Whenever I hear someone complain that Donald Trump is “not presidential,” I reply, “Compared to whom? Which president are we talking about? How ‘presidential’ was Barack Obama in 2008 when he said of the Republicans, ‘If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun’?”
And just what are the qualities that really matter in a president?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally on August 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
The overwhelming majority of Mr. Trump’s detractors have never sat across the table from him to hammer out a multimillion-dollar business deal. I have. So I think I’m in a better position than they are to judge his effectiveness as a top-level executive.
Because of the duty of confidentiality that I owe to my clients and to the other members of the negotiating team, I can’t give specific details on the project that was discussed at the meeting. But I can share my own impressions on what it was like to deal directly with Mr. Trump.
The first thing I noticed about Mr. Trump was that he was a stickler for detail. As a politician, he may affect a breezy platform style, but in the office, he was all business. Right off the bat, he corrected my team’s estimates of future financing requirements. He must have phoned an expert minutes before the meeting, because he said that by the latest market information he had, our current interest rates were off by 0.1%.
That was for openers. He went through every element of our proposal with a gimlet eye, challenging our assumptions, forecasts and business models with an exactitude and a level of expertise that was most impressive. It was as if he had a Wharton business professor whispering in his ear.
He wasted no time on civilities. He was brusque, impatient and dismissive of any information that he thought was inadequate, or any detail that he thought did not bear directly on the matter at hand. He cut right to the heart of things.
The senior members of my negotiating team were the products of privilege and Ivy League schools, and were highly successful executives in their own right. They were not used to this kind of treatment.
But for my own part, I had not only been an attack flight officer in the first Gulf war, I had also driven a truck through some of New York’s roughest neighborhoods. So I took it all in stride. Mr. Trump is a New Yorker, I reasoned. Fine. So am I. We can speak the same language—even if that language is rather coarse to some ears. We understand each other.
In the end, I can say that Mr. Trump drove a hard bargain. But he was honest, and he was a square dealer. When we were through—in less time than we had expected—we had reached an agreement that was ethical, profitable and fair to all parties concerned. It was also an agreement that meant good jobs for working people and healthy tax revenues for the local government.
If we didn’t come away from the table liking Mr. Trump, there’s no question that we came away with a lot of respect for him. He was a tough, shrewd, no-nonsense executive who knew how to get things done, and done quickly. He was also an adversary whom no one would want to mess with.
Isn’t that what really matters in a president?
I don’t know when his detractors decided that Donald Trump is the only candidate for president who never went to finishing school.
Some of our most effective presidents were, to put it mildly, rather rough-hewn. Some were shameless womanizers. Some bullied subordinates. Some of them used salty language. Some of them had thin skins and hair-trigger tempers.
Harry Truman, for example, was notorious not only for profanity, but for threatening to black the eyes of a music critic who found fault with his daughter’s singing. Lyndon Johnson and Abraham Lincoln were country boys who sometimes indulged in barnyard humor. Grover Cleveland avoided military service during the Civil War. Andrew Jackson once killed a man in a duel. Who cares about any of that today?
What we need in the White House—and need desperately—is someone who can cut through the Washington gridlock and get things done. Based on my own head-to-head experience with him, I know that Donald Trump has what it takes to do that—and more. He’s a tough man who can fill the toughest job in the world.
I’m glad Mr. Stewart wrote this article. It speaks volumes.