If someone shows you who they really are, believe them.
Throughout his life, real estate mogul Donald Trump has given us countless opportunities to take to heart that piece of wisdom, originally imparted by Maya Angelou. He has spent the last 40-plus years in the public eye, developing and crafting his image through actions and words. Along the way, he’s embraced roles as a brash businessman, a playboy and an entertainer, all while offering us a clear window into his psyche.
Trump’s exposure has made him both respected and reviled. By now, you probably know his controversial comments about women or Latinos. Some people love him for them. Others despise him. But however you feel about what Trump has said, written or done, there’s no denying that he’s defined his own character ― and it’s something never before seen on the presidential stage.
Decency, devotion and grace have been big themes at the Democratic National Convention this week, and it’s no secret why. Democrats believe these are winning qualities, which exemplify key differences between Trump and Hillary Clinton ― or pretty much any other person who has endeavored to occupy the highest office in the nation. Whatever you think of Trump’s fitness for the Oval Office, he has not exactly gone out of his way to convince the public that he would be a caring and thoughtful president fully devoted to the momentous task of leading the nation.
To get a better sense of what sets Trump apart from other presidents, we only need to take a look at the person he is seeking to replace. The quotes below don’t say much about where President Barack Obama and Trump differ on specific policies. But they do paint contrasting portraits of two men. One evidently an articulate, intellectually curious leader who has given careful consideration to a variety of topics spanning politics and culture. The other ... well, we’ll just let his words speak for themselves.
Obama on his daughters and beauty:
In an interview with Time earlier this year, Obama gave his thoughts on unfair beauty standards for women, and how he and his wife Michelle deal with that as parents.
“When I was a kid I didn’t realize ... the enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way. And being cute in a certain way,” Obama said. “Are you wearing the right clothes? And is your hair done the right way? And that pressure, I think, is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women. But it’s part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance. And so Michelle and I are always guarding against that. And the fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful.”
Trump on his daughter and beauty:
During a 2006 appearance on “The View,” Trump talked about how hot his daughter is. Then things quickly got weirder.
“I don’t think Ivanka would do that [pose for nude photographs] inside the magazine,” said Trump. “Although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her. Is that terrible?”
Obama on his wife and being a partner:
Speaking with Parade in 2014, Obama reflected on the difficulties couples can face in successfully balancing work and home life.
We were talking earlier about the strains on the family with two parents working and young children at home. I want to be absolutely clear: Michelle bore far greater burdens than I did. But I think she’ll also admit that I really love being a dad.
When men don’t have work, when they don’t feel good about being able to support their families, then often they detach themselves. The children then don’t have a male presence in the home. And the mother, no matter how heroic she is, now is on her own, which puts more strain on her.
So, part of the challenge here is to say to young men, ‘Take responsibility for your children.’ But part of it is also, let’s make sure we’ve got an economy in which they feel as if they’re attached to the workplace, and bringing home a paycheck.
Trump on wives and being a partner:
Here’s Trump’s more cynical take from Trump: The Art of the Comeback.
“Often, I will tell friends whose wives are constantly nagging them about this or that that they’re better off leaving and cutting their losses,” he wrote. “I’m not a great believer in always trying to work things out, because it just doesn’t happen that way. For a man to be successful he needs support at home, just like my father had from my mother, not someone who is always griping and bitching. When a man has to endure a woman who is not supportive and complains constantly about his not being home enough or not being attentive enough, he will not be very successful unless he is able to cut the cord.”
Obama on being black in America:
In 2013, shortly after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Obama delivered candid remarks about the daily racism many black Americans face.
There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me ― at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.
And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws ― everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
Trump on being black in America:
Someone apparently decided it was necessary to include Trump in a 1989 NBC News special on race. This was his contribution.
“A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market,” he said. “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that... I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage today.’’
Here’s a clip, via Mother Jones:
Obama on the arts:
Speaking in Vietnam earlier this year, the president fielded a question from a popular woman rapper who asked him about the role of arts and culture in a nation’s progress.
The arts are important. Artistic expression is important. It’s what I was just saying to the filmmaker about stories that we tell each other. Music, poetry, representations of life as it is and how it should be ― those are the things that inspire people. Life is a combination of very practical things, right? You got to eat, you got to work, you got to build roads and make sure that some dam isn’t ruining a community. But it’s also the spirit that we have inside of us, and how is that expressed, and what are our vision and what are our ideals for the future, and how do we want to live together, and how do we treat each other.
