As far as celebrities go, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson seems level-headed enough. He is known for insane self-discipline, preaching hard work and consistency, and holding his co-workers accountable for being egomaniacal divas.
These are all traits that are required of a president. They are traits that even the current president’s critics recognize in him.
But they are not traits that alone qualify somebody to run for the presidency. Despite having the best of intentions, this appears to be a reality that is lost on The Rock. It seems that the universal admiration Dwayne Johnson has garnered by being a genuinely likable guy and a solid enough actor may have gone to his head.
Again, I like the guy. His film and television choices tend to be a bit mindless for my taste, but he puts his all into every role he accepts. But at the end of the day, the man is an actor by trade. Forgive me if I don’t see this as a prerequisite for being the leader of the free world.
In fact, I see Johnson’s suggestion that he may run for the highest office in the land as soon as 2020 as (hopefully) the pinnacle of celebrity deification. It is actor-worship on a Rock-sized scale.
Admittedly, he would not be the first celebrity to throw his name into the presidential arena.
But before you point to Ronald Reagan or even Donald Trump as examples of celebrities turned POTUS, there are some major differences to note between these examples and Dwayne Johnson which must be considered.
Reagan was a leader in the Screen Actor’s Guild, gaining experience as a negotiator while lobbying for better pay and benefits for actors. He was also one of the faces of the Democrats-for-Eisenhower movement amidst his successful 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns. He wrote nearly 200 speeches for Richard Nixon, as he ostensibly aligned himself more and more with the right. Political involvement would become an increasingly dominant aspect of Reagan’s life, with over a decade passing before he would finally enter the arena himself, becoming governor of the Golden State in 1967.
Donald Trump is seen by many as a reality star and pseudo-celebrity, having appeared briefly in movies such as Home Alone while even heading his own reality show, The Apprentice. However, to label Trump as an actor is to ignore the bulk of his life achievements. In fact, it was his success as a businessman and entrepreneur that afforded him opportunities to appear on the silver screen and network television.
He graduated from Penn’s Wharton School of Business in 1968 and jumped immediately into the business realm, gaining a prominent foothold until temporarily giving up his business duties to serve as president.
That is more than 48 years’ experience traveling the globe, negotiating high-stakes real estate deals and all that goes with it. Learning and navigating government regulations, maintaining an awareness of global economic trends, and being privy to the government-imposed systems that promote or suppress business are just a few of the constantly evolving factors that are part of building an empire as successful as Trump’s. So, while Trump did not have any experience in government, his previous career of 48 years prepared him for the role of president much more than the average profession.
Even so, there are times when even his staunchest allies would admit he appeared to be out of his depth. He even admitted as much:
"This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier,” he told Newsweek.
With all due respect to Dwayne Johnson, making the jump from in front of the green screen to taking meetings with world leaders, attending endless briefings, and negotiating the countless agendas that are constantly being pushed within Washington would be a far more difficult transition than he seems to think.
Here are a couple of quotes from The Rock on what his main goals would be as president:
“Personally, I feel that if I were president, poise would be important. Leadership would be important. Taking responsibility for everybody. [If I didn't agree with someone] on something, I wouldn't shut them out. I would actually include them.”
“The first thing we'd do is we'd come and sit down and we'd talk about it. It's hard to categorize right now how I think [Trump’s] doing, other than to tell you how I would operate, what I would like to see,” Johnson said.
“I feel like the majority of, if not all, Americans feel that protection is of huge importance. But the ideology and the execution [of national-security initiatives] is where we really have to be careful of not making those snap decisions, because there's a tail effect ... Within 24 hours, we saw a ‘tail effect,’” says Johnson. “It grew to heartache, it grew to a great deal of pain, it grew to a great deal of confusion, and it had a lot of people scrambling.”
I don’t mean to sound condescending. The Rock clearly has thought these issues through more than, say, Meryl Streep. He has somewhat nuanced opinions on national security and seems to take firm, defensible stances here.
But, I have to say, the rest of his quotes sound so obvious, so cliché. It just reeks of a man who does not fully comprehend all the nuance that goes into leading. Yes, poise and leadership are important. Obviously they are. It’s good to know he wouldn’t shut out those he doesn’t agree with, but the whole ‘kumbaya’ approach only goes so far in the bitterly polarized America of 2017, never mind the inevitable escalation of these conflicts that will characterize the 2020 election cycle.
Sure, he’s only still considering a run, but 2020 is not that far away. By 2018, if he is serious, he would need some firm stances, not mere platitudes about listening, inclusion, and minimizing heartache.
What do you think about the national debt, Dwayne?
Hey Rock, what’s to be done about the complicated tax code?
Who are some of your friends and close acquaintances that you would go to for advice on such complex issues as the unsustainability of social security or the massive amount of able-bodied workers who have left the job force?
I don’t have any evidence to back this up, and I hesitate to generalize about such a nice guy, but I’d be willing to bet Dwayne Johnson has far too much on his plate crushing action-movie performances and ingesting as well as burning 507 grams of protein daily to give these issues much thought. Why would he? He’s an action star.
Which is exactly the point I’m trying to make. He is, at least not at this point in his life, prepared to be president. And there’s no conceivable way he could be by the time 2020 rolls around. Genuinely, it’s nothing personal. Nobody could be reasonably expected to transition from life as a workaholic actor and pinnacle of fitness into the job of president. It’s simply not realistic, and it would be a recipe for nearly-assured disaster. Not just for Dwayne, but for the nation.
If The Rock is serious about running for president, I would not discourage it. He has given speeches at both the Democratic and Republican convention. He has been vocal about his past as a juvenile offender and has shown an uncommon determination to help reform the troubled youth of America.
There are lots of things he has done and qualities he exemplifies that would make him a potentially great leader. His biggest mistake would be taking on too much responsibility too quickly, underestimating the experience and wide-ranging knowledge of tedious and complex subjects which are required of a president.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t vote for him, I’m saying I wouldn’t give him my vote for president. Not yet at least.
If the Rock were announcing his intentions to run for the governor of California, this column would not exist. In fact, I would wholeheartedly endorse the man right now.
But, like his dietary regimen and the movies he chooses to star in, the Rock doesn’t shy away from the most daunting tasks. He goes big in everything he does; unfortunately, being president is not like starring in Fast and the Furious 15. Energy and ambition alone are not enough to do the job effectively. When it comes to ruling an entire nation, willpower alone won’t cut it.
There is one specific area, an unwritten prerequisite to being president, in which Dwayne Johnson is sorely lacking: experience.