Our nation is facing unprecedented challenges. We hear of cancer-causing windmills. Sharpie-altered hurricane maps. I mean, what does one even WEAR to a civil war?
But the thing I worry most about is our children. They are listening.
And over the past few months, they’ve heard a lot, including details of a phone call our president made in July in which he asked the new president of a foreign nation to investigate one of his presidential rivals.
“It was perfect,” our president said later. “It was a perfect call.”
Mr. President, I have a phone. I speak on my phone. I use it to call friends of mine. Mr. President, that was no perfect call.
Which is why, after considering all the directions I could take this column, I am choosing to speak with you today about phone etiquette.
The fact is, I don’t think children learn phone manners like they used to. I get it. Families no longer have four, five (in my case, 10) people sharing a single landline. The average child today has a smart phone for texting by age 10.
But way back when, students learned phone manners, which we practiced in simulated conversations on old unconnected phones at school.
That’s where we learned simple tips for things like engaging the other party in conversation and avoiding inappropriate attempts at extortion.
To see what I mean, consider this quote from the Ukrainian call summary.
Ukrainian President: “We are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”
U.S. President: “I would like you to do us a favor though.”
Now, from an election-meddling perspective, that’s NOT perfect. Just think how much less trouble our president would be in today had he responded using proper phone manners:
Ukraine President: “We are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”
U.S. President: “How thoughtful of you to think of us!”
Had the Ukrainian president persisted, the U.S. president could have simply redirected the conversation with a provocative question, such as:
What do you think of buffets?
What is a fashion trend you are really glad went away?
What would you want your last meal to be if you were on death row?
On second thought, maybe scratch that last question.
My point is, it’s important to think before you speak to a foreign leader. Just like when a teen is calling to ask someone on a date, it’s smart to take a minute to compose your thoughts before dialing. That includes creating an out for yourself if the call isn’t going in a way that is constitutionally acceptable. For example:
U.S. President: “Melania is calling me to dinner, so I have to go. But it was very nice speaking with you.
See? That works.