The performance really has to be watched to be believed. China, North Korea, Britain and trade policy found their way into the talk. One word seemed to spark a thought and off he would go chasing it, like a dog catching the scent of a truffle and wandering off into a forest in search of it. Other famous moments of presidential free association, like President Reagan’s much derided concluding statements in the first 1984 debate, are Shakespearean in comparison.
Like it or not, words matter when you are president. They are a president’s strongest weapon. With them, he or she can move nations and shift debates. Words can inspire trust between hostile leaders, such as the trust between Reagan and his Soviet adversary Mikhail Gorbachev. With words, a president can move mountains and change the world.
If words fail, a president is left with two weapons to achieve his goals: will and force. The Constitution constrains the president’s ability to achieve much with either of these tools, as the men who wrote it were well aware that these twin brothers are forever the weapons of potential tyrants even if patriots can use them to great effect in times of crisis. For every Lincoln, history shows us a hundred would-be Caesars who use will and force to exalt themselves at the expense of their people.