by Jonah Goldberg | July 8, 2015 12:03 am
Poor Donald Trump.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. For years, wherever The Donald went, he met people who told him he should run for president. His retinue of sycophants surely saw little to gain from explaining that “birthers,” celebrity worshippers and devotees of “The Apprentice” are not a statistically meaningful sample of the electorate.
Nor did it dawn on him that some people say “you should run for president” the way you tell your long-winded uncle “you should write a book.” History is full of failed men who mistook flattery for insight.
In the past, Trump always pulled back from the brink. Why risk his beloved TV show? Why endure the embarrassment of revealing he’s not as rich as he pretends? Better to play a Cincinnatus who won’t relinquish his plow — or in this case, his line of cologne. Flirt but don’t commit was the rule.
But something changed. One too many Twitter followers said, “Do it!” One too many valets whispered, “America needs you” — probably just before asking for a raise. And Trump took the leap — though he hasn’t provided the required financial disclosures yet, which inclines me to think that he will either suddenly find an excuse to retreat or that he has a team of accountants trying to figure out how he can simultaneously save face and avoid perjury.
In his announcement speech — the brevity and discipline of which were impressive only by the standards of Fidel Castro or Joe Biden — Trump shouted his certainty that Mexico is sending rapists and other criminals to America, but he could only “assume” (sotto voce) that “some” of those Mexicans are good people.
Many of my colleagues on the right have taken pains to logic-chop Trump’s remarks. And it is true that some number of rapists and drug dealers are illegally crossing the border. Others have defended Trump by noting that what people like about this Lonesome Rhodes in a $10,000 suit is his fearlessness, bluntly tackling issues that other politicians fear to touch. That is a fine point in an indictment of the professional political class, but it is not a defense of Trump.
His goal was to wave the rhetorical bloody shirt. It worked only too well, damaging a party he expresses contempt for daily.
Indeed, Trump’s commitment to the GOP has often been situational. Sure, he has put his money where his mouth is, but he’s as promiscuous with his mouth as he is with the Trump brand. He’s given money to Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Andrew Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer and the Clinton Foundation.
Asked to explain why, he said, “You’re gonna need things from everybody.” (One does wonder what Trump hoped to get from the Clinton Foundation.)
This attitude helps explain why Trump is such a fan of eminent domain. The man seeking the tea party’s support loves to use the government to seize private land he can’t — or doesn’t want to — buy fairly.
Given the fetid swamp of sanctioned corruption that passes for commerce in New York, it’s no wonder he sees nothing wrong with greasing the skids by funding liberal politicians. But one might expect a person who claims to be a conservative to at least pay some rhetorical tribute to virtue while admitting his vice. Alas, it is axiomatic that the shameless are incapable of exhibiting shame.
The great irony is that the man who made his fortune playing the game of influence-peddling and celebrity-mongering forgot that the other players get a turn. Trump has lost his TV show. Macy’s will no longer carry his menswear. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who governs like a banana republic demagogue, has declared that he is reviewing Trump’s contracts with the city.
Meanwhile, too many of Trump’s GOP primary competitors, afraid of angering his fans, stand mute or mumbling. Republicans are fielding the best candidates in a generation, but Trump is poised to make them chumps by association. He has no chance of becoming president, but he has the huge potential to deny his alleged party a White House victory in 2016. And when that happens, he will of course stay a celebrity, but he will have traded his fame for infamy, even among those now cheering him on.
(Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. You can write to him in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO.)
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