Former Ohio Senator John Glenn, who died on Thursday, unexpectedly failed miserably in his effort to obtain the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. Jeff Greenfield remarks
There were important lessons from that failed campaign that resonate—or ought to resonate—today. A candidate without a compelling, thematically consistent message is at an enormous disadvantage. Attributes that political insiders see as powerful assets may turn out to be irrelevant to an electorate looking for something new.
Not only did Glenn lack the "compelling, thematically consistent message" necessary for a presidential nomination, he lacked the character needed, even then, to be win a general election for President. Charlie Pierce comments
In 1984, when John Glenn was preparing to run for president, I sat down in a bar on Beacon Hill in Boston for a chat with one of his chief strategists. This fellow smacked my gob across the room when he said that the campaign was planning to "downplay the hero stuff." My god, I thought. Without The Hero Stuff, Glenn was just a kind of boring old sod from Ohio. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn't the first American to orbit the Earth. He wasn't the guy who spent the last of those orbits in a tiny spacecraft with a problem the gravity of which the folks on the ground could only guess. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn't…an astronaut.
He would downplay the hero stuff. Winning presidential candidates are hardly humble, whether like Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) and Bill Clinton they fake humility, or don't even bother, in the manner of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or Donald J. Trump. It was on May 1, 2003 when President Bush made history for the
first time a sitting president has arrived on the deck of an aircraft carrier by plane. The jet made what is known as a "tailhook" landing, with the plane, traveling about 150 mph, hooking onto the last of four steel wires across the flight deck and coming to a complete stop in less than 400 feet.
The exterior of the four-seat Navy S-3B Viking was marked with "Navy 1" in the back and "George W. Bush Commander-in-Chief" just below the cockpit window. On the plane's tail was the insignia of the squadron, the "Blue Wolves."
Moments after the landing, the president, wearing a green flight suit and holding a white helmet, got off the plane, saluted those on the flight deck and shook hands with them. Above him, the tower was adorned with a big sign that read, "Mission Accomplished."
Pretty bold stuff from a guy who skipped out of his National Guard duty. He was in turn succeeded in office by the guy who on Super Tuesday 2008 declared "change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." He defeated a guy who downplayed his heroic military service, which did spare the nation a Vice-President Sarah Palin.
We now have elected as President a man who in the last thirteen months alone, with the eyes of the nation upon him, stated
"I know more about ISIS (the Islamic State militant group) than the generals do. Believe me."
"Nobody knows jobs like I do."
"I know more about foreign policy than anybody running."
"Nobody reads the Bible more than me."
"Nobody knows more about trade than me."
"Nobody knows the (visa) system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me."
"I've studied (the Iran deal) in great detail, I would say actually greater by far than anyone else."
"I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth."
"Nobody knows more about taxes than I do — maybe in the history of the world."
"There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me."
"I understand money better than anybody,"
"Nobody knows debt better than me."
"Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump."
Donald Trump has shattered all records in the narcissistic sweeptstakes. Although it wasn't as bad in 1984,when the failure of the self-effacing John Glenn may have foreshadowed a great cultural shift in which voters increasingly to elect candidates with extraordinary egos. And here we are.