Scott Adams (Dilbert), 9/10/15
Sharyl Attkisson, 9/12/15
William Sullivan, American Thinker, 9/20/15
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., The American Spectator, 9/23/15
Mark Leibovich, The New York Times, 9/29/15
Mark Leibovich, The New York Times, 9/29/15
Donald Trump Is Not Going Anywhere
Where does his political adventure end?
"I have no idea. But I'm here now. And it's beautiful."
"I don’t worry about anything,’’ Donald J. Trump told me aboard his 757 as we were flying to the recent Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. He was dividing his attention between the brick-size slice of red-velvet cake he was annihilating and the CNN commentator on the 57-inch television who at that moment was talking about Trump, as most commentators have been at pretty much every moment for the last three months. The commentator, Dylan Byers, was saying that Trump now ran the risk of ‘‘jumping the shark’’ because voters were becoming so familiar with his act. ‘‘Nah,’’ Trump said, smirking at the screen. As the real estate and reality-show tycoon sees things, this is all win-win for him. Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal wrote something to this effect recently, Trump told me, explaining that even if he loses, ‘‘he goes back to being Donald Trump, but even bigger.’’
The Trump campaign may be a win-win for Trump, but it is a monstrous dilemma for a lot of other people. It is a dilemma for the Republican Party and a dilemma for the people Trump is running against. They would love to dismiss him as a sideshow and declare his shark jumped, except he keeps dominating the campaign and the conversation, and they have no clue whether to engage, attack, ignore or suck up in response. It is a dilemma for the elected leaders, campaign strategists, credentialed pundits and assorted parasites of the ‘‘establishment.’’ They have a certain set of expectations, unwritten rules and ways of doing things that Trump keeps flouting in the most indelicate of ways. And, of course, it is a dilemma for the media, who fear abetting a circus. This is why The Huffington Post announced in July that it would publish stories about Trump only in its ‘‘entertainment’’ section, so that when it all ended, as it surely would soon, the website could remain pristine and on the side of the high-minded. A similar sort of worry prevented me from writing about Trump throughout his rise this summer. Initially, I dismissed him as a nativist clown, a chief perpetrator of the false notion that President Obama was not born in the United States — the ‘‘birther’’ movement. And I was, of course, way too incredibly serious and high-minded to ever sully myself by getting so close to Donald Trump.
I initially doubted that he would even run. I assumed that his serial and public flirtations with the idea over several election cycles were just another facet of his existential publicity sustenance. I figured that even if Trump did run, his conspiracy-mongering, reality-show orientations and garish tabloid sensibilities would make him unacceptable to the polite company of American politics and mainstream media. It would render him a fringe player. So I decided not to write about him, and I felt proud and honorable about my decision.
In June, Trump, who is now 69, actually declared that he would run for president. The big crowds, soaring poll numbers and magazine covers started a few weeks later, and I began to wonder if I had been too rash in disregarding him. The problem was that having decided not to write about him, I couldn’t start now. What were the chances that he would still be around by the time I was done? He kept touching supposed third rails — calling illegal immigrants rapists and criminals in his announcement speech, questioning whether John McCain was really a war hero (‘‘I like people who weren’t captured’’) and seeming to suggest that a moderator of the first Republican debate, Megyn Kelly of Fox News, asked him uncomfortable questions because she was menstruating.
And yet his lead in the polls kept growing. He was impolite company personified, and many Republican voters were absolutely loving him for that. They seemed to be saying en masse that even if Trump could be crass and offensive at times (or, in his case, on message), could he possibly be any
worse than what politics in general had become?
I encountered the phenomenon up close at the first Republican debate, on Aug. 6 in Cleveland. I positioned myself in the post-debate ‘‘spin room,’’ the area where campaign surrogates spew their customized nonsense to media types. The candidates themselves almost never venture in. But suddenly, at the end of the night, a literal stampede was rumbling toward a far corner of the room, where Trump had crashed this assembly of polite company. I have seen many press scrums, but never like this. It was scary. People were tripping, falling and being shoved out of the way. Cameras were dropped. What I saw was polite routines and traditions breaking down as the American political order reoriented itself around a new center of gravity. As the shouts and cries intensified, I found myself being drawn toward the bedlam.
In the months since, Trump has grown into a kind of one-man chaos theory at the center of a primary campaign in disarray. The solemn party leaders desperately want him to go away; the consultant and donor class feel irrelevant (because they largely are to Trump); even Fox News, with which he episodically feuds, seems rattled. At the first sign that, after an uninspired performance in the second debate, Trump’s poll numbers were stalled, pundits on the left and the right rushed to declare yet another ‘‘beginning of the end’’ for Trump. And still he leads in every poll, and it’s October, and it keeps going. Where does this end? I kept asking Trump this as we sat around his office and rode around in limousines and airplanes. ‘‘I have no idea,’’ he always said, sometimes modifying the noun with a big, unclassy profanity. ‘‘But I’m here now. And it’s beautiful.’’
It was early September when we met for the first time in his 26th-floor office in Trump Tower. When I walked in, Trump had the legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight paying homage to him over speakerphone. Knight, who had never met Trump, apparently called him out of the blue to offer his support. I was slightly dubious about how ‘‘out of the blue’’ this really was, given how perfectly it was timed to my arrival, but Knight delivered a stirring tribute regardless. ‘‘No one has accomplished more than Mr. Trump has,’’ Knight raved after Trump informed him that a reporter was in the room. Trump nodded and motioned to the phone and made sure I had my recorder running. ‘‘What a great honor, man,’’ Trump said. ‘‘I will talk to you soon, and I won’t forget that you called. Thanks, Bobby.’’
