My dinner with Donald: No bombast, bullying or bluster
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Does Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE have the temperament to be President? What’s he like when the cameras aren’t rolling? A couple of my simple experiences may shed some light on that. 

I first met Donald Trump four years ago, at a dinner for Mitt Romney supporters at the U.S.S. Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The event was held to thank the donors and fundraisers who had been most helpful to the campaign, most of whom were millionaires and billionaires, just as with any gathering of major donors to any major party candidate.


Having spent most of my career in public service, as a Foreign Service Officer, a senior Administration official, and an officer of various non-profit foundations, I was not a major donor; but I had solicited contributions from so many other people, nearly all in modest donations, than most donors were able to give. Thus the dinner on the Intrepid.

We were seated back-to-back with Melania and Donald Trump. It was very crowded, and our chairs were literally touching theirs. With four-years-delayed apologies to the Trumps, we could not help overhearing their dinner conversation, and what we heard shocked us.

Donald Trump was quiet, and was interested in what others at his table had to say. He made no attempt to dominate the dinner conversation, but rather showed an intellectual curiosity; he solicited opinions and information from his dinner companions. In his personal comportment he was kind, and showed great solicitude toward his wife’s comfort. In short, he was a perfectly normal human being, utterly devoid of the bombast, bullying, or bluster that are part of his public persona.

After the dinner he turned to introduce himself, and spoke with us for several minutes about our background and experience. He had nothing to gain from talking to us, but he showed genuine interest. He was kind and thoughtful, a very decent human being. A mensch.

We saw him again on Election Night in Boston. This time we had a couple teenagers with us, and he was especially gracious to them. He spoke with them more than once throughout the night, and inquired about their schooling and their plans for the future.

Near the end of the night, after it was clear we had lost the election, he was leaving the building in a rush, furious at the loss. But he stopped when he saw my kids in a back hallway and stayed to exchange a few words with them, and was again very gracious in spite of his anger at the bad news. 

Two snapshots of Donald Trump, from a complete stranger, set against the backdrop of 3 decades of public life, may be insignificant to someone making a judgment about the temperament of a potential Commander-in-Chief. But we can learn much about a person’s character by how he acts toward people from whom he expects to gain nothing, especially when nobody is watching.

Which is the real Donald Trump?  Is it the mensch I met at dinner, and who, nearly alone among all the grandees on Election Night paid attention to a couple of teenage kids, even when he had just seen his hopes for Romney evaporate?  

Or is it the character we see in public, who makes outrageous statements and boasts?  I believe the best indicator of what he truly is like is to look at his grown children. They are sound, sober, gracious, industrious, serious, and they are clearly close to him and devoted to him.

Trump‘s outrageous public behavior has garnered him billions of dollars’ worth of media coverage. Is it possible that underneath it all, his true character differs widely from that public persona?  It would not be unusual, except the usual pattern is public virtue and private vice. His behavior with strangers, when nobody was watching, suggests that he is doing it the other way around.

Bart Marcois is a former Foreign Service Officer, and was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs in the Bush Administration.


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