Trump’s Cowardice

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Donald Trump likes to praise his allies for their courage and attack his enemies for their supposed lack of courage:

His allies also like to call him courageous:

Robert O’Brien, Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, once called the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic a “profile of courage.” His HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, said something similar.

Trump also likes to tweet quotes about courage:

Here is historian Heather Cox Richardson at her blog “Letters from an American“:

An A. P. story then offered a doozy of a paragraph: “As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.”

That Trump hid in the White House while he was urging others to violence captures his personality, but it undercuts his carefully crafted image as a man of courage. The leak of this story is itself astonishing: we should not know how a president is being protected, and that Trump is bullying to project an image of being a tough guy while he is actually hiding is a big story, especially since presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters today. And to admit that Trump has no policy proposals and has no interest in delivering a message of unity…. Wow.

Read the entire piece here.

As those who follow this blog closely know, I have been reading Joseph Pieper, the 20th-century German moral philosopher. Here is a taste of his 1964 essay, “On the Christian Image of Man”:

The concept of “courage” does not equate with the notion of aggressive fearlessness at any price. There exists indeed a kind of fearlessness that is the direct opposite of courage.

Pieper goes on:

Fortitude, Augustine says in The City of God, is a testimony to the existence of evil–by which he means that fortitude is necessary because, in the world, evil is powerful, is even at times a superior force. In view of this, to be brave can be taken to mean that something must be risked whenever the obviously weak offers resistance to evil. And nobody who wishes to be a good human being, and who is unwilling to commit an injustice, can avoid this risk.

When Trump condemns the evil of the rioters, he is doing a good thing. But there is no risk involved. Everyone condemns looting and destruction. What he said and did yesterday in the Rose Garden and at St. John’s Church was not a courageous act. But condemning systemic racism and working to promote policies that might remedy this social problem would, for Trump, be a courageous act because it would alienate him from much of his political base. Trump, according to Pieper’s definition of courage, is not a “good human being.”

And this:

…we are more apt to perceive and honor the hero in the figure of conqueror than in one who merely suffers. And since fortitude means precisely to endure “wounds” incurred on behalf of justice (from loss or reputation or well-being to imprisonment or bodily harm), we are really looking, when we contemplate someone who has manifested this virtue, at the antithesis of the “conqueror.” Such a person does not vanquish, he sacrifices.”

Or this:

Thus fortitude is, according to its very nature, not the virtue of the stronger but instead that of the seemingly vanquished. Accordingly, it can almost be said that we are dealing with a falsehood in the prevailing notion of the “hero,” which veils and perverts the essential qualities of genuine fortitude. It should be remembered that in the eyes of the ancients the decisive criterion for fortitude consisted primarily in steadfastness and not in attacking.

Trump is the anti-hero. He is coward.