Trump is 6-foot-3 and looks taller in person than you might expect, in part because he is all head, hair and flattened, squinty expressions behind the tables and lecterns where we typically experience him. He was standing behind a desk cluttered with papers, piles of recent magazines with him on the cover and a Trump bobblehead doll. ‘‘You ever see guys with nothing on their desk?’’ he said by way of explaining his messy one. ‘‘They always fail. I don’t know what it is. I’ve seen it for years.’’
Trump motioned to the gallery of magazine covers on the wall next to him, which included an issue of Playboy from 1990 (‘‘And that’s when it was really Playboy’’) and another of Trump on the front of The New York Times Magazine in 1984. ‘‘I’ve had much more than 15 minutes of fame, that’s for sure,’’ he said. Trump can be hyper-solicitous of the press. His orbit is largely free of handlers and is very much his own production, down to his tweets — which he types or dictates himself. I asked Trump if his campaign conducted focus groups. I knew what his answer would be but asked anyway. ‘‘I do focus groups,’’ he said, pressing both thumbs against his forehead, ‘‘right here.’’
Getting close to Trump is nothing like the teeth-pulling exercise that it can be to get any meaningful exposure to a candidate like, say, Hillary Clinton. This is a seductive departure in general for political reporters accustomed to being ignored, patronized and offered sound bites to a point of lobotomy by typical politicians and the human straitjackets that surround them. In general, Trump understands and appreciates that reporters like to be given the time of day. It’s symbiotic in his case because he does in fact pay obsessive attention to what is said and written and tweeted about him. Trump is always saying that so-and-so TV pundit ‘‘spoke very nicely’’ about him on some morning show and that some other writer ‘‘who used to kill me’’ has now come around to ‘‘loving me.’’ There is a ‘‘Truman Show’’ aspect to this, except Trump is the director — continually selling, narrating and spinning his story while he lives it.
With me, Trump toggled often between on and off the record, one of which seemed only marginally more sensitive than the other, but with enough difference to indicate that he is capable of calculating from word to word and knowing where certain lines are. At one point, Trump declared himself to be ‘‘semi off the record’’ (it wasn’t that interesting, or even semi-interesting). He kept browbeating me to ‘‘write fairly’’ about him, meaning that I should do a full and proper rendering of the Trump Phenomenon — the full degree to which it is, as he so often says, yooooge. Otherwise it would be ‘‘disgusting,’’ as it was recently when a reporter described a ‘‘smattering of applause’’ that he received at an event in Iowa, when in fact it was much more than a ‘‘smattering’’ — trust him. ‘‘I don’t do smatterings,’’ he said, spitting out the word.
As I surveyed the magazine covers on the wall and endured his running boasts, I wondered aloud whether Americans might not prefer a more humble brand of chief executive, feigned or otherwise. ‘‘Nope,’’ he sneered. ‘‘They want success. They wanted humility in the past. They wanted a nice person’’ (for the record, he added, ‘‘I am a nice person’’). But what they really want is someone who can win, as Trump always does. ‘‘We’re going to have so many victories, you will be bored of winning.’’
I asked whether he had ever experienced self-doubt. The question seemed to catch Trump off guard, and he flashed a split second of, if not vulnerability, maybe nonswagger. ‘‘Yes, I think more than people would think,’’ he told me. When? ‘‘I don’t want to talk about it.’’ He shrug-smirked. ‘‘Because, you know — probably more than people would think. I understand how life can go. Things can happen.’’ This was a rare moment when Trump’s voice trailed off, even slightly. He then handed me a sheet of new polling data that someone had put on his desk. ‘‘Beautiful numbers,’’ he said, inviting me to take them with me.
A curious feature of the mob scene that has surrounded Trump at most public events since August is that people keep handing him money to sign. I first witnessed this on Sept. 11, a day of national mourning. Trump was working his way through the lobby of Rockefeller Center after taping an appearance on ‘‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,’’ and a boisterous crowd had been waiting for him. One building security guard described the commotion to me as ‘‘Justin Bieber level.’’ It consisted heavily of tourists and foreign visitors, many of them young. There were the usual paparazzi, and some shouted questions. But what struck me about this Trumpus Ruckus were the dollar bills. Trump signed one after another, and the recipients clutched and cherished them like winning lottery tickets. ‘‘Look, a hundred-dollar bill?’’ Trump said, showing me a C-note that a woman from Long Island had handed him to sign. You don’t often see politicians signing money. If asked, some will refuse — I’ve seen Hillary Clinton do this — possibly because it is technically illegal to deface currency. But it is a fitting souvenir from one of the high priests of the nation’s secular religion: aspirational consumerism. Reagan was a capitalist and a free-market icon, but conspicuous consumption (as people used to call it) was a benefit of American freedom and prosperity, not a national objective or a virtue in itself. Not so much with Trump, who of course owns many beautiful, classy things. There is a certain prosperity-theology aspect to Trump’s appeal, the idea that you follow a minister because he is rich and has his own plane and implicitly and sometimes explicitly promises that you, too, will be rich.
And yet, throughout his rise, Trump has been labeled a ‘‘populist.’’ I had always equated populism with economic uprisings by the disenfranchised against the privileged. Trump, who grew up in Queens as a son of a wealthy real estate developer, promotes his astronomical wealth, elite academic credentials and ‘‘good genes’’ (‘‘my uncle was a professor at M.I.T., he was the smartest guy up there’’). He is, presumably, the first ‘‘populist’’ presidential candidate to mention his degree from Wharton at a campaign rally in Alabama. Certainly, there have been other rich-guy populists, like Ross Perot. And previous populist movements have, like Trump’s, been driven in part by stoking fear of ‘‘the other’’ (in Trump’s case, his bare-knuckled attacks on the undocumented immigrants who have made the United States ‘‘a dumping ground for the rest of the world’’).
