjustly critical. It was a difficult lesson to learn but a valuable one. Other presidents — as diverse as John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — got very good at self-effacing humor in response to critics and scoffers. Others, such as Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter reacted strongly against their critics. Which presidents are remembered more favorably?
Another lesson that my father taught me was to never write a letter when you’re angry — and that was before email and Twitter. I realize that this is not original but it bears repeating: Consult with someone before you tweet. A general-message discipline would undoubtedly help as well.
Also keep in mind that America’s presidency is not about you. Remember New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner? When he selected people who knew their jobs and let them do their jobs, his teams won. When he tried to put it all on himself, they didn’t.
If you do look beyond your base of voters, please don’t forget them either. You won by telling a lot of blue- and white-collar workers, seniors and others that you were on their side and that you’d take down the Wall Street interests. So far, you seem to be catering to Wall Street and in many — though not all cases — you are talking about cutting programs that help the people who supported you. They took a chance on you, so you owe it to them and to yourself to honor your promises.
Forget about the drama, which your opponents love, and focus on the tasks at hand. Be yourself but be your best self. So many thought that you could never get elected. You proved that you could. Now, prove that you can govern.
The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicPhilly.com, Catholic News Service or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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