There are two things that a public figure, especially one thinking about running for office, must endure. First, political writers will find something negative to say. Second, you will be the butt of a lot of jokes. An awful lot of jokes. Most of those “unsavory” stories will concern personal weaknesses, traits, and misjudgments.
On the other hand, the candidate must also be able to laugh at himself, make fun of herself and, occasionally, be self deprecating.
At last night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the President did just that. His 18-minute speech was filled with jokes about himself and other politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Michelle Bachman, Governor Tim Pawlenty, former governor Mitt Romney and Donald, The Donald, Trump. He laughed at himself in jokes and film.
When Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers walked to the microphone, Mr. Obama laughed and smiled and enjoyed the jibes and jabs. Opening with birth certificate jokes, not pulling punches on the economy and doing what Seth Meyers does best, find the weaknesses to exploit them to laughter.
In fact the entire room spent the evening laughing at others and their own expense. Reporters and anchors were picked on. Entire networks were picked on. Seth Meyers’ own network, NBC, was picked on. Fox was picked on. CSPAN was picked on. And everyone laughed at others and themselves. This was a roast, that is what happens in a roast.
The one person who did not laugh, who could not take the pointed humor, who scowled through almost 40 minutes of humor was The Donald. Not at all. Any doubt? Go to minute 12 of Meyers’ routine. If you watch carefully, when the jokes turned to The Donald, daggers flew from his eyes. His shoulders were tight. His usually open mouth was tight. If we could see his arms, they were most likely crossed in annoyance. The Donald was not a happy camper.
Former Representative Pat Schroeder once told me that in politics, you cannot take things personally. Attaches are about policy, the person is only a straw man target. I like the comment made by “Nick” to a column found on Telic Thoughts, it goes right to all politicians including The Donald. “It does not matter how many times your strawman is exposed you are just going to keep presenting it because that is just the type of person you are.”
It does not matter if Trump will actually run for President of the United States or he is just stroking his ego. It does not matter if he has a potty mouth. It does not matter that his “reality show” – and I really hate reality shows – is a major hit, with a “surprise” coming in the season finally. In a business where your every move is covered by the world press, where even the smallest moment of silliness or blunder will be instantly posted on YourTube, one must maintain a sense of humor.
Trump cannot laugh at himself. Even George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan laughed at the Correspondents’ Dinner.
A number of years ago, I suggested that how a candidate plays a round of golf would indicate her or his honesty. I am adding that a candidate must also be able to laugh at himself in the mist of a crisis. I have a personal belief, your funniest moments are your most embarrassing. If you cannot laugh at your self, you can never lead seriously.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.