But while populism is often associated with grass-roots movements, Trump’s brand of it flows not from the ground up, as did Obama’s campaign in 2008 or even the Tea Party movement in subsequent years. Rather, Trump’s is pure media populism, a cult of personality whose following has been built over decades. The popularity of Trump’s NBC reality franchise, ‘‘The Apprentice,’’ for instance, made him a potent cultural persona; the power of that persona (the frowning, pitiless boss) might actually outweigh the customary strategic imperatives (message discipline, donor bases) that the political wiseguys like to get all aroused about. In large measure, the core of Trump’s phenomenon is his celebrity itself, which, in today’s America, is in fact as populist as it gets.
Out on the sidewalk of Rockefeller Center, the horde for Trump was edgier and included several protesters. There were chants (‘‘Trump’s a racist’’), taunts (‘‘Donald, you want to deport me?’’) and placards (‘‘You’re not hired’’). A few protesters moved in and shouted within a few feet of Trump as he made his way into the back of his stretch limo for the short drive back to his tower. Seated serenely, he betrayed no sense whatsoever that he had just fled a tumultuous and slightly menacing situation to find sanctuary behind tinted glass. ‘‘There’s something happening here,’’ he told me.
There was pounding on the side of the vehicle as we pulled away. Hope Hicks, Trump’s 26-year-old publicist and a former Ralph Lauren model, sat opposite us; next to her, Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s wiry wisp of a buzz-cut campaign manager, was buried deep in his iPhone. After a few seconds in the quiet of his limo, Trump suddenly seemed deprived of oxygen. He kept opening the window to inhale more pandemonium and sign more magazine covers of himself. ‘‘Donald! Selfie!’’ a woman yelled and stuck her head in. Trump obliged before sealing the window again.
‘‘Our country needs to be glamorized,’’ Trump said, turning to me. Hicks interjected that Bloomberg Politics had recently conducted a focus group of New Hampshire voters, in which a woman used the word ‘‘classy’’ to describe a potential Trump presidency.
As we inched along a side street, Trump said he believed there was a crisis in the way America and the presidency are imagined by customers at home and abroad. ‘‘The branding of our country is at an all-time low,’’ Trump said. ‘‘Now, ‘branding’ might not be the most beautiful word to use, but the fact is the country has been labeled so badly.’’
Trump makes no attempt to cloak his love of fame and, admirably, will not traffic in that tiresome politicians’ notion that his campaign is ‘‘not about me, it’s about you.’’ The ease with which Trump exhibits, and inhabits, his self-regard is not only central to his ‘‘brand’’ but also highlights a kind of honesty about him. He can even seem hostile to any notion of himself as humble servant — that example of modesty that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln strove for.
The idea of a president as Everyman stands at odds with his glamorized vision for the nation. The president should be a man apart, exceptional and resplendent in every way. ‘‘Jimmy Carter used to get off Air Force One carrying his luggage,’’ Trump said. ‘‘I used to say, ‘I don’t want a president carrying his luggage.’ ’’ Carter was a nice man, Trump allowed. ‘‘But we want someone who is going to go out and kick ass and win.’’ Which apparently cannot be done by someone ‘‘who’s gonna come off carrying a large bag of underwear.’’
Hicks pointed out that a few stragglers from 30 Rock were now running on foot after the limo on Sixth Avenue. ‘‘Look at these people,’’ Trump said, turning around to see them. ‘‘It’s literally a little bit sad.’’ The stragglers finally caught the limo at a red light, and Trump opened the window to sign autographs for them. ‘‘How much are you gonna sell this for?’’ he asked.
‘‘America is tired of being pushed into a corner,’’ Matt Yelland, a 60-year-old electrical engineer was telling me before Trump took the stage at the American Airlines Center in Dallas in mid-September. We were just days from the debate at the Reagan Library, and a crowd of some 17,000 had gathered for a rally. Behind Yelland, a man flashed a ‘‘Silent Majority Is Getting Louder’’ sign, alluding to the old Nixonian notion — the Silent Majority — that Trump has identified as both a campaign slogan and a target market. ‘‘We’re a gentle dog, but we’re tired of being pushed around,’’ Yelland said.
This was a common sentiment among Trump supporters I met, a group that felt worn down from being bullied. Implicit in the campaign’s ‘‘Make America Great Again’’ rallying cry is a yearning for a leader to restore a lost swagger — a return to a less complex, less politically correct and more secure nation. Trump’s war on political correctness is especially pleasing to many of the white voters of the G.O.P. who feel usurped by newcomers and silenced by the progressive gains that women, Hispanics and gays have enjoyed. It also provides a kind of permission structure for Trump to offend in the guise of ‘‘telling it like it is’’ and only enhances the reality-TV plotline. What will he say next? How will he say it?
Trump’s speech in Dallas, a 70-minute stemwinder, came out like a zigzagging rocket attack against the many sectors of the political establishment. If, as Mario Cuomo said, a politician campaigns in poetry and governs in prose, we can shove that notion aside in the case of Donald Trump. He campaigns in poetry in much the same way a wild hog sips chardonnay. He ridiculed John Kerry for breaking his leg in a bicycle accident during the Iran nuclear negotiations — so weak and pathetic. ‘‘The people from Iran say, ‘What a schmuck,’ ’’ Trump said of the secretary of state.
