Danae Columbus: What can Donald J. Trump learn from Edwin W. Edwards?

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Former Louisiana Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards share a laugh during one of the lighter moments during Wednesday night's panel discussion at Loyola University. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Former Louisiana Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards share a laugh during one of the lighter moments during a March 2014 panel discussion at Loyola University. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus

More than a year ago while addressing the West St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, Louisiana’s colorful, powerful and legendary 50th governor Edwin Washington Edwards said that Donald J. Trump would ultimately “wear himself out.” And so he has.

Trump just can’t seem to help himself. No matter how hard he tries to convince voters that he has the judgment and discipline to lead the world’s greatest democracy, Trump continues to spew bombast rhetoric that is embarrassing Republican leaders and mainstream voters across the nation — many, like Newt Gingrich, who are now having second thoughts about his electability.

While refusing to take direction from even his closest political confidants, Trump has cracked opened the door for Hillary Clinton to widen her lead in the polls. While Trump had been doing a masterful job of identifying his core constituency and speaking directly to their concerns, his campaign is at a crossroads, or some say, the point of no-return.

Trump could learn a few lessons from Louisiana’s four-term governor, who turns 89 this Sunday. The sixth longest-serving governor in post-constitutional U.S. history, Edwards was smart enough, strategic enough, and charming enough to stay in office as governor a record number 5,784 days – which does not include his years in Congress, the Louisiana State Senate, or on the Crowley City Council.

The grandson of sharecroppers, Edwards first planned to be a preacher and brought his strong rhetorical skills, sharp wit and sense of style to the world of politics. He capitalized on his Cajun charisma and the value of quick, clever one-liners to get his points across. Though Edwards knew well how to criticize people when necessary, he also knew that a little honey would go a long way.

Edwards always came to the table understanding exactly what he wanted and what he had to do to accomplish his goals — whether they included passing the state’s first new constitution in 50 years or approving land based and casino gambling. Edwards branded himself as a populist in the tradition of former Governor Huey Long, whom he considered a worthy mentor.

Trump doesn’t take counsel from anyone, though VP hopeful Mike Pence is smoothing the waters this week. Trump didn’t spend years working his way up the political ladder and, by doing so, learning how to listen — not talk. He is not a master of the art of political compromise where both sides get something but not everything they want. Trump wants to win every negotiation outright. He doesn’t personally exhibit compassion or humility too often or show others dignity and respect. Like Edwards, controversy swirls around him.

What might Edwards tell Trump if they ever spoke? He would tell Trump that it is never too late to make a comeback. That he should create a smoke screen around his faux pas and focus attention on Hillary’s obvious weaknesses. That he should temper down his unorthodox comments by thinking more about the potential consequences of his words before he utters them. Finally, Edwards would tell him to “be nice or leave” just like the folk artist Dr. Bob tells his customers every day.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters must be thrilled with this turn of events. All she has the do the next 90 plus days is not make any mistakes while Trump continues to self-destruct. Surely Trump will stop drinking his own Kool Aid and get back on track with some well-produced commercials that depict a more complete image of himself as America’s next potential national hero and role model.

While Trump’s overall message is still resonating, the latest CBS poll taken July 29-31 shows that the majority of voters do not consider Trump honest and trustworthy, that he does not have the right kind of temperament and personality to be a good president and that he is not prepared for the job. Trump has lots of catching up to do.

Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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