And one of the most important things about art is it teaches you to not just think about yourself, but it puts you in the head of other people. So you start realizing somebody else’s pain, or somebody else’s hopes. And you start realizing that we have more in common. So if I read a novel by somebody in Africa, now, suddenly, I understand more about how we are similar. And if I listen to a Vietnamese rap, and it connects to the things that I’m feeling, now I feel closer to a country on the other side of the world. And that’s how we build understanding. And that’s how we end up being able to work together and plan together and build a better future together.
Read the rest of Obama’s comments here.
Trump on the arts:
It doesn’t seem like Trump has thought quite as much about this topic.
“I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled,” he ― or more likely his ghostwriter ― wrote in the 1987 book, The Art of the Deal.
While it’s not entirely clear if that story is true, Trump voluntarily included the detail in his book. He later told a biographer why this all might still be significant.
“When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same,” said Trump, in the book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success. “The temperament is not that different.”
Obama on the military:
In the midst of his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama, who didn’t serve in the military, delivered these remarks at a Memorial Day event in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I speak to you today with deep humility. My grandfather marched in Patton’s Army, but I cannot know what it is to walk into battle like so many of you. My grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line, but I cannot know what it is for a family to sacrifice like so many of yours have.
I am the father of two young girls, and I cannot imagine what it is to lose a child. My heart breaks for the families who’ve lost a loved one.
These are things I cannot know. But there are also some things I do know.
I know that our sadness today is mixed with pride; that those we’ve lost will be remembered by a grateful nation; and that our presence here today is only possible because your loved ones, America’s patriots, were willing to give their lives to defend our nation.
Read the rest of Obama’s prepared remarks here.
Trump on the military:
Like Obama, Trump never served in the military. But according to Michael D’Antonio’s book The Truth About Trump, he’s repeatedly lied about how he avoided the Vietnam War. Here’s an excerpt:
“I actually got lucky because I had a very high draft number,” [Trump] told a TV interviewer in 2011. “I’ll never forget, that was an amazing period of time in my life.” In fact the lottery was not a factor in his experience. It didn’t occur until fourteen months after he received his medical exemption [for heel spurs], and eighteen months after he’d left Penn.
But Trump also insisted that he had actually known military life. In a separate conversation he said, “I always thought I was in the military.” He said that in prep school he received more military training than most actual soldiers did, and he had been required to live under the command of men such as Ted Dobias who had been real officers and soldiers. “I felt like I was in the military in a true sense,” added Trump, “Because I dealt with the people.”
Obama on books and reading:
In 2005, as a junior U.S. senator from Illinois, Obama addressed the American Library Association Annual Conference to extol the virtues of giving children access to knowledge through literacy.
“At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities as parents, as librarians, as educators, as politicians, and as citizens to instill in our children a love of reading so that we can give them a chance to fulfill their dreams,” he said.
Trump on books and reading:
Trump is reportedly not a very big fan of books. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year, he said he was reading a book written by an enemy of the Clintons, as well as a novel that most people read in middle school.
“I’m reading the Ed Klein book on Hillary Clinton,” he said. “And I’m reading the book on Richard Nixon that was, well, I’ll get you the exact information on it. I’m reading a book that I’ve read before, it’s one of my favorite books, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ which is one of the greatest books of all time.”
Obama on climate change:
In 2014, Obama delivered a commencement address at the University of California, Irvine, in which he tore into the disturbing nature of the outright denial climate change skeptics often employ.
“Part of what’s unique about climate change, though, is the nature of some of the opposition to action,” he said. “It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist. When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.”
Trump on climate change:
Obama might as well have been talking about Trump. Though perhaps that’s a generous interpretation of the GOP presidential nominee’s stance on the issue.
“[W]e’ve had times where the weather wasn’t working out, so they changed it to extreme weather, and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill. But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we’re doing to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists,” Trump said during a radio interview last year. “I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer ... unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.”
Obama on political correctness:
Speaking at a town hall in 2015, the president weighed in on the issue of liberal political correctness and censorship, particularly regarding its ability to squelch free speech and expression on college campuses.
It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either.
I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn either.
Trump on political correctness:
Trump doesn’t like political correctness because it is bad.
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness,” he said during a GOP presidential debate last year. “And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.”
Trump on handshakes:
Oh boy, does Trump hate shaking people’s hands.
“One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get,” he wrote in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback. “I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.”
Did we mention, he’s not a big fan of the handshake?
“But, you know, I am not a big fan of the handshake. I think it’s barbaric,” he told “Dateline” in 1999. “They have medical reports all the time. Shaking hands, you catch colds, you catch the flu, you catch it, you catch all sorts of things. Who knows what you don’t catch?”
Obama on handshakes:
As far we can tell, the president hasn’t spoken publicly about his opinion on shaking people’s hands, but we know he’s familiar with a few different kinds of greetings.
And we’ll just leave you with this.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.