But what was more compelling to me about both the speech and the spirit of the room was how nonideological it all was. Other than undocumented immigrants, who represent a go-to boogeyman for the right, Trump’s targets consisted of a bipartisan assembly of the ‘‘permanent political class’’ that Joan Didion described in her book ‘‘Political Fictions’’: that incestuous band of TV talkers, campaign strategists and candidates that had ‘‘rigged the game’’ and perpetuated the scripted awfulness of our politics. ‘‘Everyone knows that what you see in politics is fake or confected,’’ Didion wrote. ‘‘But everyone’s O.K. with that, because it’s all been focus-grouped.’’
Resentment of this class has built over several years. It has been expressed on both sides, by the rise of insurgent movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (Trump’s railing against fund-raiser ‘‘blood money,’’ ‘‘bloodsucker’’ lobbyists and Wall Street ‘‘paper pushers’’ would play well across the board). As a reporter in Washington, I, too, have grown exceedingly weary of this world — the familiar faces, recycled tropes and politics as usual — and here was none other than Donald J. Trump, the billionaire blowhard whom I had resisted as a cartoonish demagogue, defiling it with resonance. He tacked not to the left or to the right, but against the ‘‘losers’’ and ‘‘scumbags’’ in the various chapters of the club: the pundits who ‘‘wear heavy glasses’’ and ‘‘sit around the table,’’ the ‘‘political hacks’’ selling out American interests overseas. Karl Rove ‘‘is a totally incompetent jerk,’’ Trump told the crowd in Dallas, referring to the Fox News commentator and chief Republican strategist of the George W. Bush years. The crowd went nuts at the Rove put-down, which in itself is remarkable — the ‘‘architect’’ of Bush’s political ride being abused by a right-leaning crowd in Bush’s home state.
It was at this point that I began to feel glad I decided to write about Trump, who seemed to have clearly seized on some profound exhaustion with our politics. There’s very little difference between Trump when he’s not running for president and Trump now that he is running for president, except that he makes more public appearances. Trump is the same boorish, brash and grandiose showman we’ve known across many realms. And for some reason, that character has proved an incendiary match with this political moment. It was a repeat of what I saw that night of the first debate, when the whole room abandoned the professional campaign surrogates in favor of the blazing chaos of Trump himself. Was Trump the logical byproduct of a cancerous system in which American democracy has mutated into a gold rush of cheap celebrity, wealth creation and narcissistic branding madness? Or has he merely wielded the tools of this transformation — his money, celebrity and dominance of the media — against the forces that have engendered this disgust in the system to begin with?
Either way, Trump left the rally to sustained applause as two songs played back to back: Twisted Sister’s ‘‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’’ and Aerosmith’s ‘‘Dream On.’’
‘‘There was good energy in that room!’’ Trump told me from the passenger seat of a Suburban as we left the arena after the rally. He exuded the red-faced giddiness of a teenager who can’t quite believe what’s happening to him. ‘‘You never get a crowd like that without a guitar.’’ He reported that his wife, who watched his speech on cable, ‘‘said I got an A-plus.’’
We were headed to Love Field, where Trump’s Boeing 757 was waiting to ferry us the rest of the way to Southern California for the debate. A small group of gawkers stood along the fence line, snapping pictures of the sleek jet with a big ‘‘T’’ on the tail and a gold-painted ‘‘Trump’’ on the side. Trump was eager to show me his plane — the conference room and the sleeping quarters, the mohair and silk couches and the gold-plated seatbelts.
‘‘Do you want to wash your hands or something?’’ Trump asked when I joined him in the main cabin. Trump hates germs (‘‘I am very, very clean’’). He was also hungry. He barreled back to a pantry area arrayed with tin trays of chicken, shrimp, sea bass and chateaubriand. ‘‘Beautiful stuff,’’ Trump marveled over the spread. ‘‘There’s more food than it’s yooooomanly possible to eat.’’ He shoveled big spoons of potato au gratin onto his plate and then turned to the shrimp. ‘‘You like shrimp?’’ he said. He urged me to indulge, just as long as I did not double-dip in the cocktail sauce. This is a pet issue for him. He was recently at a cocktail party, and they were passing around hors d’oeuvres. ‘‘This big, heavy guy takes the shrimp, puts it in, bit it and puts it in again,’’ he told me. Trump was appalled at the repeat dunking, even in the retelling. ‘‘I said, ‘You just [expletive] double-dipped!’ He didn’t know what I was talking about.’’
Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,’’ he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘‘That’s exercise.’’ Nor did Trump show much interest in going through the traditional paces of preparing for a presidential debate, which was now 48 hours away. CNN moderators could ask him a million different questions, he said. It makes no sense to lock yourself into a room with briefing books and 20 experts. ‘‘That’s what Romney did, and he was unable to speak,’’ Trump said.
Instead, Trump took his mountain of food and parked himself on a couch next to the big-screen TV. He spent a good part of the three-hour flight staring up into the giant image of Donald J. Trump giving his speech. He kept flipping between Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, sampling the commentary in tiny snippets. Whenever a new talking head came on screen, Trump offered a scouting report based on the overriding factor of how he or she had treated him. ‘‘This guy’s been great to me,’’ he said when Bill O’Reilly of Fox appeared (less so O’Reilly’s guest, Brit Hume, also of Fox). Kevin Madden of CNN, a Republican strategist, was a ‘‘pure Romney guy,’’ while Ana Navarro, a Republican media consultant and Jeb Bush supporter, was ‘‘so bad, so pathetic, awful — I don’t know why she’s on television.’’ Click to Fox News. Jeb Bush was saying something in Spanish. Click to MSNBC. Hillary Clinton was saying she wished Trump would start ‘‘respecting women’’ rather than ‘‘cherishing women.’’ (‘‘She speaks so poorly, I think she’s in trouble,’’ Trump said.) Click to CNN. It showed a graphic reporting that 70 percent of Latinos had a negative view of Trump. Click to Fox News. Trump asked for another plate of au gratin.
