Trump Pulled the Sword from the Stone: Deal with It

By | September 21, 2020 | 2 Comments

Remember the story of how King Arthur came to be king? The young Arthur thought he was the son of Sir Ector and the younger brother of Sir Kay. Kay was to participate in a tournament, but Arthur forgot to bring Kay’s sword. In his haste to obtain a sword, Arthur saw the sword in the stone and drew it out.

The sword was Excalibur, which had been thrust into the stone by the late King Uther. Many had tried to pull the sword out of the stone to show themselves worthy of becoming king. But they had all failed, while Arthur succeeded.

It turned out that Arthur was the illegitimate son of King Uther. In those days, it was believed that “blood” entitled some people to rule others. Now we believe that we should select our leaders. Still, “the sword in the stone” remains as a metaphor for proving oneself worthy of leadership. And the point of the story is that the one who pulls the sword from the stone may not be the one we expect, or the one who at first glance appears to be the best qualified to be our leader.

In 2016 there were 17 presidential hopefuls on the Republican debate stage. There were current and former governors and members of Congress. One was Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, the son and brother of presidents, and the recipient of a huge campaign fund. Others included Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who had the twin advantages of being senators and Latinos. But who knocked them all out of the race, as if he were a bowling ball and they were tenpins? Donald J. Trump.

Trump then had to face Hillary Clinton, after she had defeated Bernie Sanders ‒ with underhanded help from the Democratic National Committee. Hillary had spent eight years as First Lady, ten years as senator, and four years as secretary of state. Trump, on the other hand, had spent his career in real-estate development. But who won the election? Donald J. Trump.

Clearly, Trump was not the one most people expected to win. He did not appear to be the one best qualified by experience, or by personal qualities. Many found his demeanor to be rude, his speech to be loud, and his behavior to be ill-mannered. Like Arthur, some people considered him to be an uncouth bastard. Nevertheless, like Arthur, where others had failed, Trump pulled out the sword ‒ and appeared to do so with ease.

But the comparison goes further. In John Boorman’s superb film “Excalibur,” a knight complains that Arthur is unqualified to be king because he is not even a knight. Unexpectedly, Arthur agrees, kneels down, and asks the complainer to dub him knight.

We do not have knighthood in America. But we can agree that Trump is surrounding himself with cabinet members and other advisors who are eminently qualified. This is especially true in the areas of military affairs and national security, where Trump has little experience. In effect, like Arthur, Trump is saying, “You have what I lack ‒ give it to me.”

The recognition of what he lacks is the action of a wise man. In contrast, a narcissist like Barack Obama assumes that he is the smartest person in the room. Surrounding himself with strong advisors is the action of a secure man. In contrast, a person like Obama wants to appear strong by comparison and surrounds himself with second-raters.

For example, take Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, former CIA director. Compare him with Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, whose “reset” with Russia made things worse, and who proclaimed that our military effort in Syria would be an “…unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” Now there is a threat to strike fear into the hearts of tyrants. The only risk to potential enemies is that they would injure themselves falling off their chairs while laughing uncontrollably.

Trump chose a strong, experienced negotiator to help him deal with foreign nations. Obama chose a weak, silly fellow because Obama intended to be his own secretary of state. The results we saw before us ‒ disheartened friends, emboldened enemies.

When Trump’s ancestry is mentioned, people invariably refer to his paternal grandparents, who emigrated from Bavaria. For some reason, few mention Trump’s mother, whose family name was MacLeod, and who was born on the Scottish Isle of Lewis. Many natives of the Isle of Lewis speak Scots Gaelic as their first language. That is, on his mother’s side, Trump resembles Arthur in his Celtic heritage. Come to think of it, Trump ‒ like the idealized Arthur ‒ has red hair as well as a long, straight nose, and in addition affects a stern expression.