Trump’s nutty insinuations outnumber his fair points

Billionaire’s behaviour casting serious doubt on whether he is qualified to be US president

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump:  has been unable to marry his often canny political instincts with some actual knowledge. Photograph:  Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump: has been unable to marry his often canny political instincts with some actual knowledge. Photograph: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

 

He won’t pivot. So I have to. Having seen Donald Trump as a braggadocious but benign celebrity in New York for decades, I did not regard him as the apotheosis of evil.

He seemed more like a toon, a cocky huckster swanning around Gotham with a statuesque woman on his arm and skyscrapers stamped with his brand. I certainly never would have predicted that the Trump name would be uttered in the same breath as Hitler, Mussolini and scary menace, even on such pop culture staples as The Bachelorette.

Trump jumped into the race with an eruption of bigotry, ranting about Mexican rapists and a Muslim ban. But privately, he assured people that these were merely opening bids in the negotiation; that he was really the same pragmatic New Yorker he had always been; that he would be a flexible, wheeling-and-dealing president, not a crazy nihilist like Ted Cruz or a mean racist like George Wallace. He yearned to be compared to Ronald Reagan, a former TV star who overcame a reputation for bellicosity and racial dog whistles to become the most beloved Republican president of modern times.

Trump was applying his business cunning, Twitter snarkiness and bendy relationship with the truth to his new role as a Republican pol. The opposition was unappetising: Cruz, a creepy, calculating ideologue; Marco Rubio, a hungry lightweight jettisoning his old positions and mentor; Chris Christie, a vindictive bully; Jeb Bush, a past-his-sell-by-date scion.

When Trump pulled back the curtain on how Washington Republicans had been stringing voters along for years with bold promises, like repealing Obamacare, that they knew had no chance, it was a rare opportunity to see them called out. And when Trump was blunt about how cheaply you could buy and sell politicians in both parties, it made this town squirm.

His obnoxious use of ethnicity only exposed the fact that Republicans had been using bigotry against minorities and gays to whip up voters for decades. The GOP would love to drop Trump now because it prefers a candidate in the party’s more subtle racist traditions. (Or even a candidate savvy enough to heap disdain on the 47 per cent of government freeloaders at a ritzy fundraiser without having a bartender tape it and leak it.)

Misbeggoten war

Washington Post

Before his campaign became infused with racial grievance, victimhood and violence, Trump told me: “I have fun with life, and I understand life, and I want to make life better for people.” If he had those better angels, he didn’t listen to them. Seduced by the roar of the angry crowd, Trump kept dishing out racially offensive comments about “my African-American”, a black man he spotted at a California rally; the “Mexican” judge on the Trump University case; and the “Afghan” who committed the atrocities in Orlando. Mitt Romney is right that Trump’s rhetoric causes “trickle-down racism” and misogyny. The Washington Post had a front-page story on Friday about the vulgarities freely directed at Clinton by men and women at Trump rallies.

Lashing out

The presumptive but now tenuous nominee seemed bereft at a Dallas rally on Thursday when he could no longer brag about his polls, which are shattering records for negativity. Finally, on Friday, Trump couldn’t stop himself tweeting out a poll, even though it was one that showed him behind Clinton.

Hostile takeover

He has made some fair points. A lot of our allies do take advantage of us. Our trade deals have left swaths of America devastated. And it was a positive move to propose a meeting with the NRA on gun control for people on the terrorist watch list.But his fair points are getting outnumbered by egregious statements and nutty insinuations, like suggesting President Obama is tolerant of Islamic State attacks, an echo of the kooky birther campaign that he led, suggesting that Obama wasn’t qualified to be president.

Now Trump’s own behaviour is casting serious doubt on whether he’s qualified to be president. – (New York Times service)