Since you didn’t ask
Introducing a new column: Advice for public figures desperately in need of help. First up, the GOP front-runner
I’m going to make a confession. I don’t really like you. But you interest me. You interest me as a problem. I know you didn’t ask for advice but that’s OK. This is for free.
People complain that you’re not authentic. But you don’t have to be authentic. You have to be a better actor.
The real authentic you might be some weepy, earnest guy who’s afraid of his dad. We don’t want to hear from him. He’s pitiful. He reminds us too much of our own authentic selves. Forget him. What we want is a guy who can pretend to be real. To pretend you are real, you have to get in touch with something authentic … and then not show it.
Perhaps you are perplexed about why we don’t seem to trust you. We don’t trust leaders who don’t appear to have suffered. We cannot put our lives in their hands. We can’t trust them to hear our cries of pain. A leader must have been wounded for us to trust him.
So you must have a wound if you are to lead. You must show it and it must be an authentic wound.
Being technically “unemployed” because you happen to be running for office is not a wound. Losing a son or failing in business, that would be a wound. But look at your sons, those slightly smaller, more vital replicas! What tragedy has touched you? And have you ever failed in business? If so, we haven’t heard about it.
If you haven’t had any real wounds that we can identify with, then you just have to find some pain in your life and be an artist about it. We’ll see it in your face. We’ll sense gravitas.
Search your memory. Find some real humiliation, a real defeat. It might be trivial but the details aren’t important.
Maybe when you were a little boy you ate too much caviar at the Ritz and threw up on the emir.
We don’t have to know it was caviar. We don’t have to know it was an emir. We’ll relate to the stomachache.
The trick is to connect with the details in the exercise, so that you can bring up the authentic emotion. But then throw away the biographical details and stick to the script.
You’re not sticking to the script. You keep blowing it. You mention the team owners. The Cadillacs. This penchant for throwing in details: Quit it. Just stop at the verb. Just say, “I know some guys who are NASCAR fans.” Just say, “My wife drives an American car made in Detroit.” Just say, “Wanna bet?”
You get me? It’s the details that get you in trouble.
Because here’s what the details really say. They say two things — one, that secretly you care more about showing us you’re rich than you do about winning the presidency, and two, that deep down you really don’t want to be president.
Instinctively, you’re destroying your own chances.
We can see that a mile away. Maybe it’s guilt about surpassing your father. Or maybe guilt about pandering to the right and thus defying your father. I wonder what it says about the Republican establishment that they haven’t seen this a mile away, too. Maybe it says that most Republican establishment powers have similar conflicts with their fathers that they are similarly blind to.
If you think about it deeply it may become clear that you naively want “the job” but not “the role,” or “the position.” There’s a difference. It’s not just a job. It’s a quest.
Also, you should fire the guy who mentioned the Etch A Sketch. Don’t worry about your org chart. Fire him because it’s the kind of thing a real guy does. It would appear to come from the heart, which is an organ some would be surprised you have.
We generally understand that when somebody hugely blows it he deserves to get fired. That’s different from “liking to fire people.” When it’s the right thing to do, you have to do it with gusto! And don’t worry about the guy. In fact, it almost feels good to get fired when you hugely blow it. If you don’t get fired you’re always going to be wondering and tiptoeing around. It’s better to just get fired. Then you can hold your head up and say, Yeah, I got fired for it.
So do that guy a favor. Fire his ass. It’ll help your ratings.
The Etch A Sketch moment is frightening because we fear being erased, cavalierly, by a rich guy. He just has to shake this thing and we’re gone. That’s scary!
Your campaign guy didn’t mean that he wanted to erase all of us. He truly was thinking about the campaign reorg. His mistake was that he used a metaphor to describe a concept. That was a mistake. You should tell your staff: Only use metaphors to reinforce positive emotional statements. Don’t use metaphors to illustrate ideas or concepts. They will backfire. They come up from the unconscious and tell us what you unconsciously want to tell us. Unconsciously, your campaign guy probably does want to erase the whole thing. Who wouldn’t? What a nightmare, like this nightmare where you start walking up an easy hill and it gets harder and harder and harder.
Unconsciously, you don’t really want to be president. Your unconscious will confess for you if you let it. So don’t trust your unconscious. Just use it in a Stanislavski way, to fool us better.
Because you’re not fooling us at all now. You’re not even close.
Santorum connects. You suck at connecting.
Here’s another thing. Guys like you have always meant misery for the rest of us ever since high school. So don’t talk about becoming the CEO of our country. Talking about being the CEO of the country just sounds like you’re going to fire us all.
What is wrong about having a CEO for a president is that we are not employees.
We are citizens.
You can’t fire us.
For a lot of us, being American is all we’ve got. This is our only connection to greatness. It’s a pretty remarkable thing, this citizenship in a country that is also an idea.
This country is an idea. It’s not a profit center.
I knew the minute I witnessed it (at Chevron) that making shareholder value the prime determinant of corporate success was a bad idea. One gets the feeling, if you want to be our CEO, that you’d like to make shareholder value the dominant metric for our country. That would mean we set policy to please our bondholders. And we all know who holds the bonds.
Another thing we like in a guy is if he is a bit of an outsider. You could maybe spin part of your story into being an outsider — that getting rich is your way of overcompensating for your essential outsiderness as a Mormon? And your assimilation — the fact that you have to play down your Mormonism, which is after all such a central part of your identity — becomes a kind of wound, a sacrifice. In assimilation there is always sacrifice. Some essential part is jettisoned and so you always feel a little tragic. You’re always a refugee and we get that.
We get feeling like a refugee. We get poor guys becoming rich to compensate. That we understand.
It would be a stroke of brilliance, in a purely strategic sense, if you could spin your privilege as a kind of outsiderness, as a sad overcompensation. Poor Mitt!
Anyway, it’s been fun, but it’s time to wrap this up now. I feel like I’m really getting to know you. I don’t like you any more for that, but I know you better. Actually, you get more irritating the more I think about you. You’re one of those guys that even if we got drunk together you’d be annoying. And I don’t even drink. Think how annoying that would be. You’d get drunk and start telling me about how you were just a little boy in the lobby of the Ritz and you ate all this caviar and threw up on the emir’s shoes and then …
Anyway, call me weird, but I enjoy being with annoying people I don’t like. That’s one reason I keep going to a psychotherapist. Like you, I’m a problem, and an enigma. You interest me. I interest me.
But like I said it’s time to wrap this up.
What I love about the “epistolary” mode is that I can be all chatty and then say, It’s time to wrap this up.
“Epistolary” is not an earthy word. You were a literature major. You know what it means. You’d probably use it, too.
Don’t use it. Don’t ever say “epistolary.” “Epistolary” is the verbal equivalent of windsurfing.
So here’s my advice: Don’t go windsurfing. Keep the dog off the roof of the car. Mention only one Cadillac at a time.
And don’t be yourself.
Being yourself is terrible advice. But pretending to be yourself, or somebody very much like yourself, just might work.
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