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Are Trump and Christie bullies?

Posted by John Reed on

Donald Trump and Chris Christie have recently been denounced and dismissed as bullies.

I have never met anyone who hated bullies as much as I did. The biggest fight of my life was a four-year battle when I was an Army officer. Against whom? Almost every single one of my military superiors. What was the problem? They were bullies. I refused to be bullied.

To my amazement, I was accused of being a bully myself in the last year or two in some Facebook debates.

No power over the bullied

By my definition, neither I nor Trump nor Christie could possibly be a bully. Why? Because we have no power over those claiming to be bullied.

Here’s a dictionary definition: 1. a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

A bully to me is someone who has lawful or de facto power over you for limited, proper purposes, but who goes beyond that power for various reasons including improperly advancing his own career, it was the way it had always been done, the sick enjoyment of tormenting a subordinate just because he can. 

Examples: When I was in kindergarten, in 1951 when all kids were free range, I walked to school every week day by myself. A bigger older kid started waiting for me every day and bullying me. I don’t remember what he did but physical stuff—shoving and such is my best guess. Bigger older is de facto power. I complained to my mom, and it stopped.

Lawful power that is abused

In the Army, the battalion commander has the power to order me to lead my men to a dangerous spot to set up a communications station. That’s a lot of power, but it’s altogether fitting and proper as a necessary part of the commander’s role of coordinating his companies in an attack or defense or other military mission. That’s not bullying. I was honored to carry out such missions.

However, that same battalion commander, away from a combat mission, invariably hosts parties on weekend nights about once a month or once a quarter. He invites his subordinate battalion officers and their wives or girlfriends. These parties are known throughout the Army, as “command performance” parties.

‘The System’

Probably, the battalion commander did not like having to go to these parties when he was a lieutenant, and he probably does not even want to host them now. But it is expected and your are not a good colonel if you do not do it. I tried going to a couple of them and did not care for them. Plus a college roommate and I had invented what we called “The System.” You can read more about it in the second biggest chapter of my book Succeeding.

Succeeding book

Basically, it was difficult to meet girls as an Army officer being moved around to different bases—eight times in my four years. So we invented The System—which worked spectacularly well. I met my wife of 40 years through The System.

So, when I was a lieutenant, on Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights, I had a date, always, with three different, attractive girls. The colonels would say, “Bring her,” if I had told them what I was going to be doing instead. When hell freaking freezes over. For one, I would be afraid the girl would think that lousy party was my idea of fun and dump me.

You don’t take a beautiful date to a lonely-lieutenants meeting

Another fear was that the other lieutenants in the battalion had not invented The System or anything like it. They were desperate for dates and probably had not had one in months. So I’d better wear astronaut diapers to these parties so I would not have to leave my date alone for a minute. We initially found the girls from beauty pageant pictures in newspapers, later, from college yearbook photos, so when I say attractive, I mean attractive. So I’m going to take one of those girls to one of those officer parties? Yeah, right.


So I declined. But you can’t. The parties are mandatory. Of course, it’s illegal for a colonel to make a weekend social engagement mandatory, but, trust me, these parties are ubiquitous in the Army and they are mandatory. See my web article about military activities that are Officially Voluntary but Unofficially Mandatory (OVUM)

Anyway, the colonels were bullies, maybe reluctant bullies, but they “played the game” to use another well-known phrase in the military, and tried to intimidate me into attending those parties. I said no and continued to say no until they threw me out of the Army years later for “defective attitude.”

Now, that’s a bully!

I would not say that neither Trump nor Christie has ever bullied a person over whom they had battalion-commander-type control. Maybe they did bully such subordinates.

Politicians cannot bully voters—by definition

But they were criticized for bullying in the context of a political campaign. That’s impossible by definition. A politician is a person who goes hat-in-hand to the electorate and begs them to vote for him. He has no power over them. It’s a secret ballot, for Christ’s sake. That would be like the battalion commander never knowing whether I attended the party or not. In that circumstance, the bullying would not have been possible.

Similarly, I have no power over visitors to my Facebook page. And I am a no-BS, politically incorrect guy. I think “bully” is now an accusation hurled at those who refuse to be politically incorrect or to refrain from complying with explicit or implicit demands that the person only say things the “victim” permits just as words like “racist” and “sexist” have become synonyms for disagreeing with Obama or maybe even just being a Republican.

Inarticulate wimps

So why are people accusing Trump and Christie of being bullies in a context in which bullying is impossible? They are inarticulate. And wimps.

Trump and Christie are each extremely self-confident. They also have command presence, which is both required of successful bosses and a by-product of being a boss. They are also guys who refuse generally to engage in BS. Actually, Trump often does, but he can turn that off. Trump also refuses to be politically correct. Christie has not shown that to me, but he is a no-BS guy.

The self-confidence and command presence of each is rare and extraordinary. So is their courage to tell it like it is and Trump’s disdain for political correctness. It intimidates the accusers because they are not used to it—like the college students nowadays who claim they need a “safe place” from words that intimidate them or make them uncomfortable. So I’m guessing the accusers have mistaken self-confidence, command presence, and willingness to speak bluntly and their reaction to it for bullying. Or maybe it’s not a mistake. Maybe it’s just the latest version of political agenda spin. Maybe it’s just a new way of trying to win an argument against anyone who stands up to you. The first dishonest debate tactic in my list of dishonest debate tactics is name calling which I define as calling your debate opponent a subjective, vaguely defined, pejorative name.

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