Merrily He Goes Along (2016Aug09)


Monday, August 08, 2016                                       11:33 PM

I get it now. For the longest time I was frustrated—I thought, ‘Why don’t journalists out this clown?’ But, here’s the thing—they’re hamstrung by journalistic ethics—they can only report what Trump does and what he says. They cannot follow that up with their honest opinion about what he just did or said—that’s against the rules—even if an entire roomful of journalists are asking themselves, ‘Could this man seriously believe he can lead a nation?—He’s out of his mind, or an evil super-villain, or both.’ They can’t say that. They can only report the facts, ma’am.

This is important not just because it explains the press’s failure to call the Donald what he is—but because it also means that Donald Trump has created the firestorm over his fitness and temperament all by himself. With his own words and deeds he has demonstrated his ignorance, bigotry and general unfitness for arguably the most important job in the world. Everyone talks about him ‘walking back’ the reputation he has made over a year of campaigning—but you can’t un-ring a bell. This leaves the vilification of Hillary Clinton as his one and only job—his last, desperate shot at liquidating his final rival.

But Donald Trump has zero experience in government, zero understanding of the global checks and balances that maintain the status quo—and by ‘status quo’ I mean holding back World War III, mass starvation, nuclear winter—or all three at once. Donald Trump has zero understanding of public service—he has spent a lifetime in the bare-knuckle private sector and now he supposes that governance is just another ‘business’. He wins a popularity contest—but he is forcing American voters (perhaps for the first time) to question whether the one they like the best is really the best person to vote for. And his cumulative statements seem to be answering our question with a resounding ‘no’.

Trump started out with an easy job—decades of Republican mud-slinging had already made Hillary Clinton unpopular, to put it mildly—and he should have easily made the case that she should not win. But now he has raised the bar much higher—he now has to show that Hillary is more unfit than he is—and that’s a much tougher job. As a Hillary supporter, I’d like to think that people had wised up to the unfair defamations of Hillary—and seen through Trump’s lack of seriousness, and his narcissism. But I’m afraid that’s not true. I’m afraid that people have simply had their noses rubbed in the outlandish antics of Trump to the point where even the staunchest Republican has to ask, “Is that really the American way? I didn’t think we were that ugly.”

Being outrageous about his rivals during the Republican primary was fair game—we enjoyed it. But being outrageous about the national spirit, about the constitution, about war crimes and nuclear bombs, about dead soldiers and POWs?—whoa, hold on there, fella. Let’s take a beat. Nobody’s laughing any more.

There was an article in the New York Times today addressing the issue of journalists whose heads explode at the paradox of Donald Trump. Journalists are supposed to be non-judgmental—that’s their job. But what do they do with a man who dances on the edge of insanity and enormous ignorance? When Hillary questions his mental stability and fitness, she is responding honestly to his wild clown act. But when the Donald turns around and, in effect, says, “I know you are but what am I?” journalists are obligated to print ‘Trump Questions Hillary’s Fitness’ as if the statement had been made by a rational adult.

There’s a method to Trump’s madness, though—he really knows how to work the spotlight. He only trips up when substance or ethics or empathy intrude on the conversation—such areas are quicksand for the glib and superficial. Trump can tap-dance like mad—it will be interesting to see the debates. Can his media-savvy outshine the emptiness inside his head and heart—or will Hillary’s command of the subject become painfully obvious next to his vague notions of which country is which, and what cabinet bureau handles which subject?

As a Hillary supporter, I hope for the later. But bluster and venom are deadly debate strategies—and Trump is a past master of both. He also likes to make stuff up in his head as he goes along—fact-checks afterwards be damned. If Hillary is as big a liar as everyone seems to think, she’s going to need it to stand up to the man who makes his reality up as he goes along.

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