As the Senate is about to commence Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, it has become clear that the former president is willing to throw his supporters under the bus to escape culpability in the Capitol storming incident. What does Trump’s “bad apples” argument say about his leadership? In this episode, Bill Stierle and Tom discuss the leadership vacuum that is taking form as Trump’s place in history is being debated. Just how valid is the “bad apples” argument? How is it going to affect Trump’s image from the perspective of his followers? Join in the discussion and reflect on what this means for the prospects of unity in the highly-polarized political atmosphere we live in today.
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The Leadership Vacuum Of Donald Trump’s Second Impeachment
Bill, we are on the threshold of the second impeachment trial in the Senate of Former President Donald Trump. There are some interesting things happening regarding truth and the use of language. You have the impeachment managers in the house who indicted the president. They passed the impeachment resolution and send it over to the Senate and the Senate is about to have a trial. That article of impeachment is the document that essentially charges the president with a crime. We’re on the threshold of this trial. What’s interesting is the president’s defense submitted a 78 page trial brief to the Senate, which lays out their argument for why the president is not guilty. It’s very interesting what this brief lays out. It speaks to interesting use of language. We can have a great discussion about that.
I’ll set up that it’s interesting that what the president’s lawyers are arguing is that he did not incite the insurrection. He was speaking freely. Based on his first amendment rights, he could say whatever he wanted there and that his words did not motivate the people to attack the Capitol. He was well within his right to speak as he did. What’s interesting is he throws the protestors or the people that storm the Capitol under the bus in this document saying that the attack on the Capitol was should not be blamed on Trump inciting violence over time but rather on a small group of criminals.
This one’s tough because it’s about leadership. Do we make leaders responsible? Tom, this is a hard thing because they’re appealing in the way truth is getting purchased and the truth is getting hijacked here is that when we frame something in a common way that’s familiar to people who want to believe, then they believe it. This is the bad apples, one bad apple, few bad apples defense. “On Wall Street, there are a few bad apples. In business, whatever company, there are a few bad apples. This is the act of a few bad apples. It wasn’t my leadership. It was the few bad apples.” It’s not the truth. There are some people that are more inspired to hurt, climbed, and damage the White House and enter the halls as if they are going to hurt somebody.
If there was one Republican that decided to come out and say, “You go home now.” That Republican would be the leader. Ted Cruz came out and face that crowd of insurgents and said, “He would be the next presidential candidate. He would be. You people turn around and walk out like Moses. He would be parting the red sea.” It would be that moment that Ted Cruz could never get on a national debate stage but he’s not parting the sea that way. He’s part in the sea by going. Those Democrats over there are not doing things fairly because I’m watching my numbers over here and this is the best way to go.
Meanwhile, we’ll be showing that kind of leadership and they listened to him. He chased them out but he didn’t have the skill, courage, or ability to face a crowd that way because he doesn’t know how to language or communicate in a straightforward message of leadership. That’s a JFK moment. That’s a Harry Truman moment. “Go on the buck, stops here. I’m chasing these people out on my own. All you people, quiet. You turn around, walk in the other direction.” He doesn’t have enough confidence that he can master angry people. It’s very unsettling and disheartening but that’s the way it’s shown up.Leadership is a powerful force that can either be used with integrity for something good, or with malice for something really bad. Click To Tweet
The interesting thing is with this legal defense of the president, it’s interesting. He’s saying, “I didn’t inspire those people to storm the Capitol. They’re criminals on their own and they decided to do it. They misunderstood me.” It would have been very different if the president gave a speech in Washington and then a group of people decided to go and storm the Capitol in Albany, New York to try to make a statement protests at the Michigan State House. Remember Gretchen Whitmer? There were these groups that plan kidnap her if they had stormed some other place. This happened in Washington immediately after Donald Trump’s speech. What’s ironic about this defense is his lawyers are trying to say that his words did not inspire or should not have inspired these people, which says he’s not a good leader. He doesn’t know how to rally a crowd and motivate them to take action. Your defense is like, “The former president was not a good leader.” He would argue the opposite, I’m sure. If anybody asked President Donald Trump, he would say, “I’m the best leader that this country’s ever had.”
That’s important to get back to what leadership looks like, whether it’s Ted Cruz being on leadership but it’s also a messaging. What does a leader do? They inspire, engage, create advocacy, support identity and create loyalty. They rally people for a common cause. Those are only good things except when they’re motivated out of guilt, blame, and shame. Those are the Three-card Monte of the human psyche. Think about how many messages that have ran through your head that you feel either guilty about, blame about, shame about. Do you watch what your mind did? You and I have been through many conflicts over the years. There’s even one that you’re currently experiencing. Those three things will lock your brain up. They will keep you from clearing your brain. “Shall I do it this way?”
