My God, has it come to this? I’m pole-axed that there are serious people who take Donald Trump seriously for a New York minute.
Trump is an arrogant, self-satisfied, crude, and pompous windbag and bully who grossly overestimates his competence, his knowledge, his successes, and, not least, his charm. If this grotesque showman is the guy a plurality of the Republican base prefers, then that base is baser than I thought it was.
The man is hideous. He is not a serious human being. He is not a serious candidate. He is a blister on the bum of the Republican Party (to which his loyalty is so minimal as to be unmeasurable) and a serious threat to help install Clinton 2.0 at 1600 in 2017. It’s undeniable that a weak Republican establishment has been less than forceful on the issues that need to be engaged if America is to become America again. But this un-seriousness does not justify support of an even less serious Donald Trump. Trump may be a symptom of conservatives’ frustrations, but he damn sure isn’t a cure for them.
Of course we need someone who can stand up to Vladimir Putin and the Ayatollah Holly-Golly. But if Trump has any plan other than to call these guys stupid or jackasses we haven’t heard what it is, though he had opportunity to share any wisdom he has on this matter last Thursday. You can’t insure peace by telling these two that they’re fired.
And we need to take the problems of massive illegal immigration seriously and deal with it. The Republican establishment is pathetically weak on an issue that is vital to the future of the republic. But there is no reason to believe that Donald Trump could or would do what needs to be done in this area. His assertion that he would build a wall across our southern border and make Mexico cough up the pesos to pay for it deserves either a groan or a horselaugh. His claim that we wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration if he hadn’t brought it up is preposterous. Immigration policy has been debated for decades, though not as seriously or as honestly as it should be.
Trump’s own statements on immigration, as on so many other issues, have been all over the map over the years. (Not only has the Donald taken many distinctly un-conservative positions on issues, but, taking a page from last Thursday’s debate, I’d like a show of hands of those conservatives who are comforted by Trump’s rationalization that he only gave to liberal candidates because he wanted them in his pocket for business reasons.) And his actions may not stand close inspection either. Legitimate questions have been raised over who built the Trump Tower in New York.
As for style, Trump brings to mind a bar-room brawl. He’s a Rottweiler with a toothache. A pin-less hand grenade with a short fuse. Apparently he believes he’s free to bully and insult whomever he pleases, but he is not even to be questioned about his background, his approach, or his intentions. When he’s challenged, even questioned, he starts throwing crude insults, which he tries to perfume by saying that he’s not politically correct. This won’t do. Normal civility is not political correctness. And Trump doesn’t seem to know what either of these things means. If he plans to keep this up, perhaps he should hire Don Rickles as his chief campaign advisor and insult writer. At least then the insults would be funny. As it is they’re just boorish. (Would calling Putin a hockey puck be more effective than Mz Hillary’s re-set button?)
Happily, some on the right are catching on. Trump’s crass “blood” remarks about Megyn Kelly, with whom he engaged in a pointless snit because of a reasonable question she asked him, got Trump disinvited from the Saturday RedState Gathering of grass-roots conservatives. Red State leader Erick Erickson was polite in his dis-invitation, calling Trump a friend and saying Trump has much support among conservatives. In his usual even-handed way, Trump called Erickson “a loser,” the usual fate for anyone who has even a faintly discouraging word about The Great One. With friends like this, eh?
One has to have a healthy ego to run for president. But Trump abuses the privilege. By comparison, Narcissus was self-effacing. Trump studied modesty on a Muhammad Ali “I Am the Greatest” scholarship. Self-love does not go unrequited with The Donald. Everything he touches is the biggest, the grandest, the richest, the most fantastic, even when it isn’t. (Perhaps especially when it isn’t.) If the Donald is elected president, he will establish a new cabinet post, the Secretary of Superlatives. The literary character Trump most reminds me of is Walt Kelly’s P.T. Bridgeport from the “Pogo” strip. Bridgeport represented P.T. Barnum, who famously said there was a sucker born every minute. Just now The Donald has that down to about 30 seconds.
Most pundits, political junkies, and those who follow politics for a living or for entertainment predict Trump and his campaign will implode before the voting starts next year. These predictions are part acute analysis and part wishful thinking. Any prediction at this point is sheer speculation. But the case for The Donald not going the distance goes in this wise: Donald Trump is so different from the rest of the Republican field, many of the entries in which are small variations of each other, that it could be said at this point there is about a 20 percent Trump-vote and an 80 percent no-Trump-vote. This one in five may be The Donald’s ceiling. Trump has about 105 percent name recognition, and he states his case so loudly and forcibly that most voters know right away if they support him or not. So he has little room to grow, and lots of room to erode as voters tire of his boorish behavior and begin to realize that he doesn’t have plans and positions, he just has bluster. When the scrum of Republican candidates begins to thin, as it will, there won’t be many voters who say, “I was going to vote for Governor Boring or Senator Bland, but now that they’re both out of it, I’m with The Donald.”
Let’s be clear. The Donald is not a politician. Even his bona fides in business will be examined closely as the campaign continues, and it’s likely that not everything found herein will be to Trump’s credit. And he’s not a conservative with a well-thought-out view of how the world works and a clear idea of where he wants to take the country. He has been a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, and even toyed with running for president as a Reform Party candidate in 2000.
What Trump is first and foremost is a celebrity. He’s a tee-vee star out of the “reality” show, professional wrestling mold. His photo belongs on the kind of publications found in super-market checkout aisles. Not on the covers of serious political or cultural publications. He belongs on Dancing With the Stars, not on Meet the Press. If Republicans decide to nominate Trump for president, they may as well put Kim Kardashian on the ticket with him.
It is said that campaigns reveal character. Just so. And it’s useful to remember at this particular moment that campaigns don’t just reveal the character of candidates. They reveal the character of voters as well.