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Trump Doesn’t Get It

Trump just doesn’t get it.  He never will.

There are a great many ‘its’ that Trump doesn’t get – starting with what his job is.  

Two centuries of American history offer a few clues on how to do it, and what its purpose is.  But I’m guessing that Trump has no time for history.  I doubt that he has ever bothered to read any.  Even if he had he would probably have dismissed it as irrelevant. 

Because Trump thinks history starts with him.  His ego tells him so.       

His ego tells him a great many things.  It whispers in his ear that he is bigger than the office he holds.  It tells him that anyone who disagrees with him must be regarded as an enemy.  It warns him that the entire media industry, bar Fox News, is out to destroy him.  This ego is well and truly out of the box, running free, like the relieved evil genie released from his bottle.  The ego is now so out of control that its owner, listening with child-like credulity to every whispered word, lives in a different reality from the rest of us: a child not just living in an adult’s world but placed in charge of it.

Trump is, of course, a child – a spoiled and petulant ten-year old who can’t understand why he’s not allowed his own way, and throws a tantrum whenever he doesn’t.  And then, once he’s cooled off, spends his days plotting his revenge against the grown-ups who are trying to ruin all his fun.  A spoiled ten-year old can conjure up any number of reasons why he is right and anyone else is wrong, even when ‘anyone else’ is made up of an overwhelming majority. 

I know.  I was once a ten-year old myself.

Trump’s responses – for there were several – to the Charlottesville violence are instructive. 

He first blamed ‘both sides’ for causing the trouble, when even then the fault clearly lay with the half-witted bigots of the so-called alt-right who invaded the town.  Then, in response to howls of protest from aides and congressional figures from his own party who pointed out that he had missed this essential truth, Trump relented.  From an obviously prepared statement he read, from an autocue with not a glimmer of feeling, that the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists may have had a hand in the mayhem.  But then, twenty-four hours later, with the defiance typical of a resentful ten-year old, he reverted to his original comment that ‘both sides’ were to blame.

Let us suppose for an instant that he was right, that there were two sides involved.  This overlooks the fact that one side was the cause and the other the effect.  Cause carries more guilt than effect.  If the Jews in Munich had violently protested a march through the city by Hitler’s black-shirts, chanting anti-Semitic slogans, where would Herr Trumpf – his grandfather perhaps – have assigned the blame?  Both sides, I suppose.  “The Nazis may have been wrong,” said Herr Trumpf.   “But the Jews shouldn’t have reacted as they did.  By doing so they made the situation worse.  Just made it worse, I tell you.” 

As the violence in Virginia receded, Trump’s ego, perched as usual on its master’s shoulder, urged him not to let his enemies get the better of him.  “That second speech was a humiliation, Donald.  Nobody, but nobody, should be telling you what to say.  You got it right the first times.  You screwed up by giving in to them.  Now, give ‘em hell back.”

He had screwed up, of course, but for getting it wrong the first time. That temporarily repentant Trump was not the real one.   The real Trump – the Trump that David Dukes of the KKK seems to think represents the thinking of the real people – was the one who made the first statement – and the identical third.  In the first one, Trump spoke from pure instinct.  The third was pure bile.  No wonder Dukes was so pleased.  Trump’s fall-back position was eerily redolent of the Fifties, when mealy-mouthed politicians up north, President Eisenhower included, balked at sending federal troops to the south to enforce civil rights laws.      

There has never been a president this incapable of expressing himself.  Not even the aforementioned Eisenhower, master of dissembling and mangled syntax.  Ike was at least prudent in most of what he said, even if it often came out all wrong.  Trump rides roughshod over prudence.  The truth is that whenever he speaks off the cuff he lands in trouble.  And every time he sends out one of his puerile tweets, with plenty of time to think before he hits the transmit button, he gets to the same sticky spot.  But then, it’s actually the spot he wants to land on.   

He may in doing so demean the office and most of his countrymen but he satisfies that alter ego perched on his shoulder, and convinces himself that he’s fulfilling his promise to hard-core Trump voters to drain the Washington swamp. 

I’ve no idea what they are thinking these days out in Trumpland but I would be surprised if many of those who elected him were not beginning to entertain doubts.  Even some of those slavishly GOP-friendly presenters on Fox News, it seems to me, are starting to look and sound faintly despairing. 

Perhaps their boss, Rupert Murdoch, surveying the scene from the panoramic vastness of his eyrie above the streets of Manhattan, is finally coming round to the view that he just might have backed the wrong horse.  He would be doing many of us a favour by saying so.

Mind you, I’ll believe it when I hear it.

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