Except to say good-bye to Poor Bobby Jindal – buh-bye, Bobby – this installment of “On the Campaign Trail” is devoted to one and only one of the still-many Republican candidates: Donald Trump. The Donald is already one of the most polarizing and repugnant and divisive characters in the history of American politics but he’s also unquestionably one of the greatest sources of commentary fodder a blogger could ever desire. If The Donald was a sitcom he’d be up there with The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, The Cosby Show (are we still allowed to like The Cosby Show or do we now have to pretend like it never existed?), All in the Family, and My Two Dads.
So let’s look at what The Donald has been up to lately.
When Trump’s remarks in Alabama were interrupted by a Black Lives Matter protester, Trump deviated from his speech to demand the man’s removal.
“Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?” Trump said on Saturday morning. “Get him out of here. Throw him out!”
Later, Trump told Fox News that
Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.
That seems to be Trump’s answer to a lot of things: violence.
Once upon a time The Donald had only good things to say about Ben Carson, but once Carson’s poll numbers threatened his own, The Donald turned on him.
Carson’s campaign centers around telling his own life story, and part of that life story is that when he was a teenager, he says he had a pretty bad temper. Today, Carson’s a guy who’s so low key it looks like he’s having trouble staying awake, but The Donald, calling on his deep knowledge of and extensive training in psychology, declared Carson’s temper “pathological.” On one hand, Trump rejected one of Carson’s stories about his temper, telling an audience in Iowa “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of this country to believe this crap?” Well, Trump must be one of those stupid people because he told CNN
That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that. That’s like, you know, I could say, they say you don’t cure – as an example, child molester. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure the child molester.
No matter how you try to explain or justify it, Trump compared Carson to a child molester.
Trump clearly doesn’t know the meaning of words like “pathological.” Another word Trump doesn’t understand: “militaristic.” In August, he told CNN that
I am the most militaristic person you will ever meet.
Do you think he had any idea what he was saying or what that even means?
Of course he didn’t. It was his usual line: he is always the best or the most, no matter what the subject.
After the ISIS attack in Paris, the most militaristic person you’ll ever meet naturally knew what would prevent another such attack:
The toughest gun laws in the world: Paris. If they were allowed to carry — it would have been a much, much different situation.
Hmm, let’s see.
2012: the U.S. population was 314 million and there were 9146 homicides by gun that year.
2012: the population of France was 66 million and there were…35 homicides by gun that year.
So yes, arming the French is a great idea.
Then we have this whole business about Trump insisting that he saw “thousands and thousands of people” in New Jersey cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.
It didn’t happen. Did. Not. Happen. No one can find anything even approaching thousands of people cheering, not even hundreds of people cheering, not even dozens of people cheering. There’s not a shred of evidence to support the assertion, but Trump clearly believes that if he keeps saying things they’ll either become true or people will believe they’re true through the sheer force of repetition. He does this all the time.
This is about accountability, and that’s a concept that’s foreign to The Donald. Trump has never been held accountable for what he’s said in the past. He’s on a different and bigger stage now, though: every time he speaks publicly, someone is writing down what he says and someone’s usually recording it. You can’t deny what you’ve said because it’s already a matter of public record. During the CNBC debate, one of the questioners asked Trump about something he said, and surely the questioner knew, for a certainty, that Trump said it, but when Trump challenged the assertion the reporter backed down. To most viewers that seemed like a concession by the reporter that he (or was it she?) was mistaken, and Trump looked smart and tough. But the reporter wasn’t mistaken, only cowardly.
Hell hath no fury like The Donald when asked a difficult, challenging question, which in The World According to The Donald is not permitted and is practically an act of war. So when New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski asked such a question, The Donald shifted into attack mode. Kovaleski has a chronic condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his arms, so when The Donald shared his beef with Kovaleski with a South Carolina audience, he accompanied his words with exaggerated gestures that imitated and mocked Kovaleski.
Those of you who have children: your kids surely did this kind of thing at one time, when they were very young – maybe four or five or six. You told them it was wrong and they never did it again. But here’s The Donald, sixty-nine years old, acting like a six-year-old and mocking someone with a physical disability.
The Donald denied it, of course – he always denies it. Watch it for yourself here and just think: this man is asking you to make him president of the United States.