I might run into guilt. I might run into blame. I might run into shame. That’s what regrettably where the experience is of the Donald Trump messaging and the Donald Trump followers’ mindset is they need somebody to blame Democrats. They need somebody to be guilt in, the few bad apples. They need to cover the shame of what the mess leadership messaging has done. Those people were inspired. They were engaged. They were advocates. They were loyal. They had a common cause that was under one simple not true message. “Stop the steal.” That’s enough to motivate. Can you feel your body if you believe the sentence? If you believe that, will you be there with them?
Yes. If you believed that there was fraud, sure. That would inspire people to take action. Bill, does this show us that leadership is a very powerful force that can be used with integrity for something good or it can be used for something bad? It’s a weapon either to achieve something for the common welfare, the common good, or the people, or to achieve something for yourself. It’s how leaders either become authoritarians or they can become leaders that are more democratic, not democratic party per se, but democratic leaders. The reality is this defense by the president’s lawyers is a mob boss defense.
Great label it fits right in there because the leader only needs to give this much of a message, not enough to be legally accountable, unless it’s right on point. The right on point message, the bullet that you can see would need to be literal that you can’t walk back from, which would sound like, “I’m going to follow you down there, let’s break into the White House, sit in the hallway, disrupt the Senate and Congress, take people out, and kill them that don’t believe in us.” Do you see how that’s all spot on and literal? From a language place, it’s literal. The quote that we build around that is this is a literal message that then we can say it’s literal and then people did exactly what he said to do. He would be the way they’re pitching it as this would be the literal message. The thing that he’s on the hook with is, “I’m going to be there with you.”
Think about, Bill, the literal aspect of the fact that he’s there giving a speech down the street from the Capitol building. The people are right there and he is rallying them to walk down the street, go to the Capitol. Like you said, “I’ll be there with you,” which was a lie but that wasn’t the point. The point was to inspire them and rally them to take action that he could not take but he’s right there in Washington. He’s pointed this rally down the street to the Capitol. That’s why I was saying it’d be one thing if the president were giving a speech and conceptually rallying people in general to fight for their rights and then a group goes to the Michigan State House and does something. He didn’t say, “Go to the Michigan State House and do this.” It’s easier for him to separate himself from that one because people taking action and hold to the State. He’s not even there. It’s direct cause and effect. He pointed the loaded gun of this mob at the Capitol and fired it with what he said.
It’s almost like there’s the unsettled quality of this as, “What are we fighting for? What are we protecting here? Are we protecting values? Are we protecting an individual?” The literal speech or metaphor or hyperbolic to the one that they take out that many people don’t understand because it’s $3.25 word, or hypocritical, people don’t know what that word means even though it’s used a lot. The unsettling thing is that once a person is engaged, once they have inspiration, once they’re being empowered to be an advocate, and it’s a part of their identity with their flags, they’re going to move right with it. Tom, did you see the cell phone tracking from Donald Trump’s rally to the Capitol building? Did you see what this thing?
I did not.
This was the thing that was so unsettling and fascinating is that they had a heat map and we can find the heat map somewhere, I’m sure of the cell phones. Here’s the time when Donald Trump is giving his speech. This is so funny. The entire group of cell phones after he is done speaking moves all the way to the Capitol building. It was unsettling because it showed the real time movement of the tracking of cell phone. The person that wants to believe that was those people that were motivated before Donald Trump. Those people that were there already and they broke into the White House before he gave his speech. There was a message that went out like that they were breaking in and that the time wasn’t right because that feeds into the conspiracy mindset of this timestamp than this, which is a comment on the damage that has been done with trust.
We have damage for the last years with trusting the government and media. We have some trust problems, one person getting covered and one person’s mistakes being amplified. Trust is the latest casualty, mostly done through the cell phone and social media. What do you trust? As soon as trust goes under the bus truth and trust die at the same time. We’ve got an emergency situation here regarding language to restore trust. Trust is not restored with facts. I want to let everybody know that you got to restore trust through truth. You got to restore trust through engagement and meaningful advocacy towards both the individual good as well as the collective good. That’s the only way it goes. It’d be nice if our leaders would know that and they really don’t.As soon as truth goes under the bus, trust dies along with it. Click To Tweet
Many of our leaders are lawyers that have experienced prosecuting things or having trials. It’s interesting because on the one hand, the law is supposed to be about right or wrong. Isn’t that ironic that a good lawyer can argue either side of something like that and tend to?
