This morning we woke up in a nation where Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. No “Game of Thrones” analogies. This is the real thing.
“We’re going to start winning again and we’re going to win bigly, believe me,” he said on primary night. It had been quite a day. His chief opponent held a news conference to announce that Trump was an “utterly amoral” narcissist and friend to rapists who was “proud of being a serial philanderer.” Armed with that information, Indiana voters raced off to the polls and awarded Donald a huge win.
In his victory speech, Trump spoke in the much-promised “presidential” style, and the big news is that when Trump is being presidential he is incredibly boring. Also pretty incoherent:
“We have great relationships with many foreign countries, but they have to respect us and they have to understand where we’re coming from. And you know it is a two-way street. And the two-way street means that we’re going down one side and they’re coming up the other.”
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“Now, we can keep things going and we’re going to keep things going very nicely. But we owe, soon, $21 trillion. … And we’re just not in the position that we were in 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago, when a lot of these things took place and began taking place.”
His family assumed the same vacant-eyed aspect we’ve seen so many times when Chris Christie is in the background. This is not going to work over the long run. Trump can’t deal with an unresponsive audience. His entire platform is constructed around big applause lines. Last year when he announced his candidacy, the crowd roared when he brought up Mexican rapists. If they’d gone crazy when he mentioned leaf removal, his campaign would have been all about mulching.
Meanwhile, the Republican Trump challengers packed up and went home. Farewell, John Kasich — things could have been worse. You could have been Ted Cruz, who began his week by failing to respond when Carly Fiorina fell off the stage. Who concluded his bowing-out speech by bopping his wife on the nose.
In between, he learned that Trump was connecting his father with John Kennedy’s assassination. Now, Rafael Cruz is a really terrible person, who claims gay marriage is a socialist conspiracy and suggested Barack Obama be sent “back to Kenya.” But there is nothing tying him to Lee Harvey Oswald except a picture run in the National Enquirer.
It showed Oswald handing out pro-Castro literature in the company of several other unidentified people, one of whom looked a little like the elder Cruz. Except there was no evidence the two men knew each other, were ever in the same place at the same time, or … well, you know. National Enquirer.
“That was reported, and nobody talks about it,” Trump said indignantly.
People, this is the point at which I’m supposed to make you feel better by pointing to all the terrible presidential campaigns of the past. I could remind you that the first Republican presidential candidate, John Charles Frémont, was accused of being a cannibal. Or that poor Grover Cleveland was tortured by newspaper stories claiming he was “a boon companion to Buffalo harlots, a drunken, fighting, roistering roué.”
We have had a lot of crazy, scandalous charges in presidential races, some from sources even more unreliable than the National Enquirer. But not by the candidates themselves. You didn’t have James Buchanan strutting around the podium saying, “Oh, yeah, I know Frémont. Tasty Bits John, we call him.” Or James Blaine taunting: “Ho, ho, ho, it’s Grover the Rover.”
Trump has a lot to do before the convention in July. He has to put the finishing touches on his financial plan — it currently includes big tax cuts, hiking military spending and paying off the national debt in eight years. Which would leave us with a budget of pretty much zero for everything else. No need to fight about shutting down the government! The government would vanish on its own.
Plus, there’s the veep selection. “I think that, you know, a lot of people are talking about certain names, and certainly those are the names that we’re thinking of,” said Trump. As only he can. Once you eliminate all the people who have already announced they’d rather be kidnapped by manatees, there’s a pretty short list.
Maybe Chris Christie? Never in modern America have we had a presidential ticket composed entirely of guys who specialize in insulting people and yelling at the top of their lungs.
Maybe Ted Cruz? Personally I would really enjoy having a vice-presidential candidate who is on the record as calling the head of the ticket a “pathological liar.” And he does need cheering up.