The Donald, as we have seen, likes to make up numbers to fit his narrative. Maybe he can do that when negotiating a deal with someone who’s as big a liar as he is but it’s harder to do when intelligent people are watching, scratching their heads, asking themselves “Can that possibly be true?,” and then doing a little research to answer their own question. So when he tweeted a message that black-on-black homicides account for ninety-seven percent of all murders of black people while white-on-white homicides account for only sixteen percent of white murders, the Urban Institute decided to look into the matter.
Here’s what it found.
On Sunday, Donald Trump tweeted out an image of 2015 homicide statistics from the “Crime Statistics Bureau” of San Francisco that purported to show that the majority of black homicides were committed by other black Americans. Black-on-black homicides were shown to be 97 percent of all black homicides, while white-on-white homicides were a mere 16 percent of all white homicides.
If that difference sounds too incredible to believe, that’s because it is.
These statistics have already been roundly and rightly taken apart. The Crime Statistics Bureau doesn’t exist, and we don’t have public homicide statistics by race for either San Francisco or the nation for 2015. This isn’t a controversial scholarly question of how you slice the data or whether one arcane statistical test or another is the right tool: the data simply don’t exist.
In other words, it’s a pure fabrication.
Trump’s defense in instances like these is “I read it on the internet.”
Which means it must be true. After all, everything you read on the internet is 100 percent accurate, right?
The Donald also claimed he predicted terrorism sponsored by Osama bin Laden.
Like The Curmudgeon predicts that the Kansas City Royals will win the 2015 World Series.
In 2000, Trump published a book that had a chapter on terrorism and in that chapter was a single, off-hand reference to bin Laden. That, in The Donald’s view, qualifies as prescience.
At least his friends think so.
In a speech in South Carolina, he said that
The other thing I predicted was terrorism. [A] friend of mine called [and said] … “You’re the first guy that really predicted terrorism.”
Where did Trump get this amazing skill?
He explained to a Tennessee audience that
I predicted Osama bin Laden … was coming in to do damage. … In my book, I predicted terrorism. I can feel it, like I can feel good location in real estate.
Feel this, Trump.
Once again, The Donald swings and misses. By 2000, when his book was published, CNN had already posted a headline citing bin Laden as a threat, bin Laden also had already been the target of U.S. warplanes for his role in attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and oh yes, he had even been indicted by a grand jury for his role in those bombings. In fact, bin Laden was even mentioned in a pre-9/11 episode of the television series The West Wing.
But The Donald and only The Donald had heard of him.
Next we come to the issue of Muslim immigrants, terrorism, and access to American shores – an access Trump seeks to deny even while his hotels continue to market visits to America throughout the Muslim world. You know the story and The Curmudgeon has no desire to rehash it because it’s all over television and newspapers and it’s beyond ridiculous, but he would like to share some of his favorite parts.
Trump knows, as we all apparently now do, that ISIS uses the internet to recruit people to its cause. What can we do about this? The Donald has a plan:
“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet,” Trump said. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way.”
That’s right: he can call Bill Gates and close down just the parts of the internet where ISIS does its recruiting. (You know: http://www.becomeaterroristinyoursparetime.com.)
The Donald even anticipates critics’ objection to his plan:
“Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech,’” he added, dismissing the objection with an arm wave. “These are foolish people.”
Yes, silly us, worrying about freedom of speech and the constitution that presidents are sworn to uphold.
Last week the Washington Post offered these observations about the Republican front-runner:
Nothing in modern politics equates with the kind of rhetoric now coming from Candidate Trump. There are no perfect analogies. One must scroll back decades for echoes, however imperfect, of what he is saying, from the populist and racially based appeals of then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1968 and 1972 to the anti-Semitic diatribes of the radio preacher Charles Coughlin during the 1930s.
Historian David Kennedy of Stanford University said there are few comparisons, adding that, in branding an entire religious class of people as not welcome, Trump “is further out there than almost anyone in the annals of [U.S.] history.”
A Washington Post columnist, in a piece titled “Donald Trump, America’s modern Mussolini,” wrote last week that
Trump uses many of the fascist’s tools: a contempt for facts, spreading a pervasive sense of fear and overwhelming crisis, portraying his backers as victims, assigning blame to foreign or alien actors and suggesting only his powerful personality can transcend the crisis. He endorsed the violence done to a dissenter at one of his rallies, and he now floats the idea of making entry to the United States contingent on religion.
