Wineke: ‘Counterpunchers’ shouldn’t lead countries

President Donald Trump is a “counterpuncher.” We knew that about him before he was elected. We have heard about it ever since he was elected.

“When you attack him, he will hit back 10 times harder,” Trump’s wife, Melania, explained to a Milwaukee audience in April 2016.

In a way, the designation is as American as apple pie. We are the military champions of the world, and we design our foreign policy around that fact. For years, our military stance was based on the warning that, if you attack the United States or any of its allies, we will send nuclear bombs to wipe you off the face of the earth.

When our kids are threatened by bullies, we teach them to hit back even harder. That’s a prescription that works better in theory than in practice, but it is time-honored wisdom on the part of American fathers.

The problem is that it doesn’t work.

To be a counterpuncher, you have to focus most of your attention on whatever moves your opponents make. That might make sense when you are a boxer in the ring with one opponent.

It doesn’t make sense if you are the leader of a great nation and you want to unite that nation to accomplish certain goals.

One day last week, for example, Trump watched a speech by former Vice President Joe Biden and tweeted responses to it. The action elevated Biden’s stature but diminished the president’s stature.

The thing is that everyone now has Trump’s number. Russia has it. China has it. North Korea has it. Iran has it. His Democratic Party opponents have it.

All anyone has to do is to say something provocative or do something provocative and Trump immediately responds, usually inappropriately, and whatever goal the president has for the day is set aside.

About the only people who haven’t realized that Trump is a paper tiger are his fellow Republicans, who live in fear that he might say sometime negative about them and cost them reelection.

They do have some basis for that particular fear, but the price they pay is that, increasingly, Republicans stand for nothing except defending whatever craziness the president has done at the time.

So, here’s the problem: If no one except your most loyal followers fears you and if no one anyplace respects you, how can you ever hope to lead a diverse nation in a changing world?

The answer is, you can’t.

It is entirely possible that the president will, somehow, cobble together another electoral victory. It is basically impossible that he will ever lead the nation toward any goal he may or may not have in mind.

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