I’m having a flashback of being in federal court. One of my clients was struggling and was up with some charges. I submitted a document about this big to the judge. I mailed it directly to him, held it directly to the federal judge. When I did that, I’m sitting in the galley where everybody sits. He said, “Mr. Stierle, are you here in the audience?” I had no idea he was going to call my name. I’m sitting there and there were 200 people or 150 people in this room. I go, “Yes, your honor.” I stand up. He goes, “I received your document and I took it into consideration.” As a language specialist, that is the feather in my cap because I must have said something right. He implied. He took it into consideration more than a direct inconsideration because my guy, entrapment from my viewpoint, unconsciously walking into the bear trap. I was going like, “How did this guy get trapped? This is how he got trapped.” It’s like yikes.
I have to ask. Did your client end up being convicted?
He got convicted and he got a smaller sentence than what was the prescribed thing. If I was thinking about that in moment, if I would have known the judge was going to do that, I would have said the following sentence, “Your honor, may I approach?” I would’ve got him this much of a sentence or no sentence or an alternative sentence. I said, “Your honor, there’s a better way out of this.”
In hindsight that you wish you had done that.
That’s a little disappointment but I still feel proud that leadership and leadership messaging does not have to get caught in the black and white narrative, which it is caught in. Lindsey Graham goes back and forth in his leadership. He leads one way and then he leads another way. “I’m done with this. I am going this.” People think that message is, “He’s had enough,” but no.
That’s the thing that is so frustrating about a lot of our political leaders. Lindsey Graham is a good example with the whole, “We’re not going to vote on a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg if it comes up in 2020,” and then he does it. That should be the easiest thing for his opponent to hammer him on. If it was argued correctly or presented correctly to the people, he looks like you cannot trust any word that comes out of his mouth but they didn’t do that. It was a real communication opportunity lost.
The thing that’s most unsettling about it is that we do have the tools to inspire people to work towards a collective America that includes the minority America on both sides. The minority America is not a race. It is a list of ideals that are minority ideals. If I’m looking at the movie releases that are coming out and I am in a small town in America and I watch the pressure that comes out with the entertainment to push my morals out to the edge, that is too overtly sexual, violent, and XYZ. I’m watching that and I’m sitting with a conservative value set. I’d be pissed at Hollywood too. I’d be pissed and call them all the things. It makes sense that they are worshiping demons. Meanwhile, they’re doing the same thing that they’re looking for, “How can I get the most bucks and how can I create the biggest impact or the biggest buzz by doing something that is out on the edge?” It’s unsettling.
Bill, as we’ve discussed, often they don’t matter because they’re not going to land. They’re not going to be received by the audience, who they’re intended to be. You can argue the facts all day long. We talk about this with journalists all the time. It doesn’t have the impact. If the facts don’t matter whether it’s the impeachment house managers in the second impeachment trial, arguing their case, or it would be maybe a Lindsey Graham opponent trying to communicate that nothing he says can ever be believed. Does it sometimes help to come up with a label with a lower value word that’s not hypocrisy that’s maybe going over a lot of people’s heads? What does that mean? You hear it so much. It maybe doesn’t have as much meaning. Wouldn’t it help to give it a label that could stick that people would understand to take Donald Trump’s gift of marketing and branding and turn it around on him?
It’s unsettling because you’re fighting the spaghetti throwers of labels and diagnosis. He’s on one side and they throw and see what label or diagnosis and they test it for impact. It’s not like the Cambridge analytical thing that took place. It’s that they amplified the messages that got the most clicks, drain the swamp, lock her up. Those are the ones that got the most clicks. They brought that out and did the public broadcasting of it. They said, “You got the marketing numbers. These ones will work the best.” Donald Trump even said it from stage, “I didn’t like drain the swamp at first.” All he’s doing is testing marketing slogans to see what sticks. The current slogan, Donald Trump derangement syndrome, is something that we an identity team, the Republicans that are in that camp said, “This is the Democrats with Donald Trump derangement syndrome. They have a mental disorder.”Leadership does not have to get caught in the black-and-white narrative which it is currently mired in. Click To Tweet
They’re buying it because it allows them to maintain the identity and the loyalty that they have for their vote, as well as support all of the other messages that they’ve received before, stop the steal, lying Ted Cruz. It’s unsettling. That label and diagnosis is something that many leaders have used. There’s a list of them of dark characters but there’s a list of positive characters that have left an inspiring message with Winston Churchill, FDR, JFK. They all leave inspiring messages that allow the nation to rally and to do something extra ordinary. I commit that we’re going to go to the moon by the end of the decade. Everybody goes, “It’s impossible to get there.” All of a sudden, they got there two years earlier than they thought they would. They put the right solution to it. They went around the planet and came back.
