Trumping himself

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WASHINGTON, DC: Donald Trump can’t help himself. Nor can we.

The “worse” he gets, it seems, the better we like it. Watching Trump is so deliciously awful, we don’t hang on every word. We hang on the edge of our seats waiting for the next word. Whatever will this man say next?

Trump’s list of quotables is long, but two stand out.

First, it was the Mexicans who, Trump said, come here illegally to deal drugs and rape — “and some, I assume, are good people,” he added, as one might pause to adjust a picture hanging slightly askew.


Then he went after Sen. John McCain. “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured.” His mind scrambling to catch up to his mouth, Trump added, “Perhaps he’s a war hero.”

Trump defenders who have written to me insist that these add-ons should inoculate him from the outrage of critics and the media. But running on second thoughts is like throwing a pie at someone and saying, “You look fabulous in meringue!”

We already know what Trump really thinks. That he gets away with it is the mystery — but not really. Nicely, pundits have suggested that he’s tapping into people’s anger and frustration. More to the point, he’s saying what (some) people really think but don’t express because their inhibitory neurons are functioning. Inhibition, far from the curse of nudists and comedians, is God’s suggestion that we think first, speak later.

Otherwise, Trump is an iconoclast’s iconoclast. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, who was commenting on democracy, Trump gives people what they want and he gives it to them good and hard. He’s a knee-capper who mocks his victims and walks away with the girl, a pigeon roosting on his head. (I just thought the image needed a flourish.)

“Everybody loves me,” Trump said recently in an interview on CNN. When he made the McCain jibe during a speech, it sounded as if at least some of his audience laughed at the punch line. As for the comment about illegal Mexicans, the GOP base wonders what wasn’t true.

Trump has something else going for him — a record of accomplishment beyond politics. Whereas other candidates apologize for their wealth, he brags that he’s made bundles. Whereas others tout public service resumes, Trump touts buildings that are familiar to the public.

“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” he said of the Great Wall of America he promises to build along the Southern border. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.’’

Trump, we are to infer, knows what he’s doing. Whether this is true in the context of presidential politics isn’t important, apparently. In a visual, sound-bite world, he acts and talks as if he does. Speaking in staccato bursts that aim for the gut, he reduces complex problems to simple fixes in plain language. People like that.

In a sense, he’s a bit like Teddy Roosevelt, who, despite our retroactive admiration for him, would be viewed today as a strutting, cocky, loudmouthed, bloodthirsty showoff — who knows how to do stuff. All Trump needs is a stocky steed for his presidential parade and a few animal trophies for the White House gallery.

This is fantasy, of course. Everybody knows that Trump isn’t going to be the Republican presidential candidate. Still, it would be premature to dismiss him. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows him at 24 percent, with Scott Walker at 13 percent and Jeb Bush at 12.

These results were largely collected before Trump’s McCain remarks — the final day of polling showed a sharp dip in his ratings after the comments — but I predict that this, too, shall fail to thwart his ascendancy. Among other reasons, his targets thus far have been people viewed as problems among GOP hard-liners.

And, if Trump isn’t really a Republican, most party members don’t think McCain is either. Knowing this, Trump threw the Arizona senator under his own Straight Talk bus. But McCain is a hero — not only because he put his life on the line but because, despite years of torture, he declined an offer for early release rather than abandon his brothers. That’s heroic.

Trump’s political longevity depends on whether he can whip his speak-first-think-later impulse into submission. This would be best for the Republic, though terrible for journalism (and TV ratings) — and probably lethal to Trump’s candidacy.

Which is why, for this, I would not bate my breath.

(C) 2015, WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

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2 Comments

  1. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    24 July 2015

    In spite of what columnist KATHLEEN PARKER says about Donald Trump, disparagingly of course, the question that’s uppermost in the minds of close observers is, “WHY IS DONALD LEADING THE RAFT OF 17 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES?–leaving in the dust such fellows as JEB BUSH, TED CRUZ, and CHRIS CHRISTIE?

    The reason is that DONALD is a breath of “fresh air!” He has no problem “calling a spade” a “spade.” And he enjoys “saying it like it is!”–and that is obviously just fine with millions of conservatives in general and Republicans in particular!”

    Not one of those other Republican presidential aspirants would or could ever dare to call MEXICANS all kinds of “criminals,” and, by extension, all other Central and South Americans who cross the southern border of the United States illegally. But Donald obviously enjoys being honest and telling a good swath of the American people the TRUTH in the language of “truth.”

    And that’s why whatever Donald says resonates with the people.

    Senator John McCain, who for decades obviously gloried in his “reputation” as a National Hero, got the surprise of his life when Donald cut him down to size and told the whole world that in fact McCain has never been a hero! And why not? Donald says that being shot down and being imprisoned for 5 years do not make one a HERO. Isn’t he right? There were countless thousands of US soldiers who were POWs in the Viet Nam war–but not one of them was ever glorified as a HERO!

    Now, Donald has come up with the real Solution to stopping those criminal MEXICANS and other Central and South Americans from crossing the porous southern border of the US. Here’s how he will do it:

    He vows to build a GREAT WALL–to be called the GREAT WALL OF TRUMP?–over the whole southern border of the US.

    It will probably be of reinforced concrete, 50 feet wide, 50 feet into the ground, 100 feet high, provided on top with electrified concertina wire 50 feet wide, and running all the way from West to East. On top of it all, he will have helicopter gunships patrolling the wall round the clock, with orders to shot down any person trying to breach the Great Wall. That Great Way may cost the US billions! Donald knows that–and if the US government will not or cannot pay for it, Donald may have no problem paying for it himself. He still has his billions, doesn’t he? If he has to fork over $2 billion of his own money, that will make Donald a REAL HERO, won’t it?

    Why no President or presidential candidate has ever thought of this FINAL SOLUTION at all is beyond me.!

    You can say that Donald is inspired!

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    Lapulapu1927@yahoo.com

  2. Trump is America’s man of the hour and a mix bag of crazy Republicans are ecstatic over his tirade on the illegal Mexicans and border security issue and lately, Sen. John McCain. Trump can surely out glib his Republican opponents and latest Washington Post-ABC polls show him ahead by a double digit margin. But can his political longevity carry him through 2016 to face Hilary, the Democratic party’s possible nominee.

    If Trump vs Hilary happens, it is guaranteed fireworks and prime time entertainment.