Donald Trump Doesn't Have What It Takes to Be President

Donald Trump
May 22, 2024 Topic: Politics Region: Americas Blog Brand: Politics Tags: U.S. PoliticsPoliticsDonald TrumpJoe Biden2024 Election

Donald Trump Doesn't Have What It Takes to Be President

Former President Donald Trump lacks the qualities necessary for the office of President. Americans cannot risk a second term with him in the Oval Office.


We need our presidents to be both decisive and thoughtful. As Memorial Day approaches, I’ve been thinking more and more about the necessary qualities for a great President

For more than 150 years, Memorial Day has been a time to honor those who gave their lives in service to our Nation. On May 30, 1868, in a speech at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the first Memorial Day, then-congressman and future President James Garfield described this ultimate sacrifice: “We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”  Contrast this quote by Garfield with that of soon-to-be President Donald Trump, who in  2015, described then-Senator John McCain’s sacrifice of 6 years as a prisoner of war after being shot down over Vietnam: “He was a war hero because he was captured.  I like people who weren’t captured.” 


My 34-year career as an officer in the US Public Health Service provided opportunities for me to serve in leadership positions and work with many effective leaders. From my experiences, there are certain qualities that are important in any leader but are critical in a President of the United States: empathy, integrity, respect, and accountability. 

Empathy is the capacity of understanding, being aware of, and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others.  Presidents, especially as Commander in Chief, must make tough decisions that often have vast consequences.  Empathy is a powerful tool that allows the President to be more effective by better understanding the impact his decisions have on others and by being able to show caring. The saying attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” is still true today and invaluable to remember during times of crisis.  Unfortunately, empathy often seemed lacking in former President Trump’s decisions and actions. For example, Trump’s action of encouraging the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without having any replacement legislation would have left millions of Americans without health insurance and left many others with chronic conditions uninsurable.  Also, during the Covid pandemic, when Americans were fearful for their lives and looking for leadership, Trump did little to comfort those fears beyond ingesting bleach!.   

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.  The gold standard for American presidents is Abraham Lincoln.  Donald Trump is not an “honest Abe.”  Over the four-year period he was in office, the Washington Post Fact Checker counted 30,573 false or misleading claims.  The worst falsehood was Trump’s big lie of a stolen election, which ultimately led to the events of January 6, 2021.  Considering all the charges and judgements facing former President Trump, it is difficult to describe his behaviors as showing integrity. Because integrity is strongly linked to trust, being a leader of the military and the nation suffers once trust is lost.  

Respect is showing or feeling admiration for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities.   From his comments concerning the military, Trump clearly does not understand or respect the sacrifices of service members.   On the other hand, it is especially important to recognize who and what Trump does respect. He has high admiration for authoritarians such as Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban, and has claimed that upon his reelection he will be a dictator.  This misplaced admiration with autocracy coupled with inadequate respect for our Constitution and the rule of law is a threat to the future of our democracy and is disrespectful to those who sacrificed their lives defending our Constitution. 

Accountability is taking responsibility for both the successes and failures of your organization. Harry Truman’s view that the President was responsible for his administration actions was signified by his “The Buck Stops Here” sign on his desk.  On the eve of D-Day in WWII, General Eisenhower wrote a letter in case the invasion failed.  That letter concluded: “The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do.  If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”   Both President Truman and General Eisenhower understood that an organization’s leader is accountable for both its successes and failures. Former President Trump touted the successes of his Presidency but had difficulty accepting the responsibility for its failures, most notably by his inability to accept his loss in the 2020 Presidential election. 

Memorial Day reminds us that our country has a long, powerful history of service and sacrifice from those who have defended it and its principles. Current events also remind us that the world is still a dangerous place. Empathetic, honest, respectful, and accountable leadership is critical to overcome those dangers, to effectively honor those who have sacrificed, and to lead those who serve. 

Former President Trump lacks the qualities necessary for the office of President. Americans simply cannot risk a second term with him.

About the Author: 

Rear Admiral Mitchell Cohen served as an Assistant Surgeon General with the United States Public Health Service

Image Credit: Shutterstock.