After an hour, as Trump continued to watch himself on TV, I tried to draw out some of the particulars of his big, great plans. We were at the part of the rebroadcast in which Trump was discussing people whose families had been ‘‘decimated’’ by illegal immigrants, the emotional apex of his speech. He described illegal-immigrant ‘‘rough dudes’’ that join street gangs and commit murder. When Trump is president, ‘‘they will be out of here so freaking fast,’’ he said in the speech. I asked Trump how he planned to round up and eject these thugs. ‘‘Just get ’em out,’’ he said, waving his hand, not looking away from
It can be difficult to picture Trump, such a pop-culture showman, presiding over the kinds of presidency-defining ‘‘moments’’ that require solemn empathy. I mentioned Obama after the shooting this summer at a church in Charleston, S.C., or George W. Bush at ground zero in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Empathy, he assured me, ‘‘will be one of the strongest things about Trump.’’ But for now, he is in sales mode, trying to convince people that he can do a job. ‘‘When I’m in that position, when we have horrible hurricanes, all kinds of horrible things happen, you’ve got to have empathy.’’
Trump returned to watching himself on the big screen. He was delivering the crescendo of his speech, about how they were all part of a movement to take back the country. ‘‘We will make America great again,’’ he said. Looking up, Trump was pleased.
"Very presidential," he said.
Donald Trump is a dilemma because of the sheer exhaustion he elicits. Every day, there is a fresh feud, a new provocation, an ‘‘inartful description’’ or a ‘‘disgusting’’ story about him somewhere. Not long after I returned from California, there were indications that the Summer of Trump might finally be ceding to a harsher autumn. His lead showed signs of slipping after the last debate. There were slightly tightening polls. He had resorted to taunting Marco Rubio, who was polling better after the debate, for, among other things, sweating a lot.
Still, Trump kept having his aides send me the latest ‘‘beautiful polls.’’ I talked briefly to him before he went on ‘‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.’’ ‘‘We did really well in the Morning Consult poll,’’ he told me. ‘‘I guess you saw that one.’’ I observed to Trump that I had never encountered a candidate who talked so much to me about the latest polls. He knew precisely why that was. ‘‘That’s because they’re not leading,’’ he said. Trump signed off by saying that he hoped my article would be fair and added that there was no reason it shouldn’t be. ‘‘I’ve done nothing bad,’’ he told me. ‘‘What have I done bad?’’
How do you answer that question? Trump might be the single most self-involved yet least introspective person I have ever met in my life, in or out of politics. I’m guessing he would say this is a good quality in a president. It spares him unglamorous dilemmas. But it’s unsettling to encounter a prospective leader whose persona is so conspicuous and well defined and yet whose core is so obtuse. The Obama political acolyte David Axelrod has likened campaigns to ‘‘an M.R.I. for the soul.’’ If that’s the case, maybe the most fascinating question for Trump is not where this all ends up, but what his expedition reveals about Donald Trump’s soul, if it reveals anything at all. ‘‘Some people think this will be good for my brand,’’ Trump concluded, as deep as he probes. ‘‘I think it’s irrelevant for my brand.’’
My lasting image from my travels with Trump was imprinted on me after we landed in Los Angeles late on the night of the Dallas rally. Trump, who says he regularly operates on four hours of sleep, appeared to be dragging for the first time. His face was flush, and his barreling gait had slowed as he crossed the tarmac into a waiting car. At the last minute, one of Trump’s aides invited me to ride with Trump to Beverly Hills, where he owns a mansion. I had planned on getting a cab, and in fact was eager to be alone and also leave Trump in peace after an 18-hour day. But it was tricky to get to the terminal, where the cabs were, so it was just easier to ride — again — with Trump.
‘‘Don’t speak,’’ Trump instructed me as I sat down next to him in a Suburban. That was fine by me. None of the five staff members and security people in the vehicle said a word. We sat, per Trump’s dictate, in silence for the half-hour drive. It was almost comforting to me that he would take a break from being Donald, the Brand, and turn relatively ‘‘off’’ in my presence; that he could, as much as he ever does, retreat into himself. I wondered what he was thinking about.
After a few minutes, I saw Trump staring down into a phone glowing up into his shiny face. I
checked my phone, too. ‘‘Speech in Dallas went really well,’’ it said in my Twitter feed, courtesy of @realDonaldTrump, who was tweeting next to me in the dark.
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., The American Spectator, 9/23/15
Donald Amongst the Eggheads
They don't like him for some reason.
Hold on to your the conservative intellectuals are in a stew. One candidate in the race for the Republican presidential nomination is not playing by the rules. He is rude and crude and having a very good time of it. Oh, and by the way, he is leading the field by a lot. He has 29 percent of the vote among Republicans, according to an NBC online survey the other day. His next closest opponent is Dr. Ben Carson with 14 percent and after that Carly Fiorina with 11 percent. Both, incidentally, are new to politics as is the target of the conservative intellectuals’ wrath, Donald Trump. Interestingly the intellectuals are markedly out of touch with the conservative rank and file.
