“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.