If there’s one thing clear about incoming president-elect Donald Trump, it’s that he is entirely devoid of a sense of humor. Unable to take a joke or the pettiest of jabs without responding in a furious and disparaging tweetstorm, one only has to look at his public feuds with Saturday Night Live, or with the Late Show’s David Letterman, or comedian Jerry Seinfeld, or the singer Cher, or Rose O’Donnell, or Martha Stewart…the list goes on and on.
To be the leader of the United States of America requires a certain thickness of skin; a need to rise above slights real and perceived in order to put the good of the country before your own ego. President Obama was cruelly subjected to years of ridicule and abuse from Republicans across the nation, who slandered him for his race, accusing him of being a “secret Muslim, and a “socialist.” He’s also had to put up with such insults from world leaders as well, like the time that the Phillippines’ new president, the murderous madman Rodrigo Duterte, called him a “son of a whore” who could “go to hell.”
But our President has weathered such a relentless barrage of disrespect and insults with a smile; he never lashed out in anger or sought to punish his rude detractors because he knows there is far more at stake than the coddling of his personal ego. Obama is such a good sport that we’ve seen him on multiple comedy shows where they don’t shy away from some jabs, like the awkward sketch show Between Two Ferns, where he was asked what it felt like to be the “last black president.”
World-famous Steven King took to Twitter to comment on that stark contrast – with a very insightful take on its significance.
One remarkable difference between Obama and Trump: the latter seems to have absolutely no sense of humor. The clearest sign of a dull mind.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) December 28, 2016
A very poignant take. Other indicators of the sharpness or dullness of one’s mind are expressed through their behaviors, their talents, the projects and passions which they devote time and energy to. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Good-humored President Obama is the epitome of a modern Renaissance man. A doting father and husband, he is an avid music lover, he releases a playlist of his favorite songs every so often; invites music acts of all genres and speeds to play for him and his family; invites famous cultural artists to join him for round tables about the direction the country needs to go in; he held a music festival on the White House lawn; and he is even an accomplished singer himself. President Obama is the only president who has a published scientific paper, he has written several books, one of which he won a Grammy for; and used his office to found a scientific development agency that has just made a breakthrough in micro-grid energy storage technology. He plays basketball and golf to stay active, and his favorite artist is Pablo Picasso.
Ill-humored Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a caricature of the spoiled billionaire who sees value only in the material, devoid of any appreciation for aesthetic or cultural values. His only obsession is himself, and by extension his fame and his bank account, which he draws his self-worth from. He spends his time on reality shows that glorify himself; he wastes his money in ventures that take what he believes are luxury items (vodka, steaks, wine, etc), slap his name on them, and turns them into cheap and poorly produced mockeries of what should be fine and nuanced delicacies. His products are a perfect microcosm of himself — overpriced and devoid of redeemable qualities.
Trump cannot even enjoy the fruits of his own success; he eats his steaks well done and entirely hammered; he cheats at golf like a goddamn scrub. He idly discards a succession of beautiful wives, whom he clearly only married for their physical appearance in between casual sexual assaults and sexual favors that he coerced out of the women around him. He and his vapid, useless sons see women as sexual objects to use and discard at their own leisure. He is a phillistine of the lowest order, and he perfectly fits the description of the Russian oligarchs that he loves so much, as illustrated by former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev: “I think material wealth for them is a highly emotional and spiritual thing. They spend a lot of money on their own personal consumption…They don’t read books. They don’t go to [art] exhibitions. They think the only way to impress anyone is to buy a yacht. Cultural ignoramuses.”
What does all of this have to do with a sense of humor? A sense of humor, appreciation of a good joke, knowing when to let the stupid ones go, and the ability to tell the difference is a very basic part of human socialization and the ability to interact with others. Donald Trump’s inability to do so is a central part of his character, and everything he’s ever done is an indication that he possesses the dullest of minds, a feeble flesh so consumed with superficiality and the selfishness of ego, so obsessed with the perceptions of others and protecting the fragile shell of his self-worth that he is incapable of appreciating the wonders and the miracles that five thousand years of human civilization have to offer to him. This leaves him devoid of leadership qualities. More significantly, since he has a fundamental lack of appreciation for what our country is and what it can produce and what people have to offer, how can he be trusted to guide this nation into the future?
No wonder he can’t take a joke.
The difference between Obama and Trump couldn’t be clearer. My heart is heavy as we bid goodbye to one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever produced and welcomes the absolute worst.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.