As if listening to The Donald speak isn’t torture enough, candidate Trump declared that if elected, he would bring back waterboarding. According to the online publication Politico,
“I would bring it back,” Trump said. “I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they’d do to us, what they’re doing to us, what they did to James Foley when they chopped off his head. That’s a whole different level, and I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation.”
Between that and his proposal to conduct surveillance of mosques, we see that the guy is a real champion of civil liberties and human rights.
And we already know how he feels about ordinary human decency.
One right Trump apparently does believe in is the right to celebrate Christmas, which may explain his suggestion that people boycott Starbucks because the company’s Christmas cups aren’t Christmas-y enough for him.
The Donald apparently is a boycott kind of guy. He’s suggested boycotting Starbucks; boycotting Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, for asking him hard questions in a debate and then being a woman and causing him to make inappropriate remarks about her; Macy’s, which had the audacity to drop his clothing line after his obnoxious remarks about Mexicans; Univision, the Spanish-language television network, which also didn’t like his comments about Mexicans and dropped his beauty pageant and had the nerve to send a reporter to one of his press conferences to ask about those comments; Mexico, because one of his business deals in the country went awry; Italy, briefly, until Amanda Knox was released; Oreos, for moving a factory to Mexico (a two-fer!); HBO, because of nasty things Bill Maher said about him; Rolling Stone magazine, for putting the Boston bomber on its cover; and a brand of Scotch called Glenfiddich because the company sponsored an award given to a man who wouldn’t sell a piece of land Trump wanted for a golf course he hoped to build in Scotland.
Something he does like? McDonald’s, apparently: when discussing an upcoming state dinner with the leader of China, The Donald said President Obama should cancel the affair and serve Xi Jinping hamburgers from McDonald’s.
He would be such a star on the diplomatic front, wouldn’t he?
For those of you who like to explore, The Curmudgeon would like to leave you with a few resources for your entertainment and education.
Stephen Colbert had some very funny observations about The Donald. See them here.
Last week the New York Times took a big picture look at the Trump phenomenon in an article titled “95,000 Words, Many of Them Ominous, From Donald Trump’s Tongue.” For the piece, the Times analyzed every public utterance of The Donald for a week – the 95,000 words – and offered its findings and conclusions. Not to be outdone, the Washington Post took a similar big picture look at Trump. The Post’s is more entertaining: while the Times’s approach is analytic, the Post focuses more on the name-calling, lying, and demagoguery. Here are links to the Times and the Post articles; if you’re going to read only one, go with the Post.
Have you ever heard of Trump University? It’s a “school” for people who want to learn how to be real estate tycoons just like The Donald. Does it sound like a scam to you? That’s what some of the students/victims are asking the courts to decide right now. The Curmudgeon suspects that it’s sleazy and disgusting but ultimately not illegal. Judge for yourself with the help of this Time magazine article.
Late last week, Frank Luntz, probably the most influential Republican pollster in the country, conducted a focus group of Trump supporters for CBS news to test their loyalty to their strangely coiffed hero. The results were extraordinary: the more Luntz did to call their attention to the sheer idiocy of The Donald, the more the people liked him. Yes, extraordinary – and frightening. See an excerpt from the focus group here and find a Washington Post article about it here.
Finally, The Curmudgeon would like to leave you with something he just ran across the other day that appeared in the October 26 New Yorker (like most New Yorker readers, The Curmudgeon is often a few weeks behind):
Consider, too, the G.O.P. candidates for the White House. Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the only Republicans polling in double digits, daily clear their throats with that ritual preface of modern self-satisfaction – “I am not politically correct” – and then unleash statements, positions, and postures so willfully detached from fact that they embarrass the political culture that harbors them. Trump is willing to say anything – anything racist, anything false, anything “funny” – to terrify voters, or rile them, or amuse them, depending on the moment. The worst of his demagogic arousals are reminiscent of Lindbergh’s speeches in America First rallies and his fear, as he wrote in Reader’s Digest, of a “pressing sea of Yellow, Black and Brown.”