Here is the use of leadership. Those tenants that you refer to inspiration, engagement, advocacy, common cause to inspire people, to achieve greatness, to achieve something for the whole, for the good of the people, for the good of the country, or inspiring people to do something morally, ethically, legally questionable to achieve something that’s in your best interest.
The messengers, which are the attorneys on both sides of this, the people that are writing this are not in the awareness that they can shift their language slightly in order to create a greater impact. There are things that I could craft that would protect Donald Trump better even though I might have the thought that it’s indefensible but there are things that we can say to protect him. He was doing an inspiring speech and his people were so inspired. They were so inspired that they took what he said literally instead of taking what he said metaphorically. All of a sudden, you’re promoting him as a leader but you’re also putting the blame on the people that took him literally because I am the Rule of Law president. They could’ve totally spun it in a way that made them look better.
They could also then spin his own statements that, “I’m the law and order president,” to then convict him for inspiring these people. “If you’re the law and order president, you know well what you’re inspiring them to do. You may not have loaded the guns.”
I’m inspiring them to speak up for something that I and they both believe that there was voter fraud. He is never let go of that. He’s still doing that thing. The numbers were in early. He’s going like, “I am not looking at about how votes are counted.” There’s a whole bunch of them in the cities that the counting is done later. Therefore, the numbers are going to swing back because of the number of votes in that place. There are more people there, where the other districts that have a small number of people are getting counted first. Look at all the red over all the spaces. The reason why it’s red over the space is because there are not that many people there. Even the human beings proportion skews their truth. If I take a city, I draw a circle around it, I make it blue, and then I take the entire countryside and I make that red, the brain cannot tell the difference. It says, “There’s more red, therefore there should be more votes.” It can’t tell the difference.
These are not the droids you’re looking for a defense.
This is not the droids you’re looking for situation. This is not what you’re seeing because the city has 10 million votes in it or 5 million votes in it. In Los Angeles, that’d be true. A smaller city, a million votes in it, whatever the city is. The surrounding country side that’s all red has 500,000 voters. It’s going to be red out there. I’m making up some numbers but the visual is the problem. “I’m looking at Georgia. Why is it so red and there are these five spots that are blue? Why do those five spots that are blue is more?” They had to get rid of the votes because look at all the red there, it is literally a trick that the brain does on the believer’s mindset and it can be easily purchased or highjack.
It’s interesting similarly and this is probably a subject for a future episode. It’s also disheartening that it appears that our Senate is divided 50/50 for 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans representing various States that would mean our country is evenly divided in terms of political identity and interest, that the country is divided right down the middle, 50/50. In reality, it’s not because you’ve got North Dakota and South Dakota that each has less than a million people total in each State get four senators. You have New York and California that combined, that have 70 million voters and they get four States. Our representation is not proportionate to the population and has gotten many people feel out of whack.
It’s more of a 60/40. We can look at the numbers. Look at the votes there, the eight million votes.
The popular vote, eight million vote difference.
Popular vote gives you a better sense of what the proportion of the Senate and stuff would be. That’s not fully true. Some of the down ballots had a lot of Republicans win and no one thought that the number of Republicans go to win. It’s not until there is an issue that motivates the base to come out or the various different basis to come out. If you put Marijuana Laws on the thing, then all of the folks that want that thing will come out and vote for it like what happened in Michigan. If you put abortion initiatives on the ballot, all the people that are interested in that are going to come out and say, “This is our time to vote. We got to get out the vote.” They’re going after the loyalty. They’re going after the inspiration, the engagement, and the advocacy for a value and then hoping that trickles to that candidate getting voted for. That’s a part of the thing called the Southern strategy and stuff. You get people to vote for their value and then their candidate that looks the closest to that value will also get the vote. I care about him but I care about this issue, which is a way to not have a full-throated vibrant discussion for what they’re fighting for and stuff.
It’s an interesting discussion on leadership, Bill. It will be interesting to see as this impeachment trial plays out, how much that leadership is called out. If the Senate overall does uphold the ideal, that words matter.
It’s more to come on this one. We can definitely take out a spin and see how the values are voted for and the loyalties are protected or are we going to hold people accountable to their words.
Bill, thanks so much.
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