On temperament, what Trump could learn from Mandela
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With the New Hampshire presidential primary less than a day away, Republican candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE's temperament will again be on the minds of many voters. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for Iran nuclear projects | Top Dems says State working on new Saudi arms sale | 34-year-old Army reservist ID'd as third military COVID-19 death Trump administration ends waivers in Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran Romney defends Joe Scarborough, staffer's widower: 'Enough already' MORE (R-Texas) — not a neutral party — parodied Trump's temperament in the debate Trump boycotted: "I am a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly."


Mike Allen of Politico suggested that "Trump's biggest vulnerability is whether he has the TEMPERAMENT [Allen deliberately chose all caps] to be [president]." Allen was commenting on the discord between Trump and Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News, over Fox News anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly, whom Trump believes treated him harshly in a previous debate. A Fox News statement jokingly said that "We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president," a statement Trump called "nasty & dumb"; Trump later retweeted a tweet that referred to Kelly as a "bimbo."

To paraphrase James Carville, President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHow Obama just endorsed Trump Trump, Biden signal how ugly the campaign will be No 'dole' for America: How to recover from COVID-19 MORE's ragin Cajun political adviser, the 2016 election could and perhaps should be about temperament, stupid!

The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus observed that temperament is "a catchall that includes the capacity to lead and inspire; qualities of integrity and discipline; aspects of personality that range from steadiness to charm."

One past (foreign) president who seems to fit the bill is Nelson Mandela.

Mandela knew his task as the first democratically elected president of South Africa was to unite a divided country and to not show bitterness. His temperament, in large part, made it possible.

Richard Stengel, who helped Nelson Mandela with his autobiography, "The Long Walk to Freedom," wrote in his own book, "Mandela's Way: Lessons on Life, Love and Courage" that "We think of temperament as something we are born with. As a young man, he was hot-headed and easily roused to anger. The man who emerged from prison was the opposite and impossible to rile." When the time came to lead South Africa, Mandela had grown the presidential temperament which made it possible to bring about what many thought was a political impossibility — a multiracial, democratic South Africa.

Stengel notes some of the traits that made up Mandela's temperament (using them as chapter titles): "Be measured"; "Look the part"; "Have a Core Principle"; "See the Good in Others", "Know Your Enemy"; "Keep Your Rivals Close"; "Know When to Say No"; and "It's a Long Game."

Thus, as he became the leader of South African, Mandela talked about the kindness of his jailers. He visited the prosecutor who put him in jail, to assure him that he was forgiven for only doing his job and that it was time to move on and build a new South Africa. He had teas with the widow of former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the father of apartheid. As president, he put his rivals in his Cabinet.

Mandela's overwhelming presence made an immediate and long-term impact on all he encountered. It did not happen by accident. True, he was born to be tall, but he worked at being slim, having good posture and being physical fit. Without fail, he was so disciplined that every day in jail he ran in place for 45 minutes, did 200 sit-ups and an equal number of push-ups. His presence was such that, when in jail on Robben Island and about to be struck, he calmly said to the warden, "You dare touch me, I will take you to the highest court in the land and by the time I'm finished with you, you will be as poor as a church mouse." He was not struck; he became a de facto leader of the prisoners and for the prison itself.

Then there is Mandela's focus on the Rugby World Cup in 1995. Disregarding the pleas of his advisers to meet international and domestic dignitaries and spend time on traditional presidential concerns, Madiba quietly saw an opportunity to perhaps unite South Africa behind the Springboks, the nation's ruby team. It seemed an impossible task because "The Boks" were historically the symbol of apartheid and detested for that reason by the majority of the population. Yet, as he entered the stadium for the finals match wearing a Bok cap and jersey, Mandela was greeted with cheers of "Nelson, Nelson" from victims and supporters of apartheid alike. South Africa emerged victorious. John Carlin, whose book inspired the movie "Invictus," correctly observed: "The rugby game was the organic conclusion of the most unlikely exercise in political seduction ever undertaken."

Lastly, perhaps there should there be a fourth criterion to add to Marcus's presidential characteristics: spending 27 years in jail, as Mandela did. When asked what he learned from his time in prison, Mandela said: "I matured."

No, Trump and the 2016 candidates need not do prison time, but they can learn from Mandela's example.

Bloomfield is president and CEO of the American Council for Capital Formation. He is the "U.S. ambassador" for the Mandela Marathon in South Africa and "ambassador-at-large" for the Comrades Ultra Marathon, a legendary sporting event in South Africa where Mandela previously presented prizes and addressed participants.