What does it mean to “act presidential?” Conventional wisdom suggests anyone with the right combination of drive, desire and brains can grow up to be president of the United States of America — but not everyone is cut out for the job. I would submit that remaining calm and cool — no matter the situation — is vital to the role.
Whether you’re dealing with a heckler in the audience, a demanding press corps, or an unstable, murderous foreign tyrant — Americans want their president to remain unruffled and act in a deliberate manner. Add a natural talent for communication and the character to discern threats from opportunities — and you have a person many might consider “presidential.”
The crucible of a national campaign reveals the mettle of the individual. Part of the reason we hold televised debates is to get a look at how candidates will hold up in pressure situations. Those who demonstrate enthusiasm for the task ahead, knowledge of the challenges we face, and unflappable composure in a tense situation “win” the argument. Shrill, defensive, or combative stances are never a good sign.
The platitudes and empty rhetoric of most political promises meet the cold, hard reality of governance for the successful candidate. The U.S. Constitution holds the “power” of the presidency in check, so a discordant, divissive message only hurts a president’s ability to guide the nation. John F. Kennedy calmly took control away from a sweaty and visibly uncomfortable vice president and America has never looked back — we want someone relatable, not just a political automaton.
It’s the combination of style plus substance that wins the day. While a presidential candidate must always display integrity and strength during a campaign — they’re also fighting hard for every vote — that combative spirit is anathema to effective governing, where compromise and negotiation are the tools for success.
As I’ve listened to Ben Carson screeching at the press lately — growing more and more combative with each subsequent interview, the thought crossed my mind, ‘This is not very presidential.’ Read more about the psychology behind the tantrums. How does our current president deal with adversity? In this video, President Obama reacts to a heckler shouting ‘tell us about your plans for nuclear war with Russia!’ Republican frontrunner Ben Carson reacts to a press corps examining his penchant for literary exaggeration. Enjoy.