Browse Day

July 20, 2016

What It’s Like to Meet Ted Cruz

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In case you didn’t hear, Donald Trump invited Ted Cruz to speak at the RNC in prime time with no expectation that Cruz would keep his word by endorsing Mr. Trump. Senator Cruz immediately accepted the prime time speaking spot.

In case you didn’t hear, Donald Trump waived his right to review Senator Cruz’s speech in advance, the first time that’s happened in our lifetimes according to Tucker Carlson. Mr. Trump respects Senator Cruz enough to let the senator say whatever he wants.

How Senator Cruz handled the kindness shown him reminds me of the time I met Ted Cruz, one one one.

I met Ted Cruz in September 2015. We both came off the stage of an event at the same time. I stopped and said, “Senator Cruz, I’m Bill Hennessy. As a founder of the tea party movement, I want to thank you for fighting for our freedom.”

I don’t know what I expected of him. I’ve met presidents. I’ve met senators. I’ve met supreme court justices (before they were supreme court justices). I’ve met many members of Congress and lots of state legislators. I’ve met admirals and generals. Some of them were glib, some were sincere, but all were friendly. Especially the admirals and generals. All made me feel like they were happier to meet me than I was to meet them. 

Here’s what happened as I introduced myself to Ted Cruz.

First, as I spoke, Senator Cruz stretched his neck and took a deep breath without saying a word. He watched me with his chin up.

Then, I noticed that my right hand was hanging between us. He made no attempt to accept the handshake I was offering.

Next, Senator Cruz dropped his gaze slowly down my body to my feet, then slowly back up to my eyes. I felt like I was back in Navy boot camp in PR inspection. Then Senator Cruz slowly waved his right hand between us, right to left, signaling that my time was up, move on.

I’m lucky that I don’t need a senator’s approval to feel good about myself. Twenty years ago, Senator Cruz’s cold dismissal might have crushed me. Not this time. I was actually amused.

For weeks I mulled the incident in my mind. I told very few people about it, and I didn’t blog about it. I was not afraid that my story would affect the primaries. But it was a private moment, and I meant what I told him. I am truly grateful for his work in the Senate, even if his strategies usually fail.

But over time I came to understand what Senator Cruz told me about himself that night. He told me he’s a small man.

I know enough about body language to know why Senator Cruz straightened and puffed his chest. Males of all mammal species stretch and inhale to appear larger. It’s a dominance move. I am three or four inches taller than Senator Cruz. Maybe he was trying to match my height.

Before you read too much into that, most men do this subconsciously in situations where they perceive a threat to their status or safety. Some men feel threatened more easily than others. I have no idea what I did or said to trigger Senator Cruz’s dominance stature. Maybe I sounded more threatening than I meant to. Maybe I startled him. Maybe Cruz practices looking tough in a mirror. I don’t know. But I do know that most senators, most politicians, don’t react this way to my presence. They use very subtle signs of dominance, like putting their hand on my elbow or standing too close, but that usually comes after a few pleasantries to break the ice.

Senator Cruz didn’t want the ice broken. He made no attempt to win me over. Cool, I guess. Some politicians seem glib because they need to be liked. Senator Cruz has no desire to be liked.

My experience may explain why Senator Cruz failed to click with evangelicals and many other conservatives he expected to dominate. Ted Cruz is cold. He lacks warmth. And studies show that people judge warmth even more critically than competence.

If you are a regular reader, you know that between September 2015 and February 2016, my feelings about Donald Trump turned. My feelings about Ted Cruz turned, too. Maybe my growing dislike of Senator Cruz resulted from my experience with him. Probably his rudeness affected me. His dismissive rudeness motivated me to look very critically at the Senator. And the more I looked, the less I liked.

As you know, I analyzed Senator Cruz’s campaign strategy. My analysis showed that Cruz’s strategy was flawed from the start. The details are in my book, so I won’t waste words here. But by January I knew that Cruz was unlikely to win the nomination and had almost no chance of winning a general election. There just aren’t enough true believers, and Senator Cruz lacks the warmth to win over casual voters. I question whether he even wants to win over others.

So why am I writing this now?

Because tonight Ted Cruz tried to emulate Ronald Reagan of 1976. Like most of the senator’s political strategies, this one failed. And it failed because his ego got in the way as it always does.

