“They suck up and punch down”

The above quote struck me yesterday when it was uttered by conservative pundit David Brooks on his PBS Newshour weekly recap with Jonathan Capeheart. “They suck up and punch down.” What does he mean by that?

Brooks was defining too many politicians who have isolated themselves from others. He was speaking about Andrew Cuomo not having many friends he could call upon to help him in this time of the sexual harassment claims. Brooks noted some aides said Cuomo is acting toward subordinate women as he has always acted.

Brooks noted there are politicians who do good things, but there are too many that isolate themselves. They are good at sucking up (my guess is to donors and more senior officials), but they don’t have as many lateral relationships. This may be due to the lack of working with people across the aisle. It may be due to the elimination of common eating areas for legislators.

Yet, one thing too many do is punch down. They treat subordinates of both genders poorly, which disturbs me as well. I have long detested seeing people treat subordinates or perceived subordinates poorly, while sucking up to others. I added the term “perceived subordinates” as I have witnessed in many organizations someone who became surprised that perceived subordinates had more power than presumed when they put them down. It reminds me of the advice “beware of the quiet one.”

This was one of the many things I did not like about the former president. He sucked up to autocrats and donors and punched down to subordinates, reporters and legislators. One of the best metaphors about the Trump presidency was during a global summit, he was wandering the reception area alone after dinner. Others had grouped together and were not too interested in chatting with him. He eventually wandered over to Vladimir Putin’s table and spoke without an interpreter or aide close at hand. Since Trump is self-described as not a well-read or studious person, Putin likely felt as if he was a spider with a fly in his web.

So, Brooks’ term is interesting. They suck up and punch down. Two characteristics that I detest. And, I don’t think I am alone.

9 thoughts on ““They suck up and punch down”

  1. I often said that Cuomo’s problem was that pissed off would-be allies on both sides of the aisle … left-leaning Dem’s because he governed like a GOP & the majority, if not all, of the GOP for being a Dem & of course, the gun & abortion issues. To manage this kind of hate, you have to have charm & charisma & Cuomo has absolutely none of that … all he has is arrogance. It’s too bad … he could have been a great governor.

  2. Note to Readers: I am not a fan of sucking up, but I least understand the motivation to get ahead. Yet, there is no excuse for punching down. Full stop. That Golden Rule thing should get in the way of treating perceived subordinates or anyone, for that matter, poorly.

      • It is just such a shame that they don’t understand that they are nowhere without the support of those working for them. As you said, they actually have the real power also because they do all the work. No, this an that is an unacceptable character trait that they believe those people are only there to support their ego and forget that there is a country to lead… and they are the employees of their countries.

      • Erika, this is a key reason the former president had the highest turnover rate of any president. In the book “Fear,” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward, he chose the title directly from a quote from the former president on how he likes to influence. Not too many people will work for long under a person who causes fear, unless their lives or the lives of others are in danger, should they leave. The folks in the Trump White House walked around on eggshells. Keith

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