I can’t tell if Donald Trump is brilliant or an idiot—and maybe he’s both. On Monday, August 8th, he trotted out his economic plan: another alleged campaign reset focusing on actual issues. When the speech was announced days before, columnist and MSNBC talking head Eugene Robinson wondered humorously how long it would be before Trump stepped on his own new message.

Robinson’s joke got a laugh from his colleagues on the air and from me on the couch, but Trump stepped straight into it the very next day…

On Tuesday he suggested that President Hillary Clinton might, maybe, I don’t know… be assassinated by “second amendment people” to prevent her from appointing liberal justices to the Supreme Court. Instant uproar, of course. The economic plan from the day before dropped quickly into the public mind’s dustbin, along with its numerous criticisms. And Trump sat atop yet another news cycle, on the strength of his personality.

So was that move dumb, or smart? It depends on the veracity of an old adage: there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The uproar strengthened, condemnations flying from all sides. Trump had somehow succeeded and fucked up simultaneously. So what now? Hit ‘em again, before critics could find time to catch their breath! You’ve probably seen Trump’s extended riff from that Wednesday night rally: “Obama is the founder of ISIS. The founder. Hillary is the co-founder.

A fresh uproar ensued. Trump doubled down on the literal interpretation all day, despite attempts by friends to help him say it was figurative. “No, I mean he’s the founder. Most valuable player.” That slander marinated through Thursday night, to heavy criticism.

The next morning he grabbed the Friday news cycle by tweeting that no, you fools in the media, it was sarcasm.

What’s wrong with the media, he asked, grinning snakelike because he had just played them like a proverbial violin. Indeed, what IS wrong with the media? I keep hearing amazement from talking heads that Trump has spent zero, yes folks, not one red cent, on television. At this writing, Hillary’s people have spent $62 million on TV.

But turn on the news/opinion shows and you see instantly why Trump might never have to buy any TV. He’s horrible! He’s terrible! He says newspeople are the lowest form of life! And we can’t broadcast him enough! Fifty percent of all the news seems to be video of Donald Trump saying something unacceptable. Another thirty percent is talking heads discussing what he said and why. And the final twenty percent? Hmmm, I think I fell asleep.

It doesn’t have to be that way. While on the air, Joe Scarborough actually put Trump on a time-out for misbehavior—and it worked! It is WAY past time for other news organizations to do the same. Instead, they put Trump atop the news cycle again and again. He hasn’t been off the top since the conventions ended.

On Friday it was different of course, he was kinda sorta admitting an error (“…not that sarcastic…”). But guess what was going on sub rosa? Donald may have said it wrong, but Obama and Hillary are responsible for ISIS! And what was now in the rear view mirror of the national mind? Donald’s dangerous second amendment “joke.”

But of course his hardcore fans remember very well that someone could do him a favor by killing Hillary. Wouldn’t that be sooo considerate? Offensive talk like that becomes a fading memory way too quickly. Because there is simply too much.

  • Remember how he asked Russia to hack our computer networks (again)? I read late last week that those pesky Russian hackers had the RNC’s email too. C’mon Wikileaks, let’s see those!
  • Talk about bad taste… Trump accepted a purple heart medal as a gift in front of a crowd and TV cameras (“I’ve always wanted a purple heart, this was easier”). Jeez. That insult was delivered in the middle of his war with the dead muslim soldier’s parents. Donald got his purple heart not for courage or injury on the battlefield, but for being a public asshole. The Khans’ boy, that poor fool, had to die for his. 

