Is the Donald really getting “nuttier”? That’s what the New York Post said today, claiming insiders as their source. I don’t actually know any Donald Trump “insiders,” although I do know some of the beleaguered professionals who are trying to gain some measure of control over a hopelessly inexperienced candidate.
But you don’t need to know any insiders to understand why they’re running for cover and leaking like sieves. What else can they do? They have a candidate who is totally out of control, and it is going to cost him, sooner or later.
Believe me, none of Trump’s advisers came up with the “idea” of picking a fight with the Muslim family of a dead soldier, a young man with a bright future who was fighting for his country, the United States of America. That had to come from Trump himself. If he ever mentioned it to advisers, I can assure you they would have spoken against it. Which means that either Trump is ignoring his advisers or, worse still, is just shooting from the lip.
But presidents simply cannot shoot from the lip. It is quite literally too dangerous. We may know we’ve elected a goofball, but the rest of the world has no choice but to take him seriously.
“I’m still voting for him,” my sample Trump voter said. “At least he is authentic. The Democrats used the father to score political points at their convention. So why shouldn’t Trump try to undermine the significance of what he said?”
Fair enough. But there is a way to do it, and a way not to do it. There is a difference between being Ann Coulter, who gets on TV for being outrageous, and being Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, who doesn’t need to scream and shout anymore, doesn’t need to go around firing people, or the political equivalent.
Reality television actors and actresses can shoot from the lip all they want, and be handsomely rewarded for it, as Trump has been. They can even shoot from the lip as primary candidates, because primaries aren’t taken “seriously” in many ways. Candidates say all kinds of ridiculous things (“Read my lips: No new taxes.”) that they can’t possibly deliver on.
What Donald Trump’s succeeding statements prove, keeping the story alive without apologizing for getting it all wrong, prove is not simply that he is politically tone deaf, but that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and isn’t listening to the people who do.
That’s an even more dangerous trait in a president.
No one who becomes president can possibly know everything he or she needs to. Just not possible —even if you were secretary of state, the world keeps changing every day, not to mention every four years. What they must know (and will constantly stumble over) is what they don’t know.
And that is obviously a problem for the Donald, who is not known for losing arguments if there is more than one person in the room. The Donald is always right. Many other television actors and actresses feel that way, but they’re just reading lines, something he seems unwilling to do.
Probably the best thing about our long and miserable campaign cycle is that by the end, you really do feel like you know these people. In the case of Donald Trump, it’s a very scary feeling. Authentic he is. Whether he is competent is a different question.