Instead of Reagan ’76, Ted Cruz became Ted Kennedy ’80. 

They say the measure of a man is how he treats people who can’t do a thing for him. I can’t do a thing for Ted Cruz, and he let me know it.

Tonight, Donald Trump gave Ted Cruz free reign of the RNC stage to say whatever he wanted, and Ted Cruz rudely dismissed Mr. Trump, just as Cruz rudely dismissed Bill Hennessy last September.

Now I ask: who’s the egomaniac?

You Can’t Trump Forgiveness

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You might think big embarrassing mistakes will get you fired, but they don’t. As long as you keep making different kinds of mistakes and your managers know what they’re doing (big “if”), you’ll be fine. Just don’t make the same kind of mistake over and over again. And it helps to work for a guy like Tom Watson or Donald Trump.

While the dollar amount has changed over time, the other details are pretty consistent. Great companies, like IBM in its heyday or the Trump Organization all along, forgive mistakes. Bad organizations put the fear of God into everyone so nobody takes risks. Companies that don’t tolerate risk die.

Here’s the story of IBM as told by an IBM executive.

When IBM had hired me right out of college in 1974, the HR manager told me an anecdote about Tom Watson Jr.  According to it, Tom Watson had called a VP to his office to discuss a failed development project that lost IBM in the range of $10 million. Expecting to be fired, the VP presented his letter of resignation. Tom Watson Jr. just shook his head: “You are certainly not leaving after we just gave you a $10 million education.”

Many people don’t know it yet, but Donald Trump forgives mistakes, too, as long as the same person doesn’t make the same mistake again and again. We just learned this involving Melania’s RNC speech. Via Yahoo News:

A speechwriter for Donald Trump’s company said Wednesday she made a mistake and apologized for using passages from a 2008 Michelle Obama speech in Melania Trump’s speech to the GOP convention Monday night.

Meredith McIver said she offered to resign but Donald Trump refused to accept her resignation.

Ms. McIver learned a huge lesson. She learned two, actually. One, don’t plagiarize, and two, forgive others mistakes.

This makes no sense, does it? Donald Trump is the guy from TV who can’t wait to say “you’re fired!” Or maybe television is not reality, even if it’s called “reality TV.” What if Donald J. Trump really is the warm, considerate, affectionate, hard-working builder his kids and his employees say he is? What if these truths about Trump really are stranger than that fiction?

Yesterday I pointed out Donald Trump’s willingness raise his hand when the social norm says keep your hands down. This behavior demonstrates Trump’s maturity and his advanced decision-making skills. Today we learned yet another Trump quality that’s been kept in the dark.

The more we learn about the true Trump, the more we see Trump the leader.

We know from many stories, most recently Donald Trump Jr.’s amazing convention speech, that Trump hires and promotes people for their potential and hard work, not their college degrees. Trump gives people the chance to grow, to become “the best version of myself” according to his daughter Tiffany. Hiring and promoting the Trump way only works if you’re willing to forgive mistakes, teach, coach, and trust.

As you know, forgiveness, teaching, coaching, and trusting are vital qualities of a leader. As everyone knows.

You can go on believing the TV Trump or you can choose to believe the real Trump, the forgiving, teaching, trusting coach Trump. Which version makes America great? Assuming you want to live in a great country, that is.

Email this post to a friend if you want to make America great again.

P.S. What should get you fired is falsely accusing people of plagiarism just because Melania’s speech primed people to believe such lies. That’s what Erick Erickson and a bunch of leftists have done since last night. They’ve accused Donald Trump Jr. of plagiarizing his own speechwriter. The speechwriter shot down their patently false accusations, and Erickson later modified his accusation. But the damage was done. It’s a shame, isn’t it, that Erickson’s identity claim leads him to such anti-social bad behavior? No principles.

Being the Oddball Sucks

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Could you stand by a “wrong” answer?

Let’s pretend you’re in a room with 10 people about your age and background. You’ve been talking for a while, and you’ve gotten to know the others. Then the task begins. It’s straightforward.

On a large TV, you see a line drawing of a face. The instructor calls out people by name and asks if the face is a happy face, a sad face, or neutral face.

The first image looks like this:

happiness

The instructor calls on a very attractive woman you’d been talking to most of the night, Amy. Amy doesn’t hesitate. “Sad,” she says.