Trump’s rambunctious presence in the race is responsible for a miracle. The conservative intellectuals have finally thrown in with the left intellectuals. Both disrelish Trump, and, if truth be known, they are not very happy with Carson or Fiorina, who with Trump account for over 50 percent of the Republican vote. A year ago these three would be sitting in the politicians’ audience.
Meanwhile Trump is flying around the country having a great time discomfiting the intellectuals and gathering abundant support from conservative voters, independents, and even from the left. How is this happening? Well, Trump speaks boldly. He has taken the measure of the political class and finds it wanting. And he has identified issues that most of the other candidates are too timid to tackle. He is an optimist. Like Ronald Reagan he sees America as a shining city on a hill, and it does not make him wince. My guess is that Trump likes movies starring John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. He is a regular American.
The think tank eggheads bring to politics neatly tailored plans to address such problems as income distribution or the immigration conundrum. Trump clarifies issues. To income distribution he brings plans for economic growth and jobs. To the immigration question he identifies the problem. It is illegal immigration, and the illegals leap to supply him with evidence by murdering and raping the citizenry. Trump’s solution is to build a wall and to return the illegals. As for those immigrants who arrived here legally, they can continue to prosper. There is evidence the legals approve.
Aside from identifying and clarifying issues, Trump spots as issues matters that the establishment politicians hardly notice, for instance, political correctness. Somehow he has perceived that political correctness rankles average Americans. It angers them when political correctness intrudes into school curricula, political discourse, and how government treats its citizens. When Trump speaks out against it, the ordinary American discovers that Trump is their kind of guy. He is also their kind of guy when he speaks out against tax loopholes and for fairness in the tax code. Trump has his finger on the pulse of average Americans. His touch for markets that has made him billions he applies to finding constituencies, and it appears he has been brilliant at finding constituencies or, as he says, “The Silent Majority.” He, and for that matter the other late arrivals to politics Carson and Fiorina, have caused anxiety in the establishments of both parties, to say nothing of the intellectuals.
How is it that Trump anticipates the issues better than the establishment politicians? Well, despite his fortune, Trump is a regular American. I think a lot of Americans recognize this. The best of America is like Trump, optimistic, self-confident, energetic, can-do, and they enjoy a good laugh. Trump has made running for political office fun again, much as Ronald Reagan made running for office fun again after the lugubrious Jimmy Carter. Reagan spoke of “Morning in America.” Trump has trademarked “Make America Great Again.”
How is Trump going to do when the voting begins? I can see him getting at a minimum 25 percent of the vote going into the convention, maybe more. It depends on his ability to develop an organization to get out the vote, his continued anticipation of issues, and his continued ability to address them boldly. If he succeeds, as I think he will, he will have a strong hand to play in the convention. I suspect his strongest opponent will be Jeb Bush, but Carson and Fiorina will also be candidates to reckon with. Then the players will sit down and cut a deal, but remember they will be dealing with the billionaire who wrote The Art of the Deal. I am looking forward to an exciting summer in 2016.
William Sullivan, American Thinker, 9/21/15
Trump the Everyman?
This may sound funny, but a big reason why Donald Trump is being embraced by millions of conservatives is because we can relate to guys like him. We understand what makes guys like him tick. And ultimately, we generally just like guys like him. Sure, he’s brash and rude, lacks finesse and couth, has more money than us, and lives a posh lifestyle that most people can never imagine. But we don’t begrudge him those things. And we certainly prefer him to the elites in Washington and academia, who presume to hector us about our worldviews and how we live our lives and raise our children, and whose economic ideas are, quite frankly, absurd in the context of reality.
There’s a scene from a 1986 movie called Back to School that captures my meaning pretty well.
Rodney Dangerfield plays Thornton Melon, a successful entrepreneur whose chain of “Tall and Fat” clothing stores have made him a multi-millionaire. When his son decides to quit college, he decides to enroll in the university to inspire his son to persevere, and to fulfill his father’s dream for Thornton to get an education.
Dangerfield plays an affable and accomplished slob in the film, much like his real estate mogul Al Czervik from Caddyshack years before, symbolizing the unsung potential in working-class values. And similarly playing out the “slob vs. snobs” dynamic that was prevalent in many 1980s films, a sufficiently snooty economics professor named Dr. Phillip Barbay has a problem with Mr. Melon’s admittance to Grand Lakes University – admittance gained only because he donated a new building to the college. So Barbay is pleased that Melon is a student in his economics course, and he’s eager to teach this unpolished oaf that his money can’t buy smarts.
In his first class, Dr, Barbay establishes the tone by explaining that he’s not going to waste the students’ time with a lot of “useless theories.” They are instead going to “jump right in, and create a fictional company from the ground up.” “We’ll construct our physical plant,” he continues, “we’ll set up an efficient administrative and executive structure, then we’ll manufacture our product, and market it.”
Barbay: So let’s begin by looking at construction costs of our new factory.
Melon: [Raising his hand] What’s the product?
Barbay: That is immaterial for the purposes of our discussion here. But if it makes you happy, let’s just say we’re making tape recorders.
Melon: Tape recorders, are you kiddin’? The Japs’ll kill us on the labor costs!
Barbay: Okay, fine. Then let’s just say we’re making widgets.
Melon: What’s a widget?
Barbay: It’s a fictional product. It doesn’t matter.
Melon: [Quietly, to his son sitting next to him] Doesn’t matter! Tell that to the bank, you know?
