With the Trump campaign only now announcing that they are going to bring in experts to craft policy positions, it is easy to fall into the cant adopted by Hillary Clinton. In a press briefing in New Hampshire today, Clinton observed that “Megan is a strong woman and can take care of herself,” and dismissed the Trump candidacy as “entertainment.”
But it’s far, far more than that. Trump stood up at the Fox debate and threw his money and ego around. The other candidates came off as a coterie in short pants, each one talking over the other as they sniped in the background. The goal was to make Trump sound silly, but it was obvious who had the strongest personality on the stage.
The image that comes most clearly to mind when I think of that scene is a photo of Hitler and his high command that my family came across in the effects of my grandmother’s last husband, who served on Eisenhower’s staff at the end of World War II. In the photo, the warriors are ranged behind Hitler in combat dress, but none of them looked half as tough as the Fuhrer in shorts. Despite the pout and over-coiffed hair, the same was true of Trump on the debate platform.
I’m not going to suggest that Trump is another Hitler. The man seems affable, and genuinely concerned about the “little people.” But he is obviously unwilling or unable to recognize that the jibes and threats he bandies about on the stage are a dangerous model. Every time Trump shoots off his mouth, a team of lawyers scurries in the background, evaluating whether they have leverage to impose his will on adversaries (as appears to have occurred at Fox News today through Roger Ailes), or whether to backtrack, turn on the charm, and make nice.
I don’t think that Trump understands that when he tells a woman “I’m nice to people that are nice to me,” many women in America hear echoes of an abusive boss engaged in inappropriate groping. And of civil servants, covered by a blanket assessment of idiocy, I can’t help but remember Newt Gingrich and his anti-government rhetoric during the Clinton era, rhetoric that morphed into ridiculous tales of “UN Black Helicopters” preparing to enforce a “New World Order,” whipping up hysteria and paranoia among civilian militias that peaked with McVeigh’s truck bomb murder of the children at the Murrah Building day-care center in Oklahoma City.
And as for the claim that illegal immigrants are “rapists” – we’ve heard things like that about minorities before. What was the epithet? “Christ killers?”
Trump is unsuitable for the Oval Office because he doesn’t realize that the President fires the imagination of the public with an authority presumed to be vetted by the federal bureaucracy. People without his sense of nuance and balance are going to emulate his conduct and manner of speaking. Rude men will run with his claims of oppression under the doctrine of “political correctness,” and be emboldened by his use of raw power to intimidate others. They may not have his resources, but they will emulate his conduct, and hurt a lot of other people in the process.
So, no, we shouldn’t consider this entertainment. It is dangerous. Trump needs to learn to control his mouth, or get off the political stage.