Follow-up: Trump opened his announcement of the gift with an assurance that it’s the real medal, the oral equivalent of biting on coin. In fact, medal was a copy. So Trump’s own supporters can’t even tell him the truth!
  • Perhaps you’ve forgotten the vast difference between Trump and the Republican platform on many, many, conservative issues.
  • Trump has repeatedly brought up NATO and payments supposedly owed to us for backing it, as if he’s some gangster prodding a mark for the protection money. I’ll tell you why: he’s noticed that the poorer NATO members pay their bills in the same way that he paid contractors for building his casinos: late and never.
  • Trump trashed the NFL as soft and later falsely claimed that they contacted him to complain about debate scheduling. The Donald would like to see the league go back to playing with leather helmets and head-first tackles. Wimps!
  • More than once, Trump has insinuated that Obama has terrorism ties: most recently (before the ISIS founder quote) in the wake of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June. I think it’s attempted payback for the crushing embarrassment Obama heaped on him during the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

Those jokes still bring me relief five years later, but how long before I overload on all of that other shit? It’s too much to hold in my mind, and I want none of it in my heart.

The good news is that his general election campaign is failing. Big Time. Trump’s people have tried and failed to change his style. He has tried himself, half-heartedly, before allowing himself to slip back into habits that are decades old.

He’s begun to talk about a rigged election …which would allow him to live with losing. I recall a cartoon on this subject from a month or so ago: Trump complaining about the rigged primary process. Off to the side, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus mutters “If it’s rigged, why are you the nominee?”

That is Francis Wilkinson’s premise as she explains why Trump’s candidacy would have been sabotaged l-o-n-g ago, if the system actually were corrupt. One reason: a corrupt Obama administration could easily leak Trump’s tax returns to the New York Times. Game over, baby!

Regardless, Trump beats the “You’re cheating me!” drum hard at his rallies now. And with that, he’s not just damaging the GOP brand. He’s damaging democracy itself. Although … ask the members of any minority that has been denied the right to vote, and you might hear how damaged democracy already is.

Sometimes I could damn my fiction writer’s imagination. Try this nightmare on for size: Trump continues to sink in the polls (if that’s even possible) and reacting to it by insisting that the election is rigged. Forget the ridiculousness of every poll also being rigged.

The media spends all the time from now to the election reassuring the public (if not Trump himself) that it’s impossible to rig an election. Too many moving parts. Most of the nation winds up on the same confident page: no serious cheating possible, and Trump is losing by double digits in all the polls. Soon it will all be over, right?

The election arrives. Much has been written about how easy some voting machines are to hack—and that those same machines also have no way of detecting or logging sabotage. Or even re-counting! What genius designs a machine with no safeguards? What genius buys it for use in our elections?

Well, the worst happens: Trump wins, and not because more people voted for him, but because hackers were able to change or corrupt the vote counts in crucial swing states.

Then what? Because of the impossibility of ALL polling being faked, everyone knows the election was hacked. Everyone knows that he lost. Um, everyone but Trump’s people. The vote count says he won, and we just spent two months convincing ourselves that the count would be true. Trump claims a victory that we know to be false, b-b-but can’t be false. Can it?

What do we do then: invalidate the election? That kind of talk leads to a real civil war; or at the least, to chaotic instability—the very thing that Putin has been dreaming about for years. He invades Latvia during Obama’s lame duck period, when the election and the country are in chaos. The U.S. hangs back and absent NATO’s most powerful member available to oppose him meaningfully, Putin gets away with the aggression. And you know that success means he won’t stop there.

Perhaps I’m being pessimistic. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin decided to test the new President Clinton with a January invasion of Ukraine. A girl! Or even scarier, he would test the new President Trump. A friend!

Note to self: take a breath. That last possibility seems less likely with each new poll. Phew. Maybe.

Trump is losing popularity in the midst of winning attention, and it’s because the game has moved past his tactics. He has no strategy. He simply understands the power of an outrageous statement. He can’t believe that he can no longer get away with saying them.

I find comfort in observing that he can’t. The clown car is almost out of gas.

Even in the face of a yuge deficit in the polls, Trump is unable to change. Pollster/human snapping turtle James Carville grasps vividly where Trump’s mind is right now: he’s that street bully who just got busted in the mouth. He’s got a bloody lip and he doesn’t know what to do so he just starts swinging. And striking out.

Political Survivor #51 – subscribe!

Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

No comments


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.