You see, it’s funny (or it certainly was in 1986, at least) to think that the liberal academic, who has never created any wealth on his own, fancies himself an expert at analyzing costs and building models for revenue growth. And yet the most fundamental aspects of any business – the product, the demand for said product, and how labor and production costs might impact bottom lines in a competitive marketplace – are “immaterial” in consideration of the more important tasks of building an elaborate “executive and administrative infrastructure” and a massive production plant. This is the liberal academia’s economic dysfunction, exemplified.
Barbay continues, describing the costs of his fictional plant:
Barbay: You will see the final bottom line requires the factoring in of not just the materials and construction costs, but also the architect’s fees, and the costs of land servicing.
Melon: Oh, you left out a bunch of stuff.
Barbay: Oh really? Like what, for instance?
Melon: Well first of all, you’re gonna have to grease the local politicians for the sudden zoning problems that always come up. Then there’s the kickbacks for the carpenters. [Shot of the students furiously taking notes] And if you plan on using any cement in this building, I’m sure the Teamsters would like to have a little chat with ya. And that’ll cost ya. Oh, and don’t forget a little something for the building inspector. Then there’s the long-term costs, such as waste disposal. I don’t know if you’re familiar with who runs that business, but I can assure you, it’s not the Boy Scouts.
These are all practical observations of the reality of doing business in America, but Dr. Barbay silences Melon by telling him that his ideas have no place in the “legitimate business world, and they’re certainly not part of anything [he’s] trying to teach” to his young charges.
As he begins his lecture again, pondering where to build the fictional factory, Melon loudly says, “How ‘bout Fantasyland?,” which is met by the laughter of his classmates.
Besides being a hilarious scene from one of my favorite movies and starring one of my favorite comedians, it serves as a parable – an interesting contrast that describes how seasoned entrepreneurs and private business owners understand wealth creation and the realities of the business world, and how leftist academic engineers haven’t the slightest clue what is involved in the operation of businesses or how wealth is created. And while conservatives respect the former, we recognize that the latter live only within the very limited scope of their preferred fantasies.
To use an obvious example, to the leftist academics touting it, there is only one result of a minimum wage increase – wages go up for unskilled laborers. Yet when reality intrudes upon the leftists’ Fantasyland, other results, which should have been easily predictable, become manifest. Increases in labor costs drive up the costs of goods and services, which decreases demand and yields lower revenues. This all takes its toll in the firing, or never hiring, of unskilled laborers.
In the real world, numbers attest to these outcomes. “After the 2009 [minimum wage] increase 600,000 teen jobs disappeared in the next six months, even as GDP expanded. In the previous six months, when the economy was still shrinking, half as many teen jobs were lost.” Such results are not unique, and certainly not ambiguous. And yet, somehow, the practical lesson is seemingly lost on the likes of Mr. Obama and his economic policy czars Alan Krueger and Jason Furman, Harvard alums all, who still promote the virtues of raising the minimum wage.
The point is that, in many ways, Donald Trump’s present popularity can be explained by his having captured the same dynamic that made Dangerfield’s character popular among audiences in the 1980s, and likewise made the liberal academic the subject of jokes.
It’s true that Trump is far from common, but he has far more in common with the common man than any Ivy League politician in Washington. And Washington has been rife with the latter for decades. Since Reagan (of Eureka College), the executive office has been perpetually occupied by Ivy Leaguers. George H.W. Bush, Yale. Bill Clinton, Yale. George W. Bush, Yale. Barack Obama, Harvard. And the left’s preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, in 2016? Yale.
It all raises the question that Mark Steyn asks for us in After America: Get Ready for Armageddon while pondering our “credentialed-to-the-hilt” aristocracy: “If the smart guys [running things] are so smart, why are we broke?”
Like millions of conservatives, I still have a bit of healthy skepticism about the benefits of declaring that Donald Trump is the best choice for the Republican ticket in 2016 and the savior of conservatism. But one thing is clear. Trump’s tapped into that energetic, dormant vein of conservatism in a way that no one else has in a long time.
He is a living testament to individualism, at once both a successful businessman and an obviously flawed human being. He has real-world experience, lending credence to his executive prowess. And he is set so starkly in contrast amidst a field that has been perpetually occupied by statist academics and robotic elitists who would presume to be our betters, despite driving us deeper and deeper into their redistributive Fantasyland.
So who can blame conservatives and independents, tired of the status quo, for finding something to cheer for in Donald Trump?
Sharyl Attkisson, 9/12/15
Donald’s Duck: 7 Reasons Why Nothing Sticks to Teflon Trump
From the moment Donald Trump entered the presidential race, the news media and pundits predicted his political demise. Each time his poll numbers went up instead of down, they rationalized it in irrational ways. For example, the news was flooded with Trump’s supposed missteps and guffaws. But when his poll numbers went up instead of down, the pundits claimed it’s because he’d gotten so much “free publicity”—never mind that the publicity had been given with the goal of making him look bad.
I’m not a political analyst. This is neither a defense nor criticism of Trump or any candidate. It’s a political outsider’s nonscientific attempt to explain what continues to befuddle so many. The seven counterpoints to conventional wisdom as to why “Trump can’t win…” are built from conversations with regular folks and nothing more. And here’s a bonus prediction based solely on these anecdotes: if Trump stays in the race, he’ll pick up support from Democrats, independents, African-Americans and women that will continue to befuddle his critics.
Trump can’t win because…
1. Trump doesn’t know the names of terror leaders.
Trump’s supporters think that anybody can memorize names of terror leaders and talking points about strategy. They believe those who do know the names have done a disastrous job on terrorism policy. They think it’s more important to have a leader who will stop following advice that keeps proving wrong than to have someone who can recite names.
