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Ask Larry O'C: What to Say When Friends 'Just Can't Stand Trump'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Before I get to this week's question, I want to touch a little bit on last night's coronavirus precautions and reactions.

Restricting travel from Europe makes perfect sense and is a wise and logical decision made by President Trump last night. The two hottest spots on the globe right now for the rapid spread of covid-19 are China and Italy.

The president already restricted travel from the former (under whithering and gratuitous accusations of "racism" and "xenophobia") and the only way to restrict travel from the latter is to include the entire European Union. Any Italian can travel freely and without any passport check across every European border because of the EU agreement, so it would be impossible to restrict travel from Italy on its own.

This is why Great Britain was exempted from the travel restrictions because of their Brexit actions. They can put serious precautions on accepting Italian travelers since they are not beholden to the EU, open border provisions.

The NBA's stunning announcement of the suspension of its season is probably more a precaution for its athletes than out of concern for the fans attending these games. It has two players who have now tested positive for the virus, and because of the way basketball is played at the professional level, it is literally impossible not to get other players' sweat, saliva and even blood exchanged through direct, physical contact.

The NBA makes a ton of money from its television contracts so it could easily play its games to an empty arena, thus mitigating any health concerns for the fan base. Instead, the suspension makes sense from the perspective that the players' health must be protected and since some players have tested positive. 

Now, on to this week's question:

"Dear Larry OC:  I have three friends who voted for Trump but say they will not vote for him this time because they "can't stand him." When I say that, what should be important is not what Trump says but what he has done for the country (and name them). Does not make any difference at all. The general response is again how they can't stand the man.  HELP!" - Townhall VIP member "Richard"

Dear Richard, 

This is a common criticism of President Trump. He is unlike any president we have seen in the past sixty years. I specifically say "sixty years" because Lyndon Johnson was a real treat. But, more on LBJ in a bit.

My first response to someone who says, "I can't vote for Trump, I just don't like him" is to ask them why liking the president is even important to them. I mean, why do they diminish the important task of choosing the head of the executive branch of our government to a popularity contest? How, exactly, does the personal appeal of the president affect your life or the lives of your children? Seriously, it's a pretty shallow criterion to utilize when casting such an important vote.

I have no doubt that in 1976, Jimmy Carter came across as a much nicer and "likable" guy than President Gerald Ford. What kind of president was he? When dealing with our international adversaries like Iran or China, you want a nice guy that you like in charge? Is that your priority? How did likable, nice guy Carter do with Iran or the Soviet Union for that matter?

Ask your friends what their most important policy issues are.

  • Abortion? Would you rather like the president who nominates three more Ruth Bader Ginsburgs or not like a president who nominates Gorsuch and Kavanaugh?
  • National Security? Would you rather like a president who lets ISIS run rampant across the Middle East or not like a president who wipes them out?
  • The Economy? Would you rather like a president who raises your taxes and screws your 401K or not like a president who lowers taxes and enrichens your retirement?

You get the picture.

And, let's be clear, President Trump is an incredibly unique personality. He is what he is. What you see is what you get. He is not a born politician who puts up a facade for the public and then behaves very differently behind closed doors. Should he be faulted because he's not a phony?

Hillary Clinton worked her tail off to seem likable and nice during her campaign, but the stories of her temper tantrums and monstrous behavior to staffers, secret service agents and family members behind the scenes (when the cameras are off) are legendary. Should Trump be penalized because he lets you see who he is, warts and all?

Which brings us to LBJ. Trump can be crass, he can be rude, he can be loud and obnoxious... I mean, he's a New Yorker... have you ever met a New Yorker? This is who they are. But nothing Trump does comes close to the kind of obnoxious jerk LBJ was. He would hold cabinet meetings while sitting on the toilet. He would berate subordinates with strings of profanities in front of the press. He'd bully people to give favors to his daughters. Oh.. and he turned the Vietnam War into a bloody quagmire and created the modern social welfare state in America.

Bottom line: If you're making your choice for president based on how likable a person is, you're probably not using your vote in the most serious, deliberative way. Also, I refer you to the alternative, Joe Biden, who really doesn't like you, so why should you like him?

Are you ready for this fight? You're not alone. Not anymore. Email me at and let me know what battles you're engaged in right now. Together, we're going to win this thing.

Larry O'Connor hosts two separate radio programs on WMAL in Washington DC and on KABC in Los Angeles. He has a daily, 30-minute podcast covering U.S. Politics and featuring interviews with newsmakers and pundits on the biggest stories of the day. Subscribe here.


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