Your opinion of Angela drops. A lot.

Then the instructor calls on Dave who you knew from your kids’ baseball team even before tonight. “He looks sad to me,” Dave says.

Wow. These two should get together, you think. And not have kids.

Next, is Barry, a business school marketing professor. “Yeah, that’s sad,” Barry says. You make a note not to send your kids to his crappy school.

Then, she calls on a woman sitting behind you. You don’t know her, but she looks like an elementary school teacher from the 1950s. You put all your faith into this woman to get it right.

“Oh, sad, yes,” she says.

You realize that you are likely the only person in the room who interprets the image as a happy. You wonder if, maybe, they’re seeing something you’re not? Were they primed with an even happier face that you didn’t see, one that makes this one sad by comparison?

Now the instructor calls your name. You notice every eye in the room trained on you as if you were the approaching bus they’ve been waiting for.

Do you say, “that’s the happiest damn face I’ve ever seen, and you people are all nuts,” insulting all the other people, or do you go along with your idiot mates and agree that the face is sad?

Standing Alone Hurts

In the scenario above, your classmates were confederates of the instructor. They were actors playing people who thought that image represented sadness. The goal of the test was to see how you would respond when it came to your turn.

Most people have no idea how difficult it is to be the only person who disagrees. In psychological studies, intelligent students who know better will agree to the wrong answer if four other students before them gave the wrong answer first. “It appears that when we are unsure of how to perform a task or how to behave, we may take comfort in agreeing with a large number of other people (Lumbert, Samantha P., 2005).”We’d rather be wrong than be seen as wrong. And fMRI studies of the brain show that the pain of being the outcast is similar to severe physical pain. It’s why we give in to peer pressure.

Trump Stands Alone

At the first Republican debate in August, all the players were real. There were no confederates.

Bret Baier of Fox News asked the 15 candidates to raise their hands if they would NOT promise to support the Republican candidate for President. If you are trying to win over Republicans, there is only one right answer: you keep your hands at your sides.

On August 6, 2015, 14 candidates had a knee-jerk reaction to a softball question: raise your hand if you might not support the eventual Republican nominee. Each of those men (and they were all men that night) did quick math. They all believed they would win and if they didn’t, someone like them would win. Because that’s what we always think–if not me, someone like me. So they kept their hands down.

One man thought different. That man realized he might not win and the person who does win might be very different from him. Too different. In fact, being a strategic thinker, this man realized that if he did not win, the winner was likely to be very different from him. And despite the pain of being the outcast, Donald Trump raised his hand. Alone.

Later, after he had time to thnk about it, Trump signed the pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee, so help him, God. So did all the others. But Trump was the only one who took the time to contemplate the commitment. He didn’t make a rash, impulsive decision, did he? He made his decision like a man who’s made a lot of big decisions. And like a leader who’s comfortable with being seen as wrong. And he suffered the pain of being the outcast for weeks.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Mr. Trump contemplated his commitment. Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Jeb! Bush, and Marco Rubio impulsively signed the pledge without considering the consequences, and now they wish they hadn’t. Now they’d all like to be like Trump.

Leaders Must Stand Alone

When it comes to being presidential, the sin Cruz, Kasich, Bush, and Rubio committed was not the sin of breaking their word to the Republican Party, it was the sin of rushing into a commitment without thinking about the consequences. (For the lawyers among them, that sin was mortal.) It was the sin of avoiding immediate discomfort. Each of those four men later chose to break his word, which is also painful, but less painful than breaking his identity claim.

That sin of Cruz, Kasich, Bush, and Rubio is in the past. It can’t be undone. Endorsing Mr. Trump now will not erase the rash the fact that they made rash decisions in August.

When is comes to executive skills, Trump beat them all. Hands down.

P.S. In a related psychological study, researchers tested groups in several age groups. They found that older adults were more likely to answer accurately even if doing so violated the norms of their group (Lumbert, 2005). Maybe Donald Trump was the only candidate old enough to give the right answer instead of the easy answer. In other words, the others might become better leaders and better decision makers over time. See this for more on these fascinating studies.

Source: Lumbert, Samantha P., 2005, Conformity and Group Mentality: Why We Comply, Rochester Institute of Technology