2. Trump doesn’t have a plan.
Trump’s supporters believe that politicians who do have plans have messed up things pretty badly. They think Trump’s leadership skills make him more likely to accomplish a goal than a politician who has a plan.
3. Trump isn’t conservative enough.
Trump’s supporters don’t care that he doesn’t walk the party line. In fact, even if they don’t agree with all of his positions, they see his range of views as evidence that he won’t robotically bow to the will of a party above the people. His divergent views also appeal to some Democrats and independents.
4. Trump has flip-flopped.
Trump’s supporters, like many Americans, have changed their mind on issues over the years and it doesn’t bother them that Trump has, too. When Trump is criticized for flip-flopping, it only solidifies the idea among his supporters that the news media is stacking the deck against him. For example, the same reporters have not highlighted Hillary Clinton’s and President Obama’s flip-flops on gay marriage (both said through at least 2008 that they opposed it). Nor have they singled out Clinton’s change of heart on illegal immigration (in 2003, she said she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”)5. Trump personally insults people.
Trump’s supporters don’t think his penchant for insult outweighs the skillset he has to accomplish things that matter. Further, they believe Trump is giving as good as he gets whether it’s Democrats and other Republicans calling his supporters crazies, likening Republicans to terrorists, making fun of his hair, claiming he’s never read the Bible “because he’s not in it,” or saying he is a narcissistic clown.
6. Trump is against immigrants.
Trump’s supporters are wise to the propaganda effort that seeks to conflate illegal immigrants with legal immigrants. They know that Trump has spoken out in strong support of legal immigration, but opposes illegal immigration, as they do.
7. Trump won’t apologize.
Trump’s supporters are sick of the apology culture in which the media and pundits dictate appropriate behavior and demand apologies for perceived transgressions. They think a politician’s apology doesn’t change the deed and is rarely sincere; it’s simply a way of saying “I’m sorry I got caught” or “I’m sorry that what I did hurt my poll numbers.” Trump’s supporters believe his defiance of the apology culture demonstrates he will not be subject to the whims of media demands du jour.
Scott Adams (Dilbert), 9/10/15
Trump Engineers a Linguistic Kill Shot for Fiorina
Disclaimer: For new readers, this is part of my series on Trump’s skills as a persuader. I am analyzing events through the filter of my Master Wizard Hypothesis. The Master Wizard Hypothesis says that Trump is playing three-dimensional chess with a two-dimensional world and he will win the presidency in a landslide. (The alternative hypothesis is that he is nothing but the loudest “outsider” and will flame-out soon.)
I don’t know which candidate would do the best job as president. I am not that smart. But I am impressed with Trump’s game. I write about it for entertainment. Don’t take cartoonists too seriously.
The Fiorina Linguistic Kill Shot: “Look at that face!”
This morning I see that the press is playing rusty trombone on Rolling Stone’s article about Trump and his unkind comments about Carly Fiorina’s appearance. The press is furiously trying to manufacture news out of the quote and doing a good job of it so far.
You won’t appreciate the beauty of Trump’s game until you read the entire article, and that takes too long. But if you do, look for a Master Wizard making a Rolling Stones writer fall in love with him while setting up the writer to transmit the Fiorina kill shot embedded in a sexist-sounding comment.
And the Outragists danced and shouted. As planned.
See the search results on Trump’s linquistic kill shot this morning, below the post here.
All of the chatter from the Rolling Stones article will be about whether Trump’s comments were sexist or not. True to form, Trump is making all of us think past the close. The sale in this case is the idea that Fiorina’s face will be a problem with voters. We accepted that part of his suggestion and went directly to the idea of whether mentioning it is okay or not.
Yeah, that happened.
A kill shot is designed with one necessary element to distinguish it from a mere insult. The kill shot has to put words to what you were already thinking in a vague sense. If you disagree with the main idea in the linguistic kill shot, it has no power. Trump only picks kill shots you agree with on some visceral level. For example…
Jeb Bush does look “low energy.” We agree as soon as Trump says it, even if we had never had a concrete thought about it until he voiced it.
Ben Carson does seem “too nice” for the difficult job of staring down foreign leaders. We agree.
And I’m going to come right out and agree that Fiorina’s face was bothering me. But I never would have voiced that opinion without Trump going first because it sounds terrible. I wouldn’t want to be associated with the thought. [Note to Outragists: The first sentence in this paragraph is the one to take out of context. You are welcome.]
When I say Fiorina’s face bothers me, I am not referring to her looks in general. She looks fit, stylish, and attractive to me. But she does have what I call the angry wife face when she talks politics. Guys, you know the face, which is usually paired with a tone of disapproval. It is your greatest nightmare. It is the face that says you did not do a good job, at whatever.
The outragists in the press will report Trump’s comments as sexism. And by today’s standards, I agree with the classification. But what every adult male who has ever had a relationship with a woman saw was Trump putting words to their own personal nightmares: That face.
Trump will never win over voters who would be incensed by his “sexist” comments. But he can stir-up that crowd and make them carry his message to the rest of the world without paying a penny for ads.
I have no way of knowing this, but I think most voters see a guy competing in a beauty contest and commenting on the beauty of another contestant. People do cast their votes based on looks, and that includes the attitude that a candidate’s face projects. The physical appeal of the candidates – both men and women – is a HUGE factor in any political race. That’s why we don’t elect short, bald, male presidents. It works both ways. Trump spoke the ugly truth.
My guess is that the majority of American voters chuckled at Trump’s comment and muttered to themselves some version of “We don’t have to worry about him lying to us.”
And his popularity grows.