Donald Trump’s Incoherent Reality TV (Un) Presidential Campaign

Posted on February 8, 2016

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 photo Donald Trump shuzzit_zpsadbelogp.jpg

“I’m very smart, very successful and look at these teeth – I paid for these teeth – aren’t these tremendous teeth?”

 

In this week’s

post mortem on the Iowa Caucus and the cratering of Donald Trump’s storyline of dominance and inevitability, I outlined a number of takeaways from the outcome of the election and the Trump campaign’s response to it. There is quite a bit more that is resonating outward from the initial ‘Big Bang’ of Iowa. Trump refuses to take ownership of his loss, let go and move on. “I don’t care about that fraudulently, stolen election anymore.” But he obviously cares, or wishes to impress people that he does, or he wouldn’t throw in the adverbs, fraudulently and stolen.

Of course, that is one moment and then any number of head shaking contradictions roll out of the Trump drain pipe. Then there is the ABC News Debate on Saturday. There were a lot of storylines there, aside from the Donald. This time it was the naked animosity of the ABC moderators toward Ted Cruz.

Martha Raddatz smugly attempted to trip up Cruz with a question about North Korea’s missile launch earlier in the evening, but stupidly pressed forward with an assertion that Senator Cruz had intelligence briefings on the incident. Cruz corrected her that intelligence briefings are not disseminated on the campaign trail, which she should have known. Defensive touchdown, Cruz.

Then later, Raddatz went after Cruz again about what Cruz has descriptively termed a campaign of “carpet bombing”. Cruz went into considerable detail in explaining he didn’t mean indiscriminate bombing of everything and anything. “That is targeted at oil facilities. It’s targeted at the oil tankers. It’s targeted at command-and-control locations, It’s targeted at infrastructure, it’s targeted at communications, it’s targeted at bombing all of the roads and bridges going in and out of Raqqa.”

She wasn’t satisfied and tried for 1 out of 3, with a challenge about rules of engagement. Cruz responded, “What we are doing to our sons and daughters, it is immoral.  We are sending them in to fight with their arms tied behind their back. They cannot defend themselves, and it is wrong.”

Cruz then expanded on his broad concept of the proper application of military assets.

“America has always been reluctant to use military force. It’s the last step we take. But if and when we use it, and when it comes to defeating ISIS, we should use it. We should use overwhelming force, kill the enemy, and then get the heck out. Don’t engage in nation building, but instead allow their soldiers to do their jobs instead of risking their lives with politicians making it impossible to accomplish the objective.”

Of course, the Obama administration, defending its woefully ineffective, perfunctory and tepid campaign against the Islamic State, trotted out Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland – who made this remarkable and telling comment about how the goals of military engagements have changed under this Counterfeit In Chief.

“We’re the United States of America. We have a set of guiding principles. Indiscriminate bombing, where we don’t care if we’re killing innocents or combatants, is just inconsistent with our values. At the end of the day it doesn’t only matter if you win. It’s how you win.”

Does this sound at all reminiscent of “That’s not who we are as Americans.”?

If it doesn’t only matter if you win, then what is the ultimate objective?  The answer is perpetual war and protracted conflicts. That has been the desired result of American foreign policy for the past 70 years. McFarland’s lukewarm approach in Operation Together Forward in Al Anbar province – the Battle of Ramadi, in 2006, was ineffective and resulted in more American casualties than necessary, by not storming the capital with the use of heavy close air support, artillery or tank fire.

It is true that despite this timid, measured approach, because American forces were viewed by Sunnis as the lesser of three evils, (the Shiite controlled Baghdad central government, al Qaeda and the U.S.), the “Awakening” was eventually successful for a short period of time. That is, until the Bush administration and then the Obama administration combined to destroy any gains realized by the operations in Anbar.

Baghdad’s heavy handed tactics, unopposed by either the Bush or Obama White House, eventually unwound our ephemeral accomplishment there. And a lot of it has to do with incompetent attempts at nation building – something that U.S. foreign policy should steer away from entirely, in favor of decisive victory and withdrawal. But I’ve digressed.

What was interesting is the extent to which Raddatz attempted to insert herself into the debate, as though she was instructed by ABC (Anyone But Cruz) or took it upon herself to discredit Senator Cruz. It failed and the moderators steered away from Cruz for most of the remainder of the debate, partly as punishment and partly due to the sting of defeat.

The other notable post Iowa development, is the all out war in the “establishment lane” – centering around the taking down of Marco Rubio. Rubio has been targeted in varying measure, by Jeb Bush – and his new surrogate, Lindsey Graham and much more intensively by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie, in the debate, played the role of the academy Upperclassman to Marco Rubio’s ‘plebe’. Christie manhandled Rubio, in a repeat of the aggressive posture he took to the first term Senator in the January debate. One of the heavy flurries that knocked Rubio to the mat, was this:

“See, Marco, the thing is this: When you’re president of the United States, when you’re governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person,” – referring to Rubio’s propensity to regurgitate paragraph long passages. Rubio, was so rattled by the onslaught, that he would up repeating an irrelevant narrative about Barack Obama three times.

As far as the Ben Carson situation, the very beginning of the debate suggested the downward trajectory of his campaign, far more obviously than his organization’s absurd communications the eve of the Iowa Caucus. Ben Carson completely misses his cue to walk on stage and hangs in the wings. Donald Trump hears his own call, but holds back keeping Carson company while the rest of the candidates fill out their places on stage.

One can only speculate that Trump was executing a clumsy attempt at rebuilding a bridge with Carson that he had already destroyed beyond repair.

Once that fiasco was over. Ted Cruz tendered a sincere and convincing apology for the campaign memos that misinterpreted CNN’s initial report on air that even had Dana Bash and Jake Tapper vaguely speculating that Carson may have been winding down his campaign. Carson had no choice but to accept publicly, albeit reluctantly, Ted Cruz’ apology. At no time did Cruz in any way admit personal involvement in the incident.

Donald Trump has learned not to afford Ted Cruz an opportunity to respond to his verbal grenades, so he waited until his candidate summation to take his cheap shot. Attempting to undercut Senator Cruz’ narrative on the value judgment of Iowa voters, Trump asserted Cruz’ win was “because he got Ben Carson’s votes, by the way, but we won’t say that.”

This is Trump’s customary juvenile stock in trade of making a scurrilous utterance and then pretending to withdraw it. Of course there is no way to masquerade Trump’s indecency. Trump has no grasp of any details of policy on any issue, so he retreats to the deportment and demeanor of a scoundrel. In contrast to Christie’s laser guided verbal fusillades against Rubio, Trump shoots nothing but blanks.

Either something crucial to civil dialogue is short circuited in Trump’s brain (anti-social disorder, coupled with narcissism), or he is so deep into his reality TV persona, that he is unable to turn that character off long enough to conduct himself in a manner even remotely presidential.

Potentially even more disturbing, and something everyone that has been following Trump’s campaign has observed, is his manic mood swings. Not only do they contribute to a perception of instability, but they also lend to inconsistency. For example, last we heard, “Ted Cruz is a nasty guy. Nobody likes him.” That was after Trump had made many contradictory statements in praise of Ted Cruz, earlier in the campaign, when Cruz wasn’t a threat.

But now Trump is vacillating again on Cruz. In response to a question from Hugh Hewitt on Hewitt’s radio show about Cruz, Trump said last week, “Well, I don’t know. Look, I have nothing against him. It was sort of a sad thing that happened, but I’ve always liked him.” Trump added that he has “always gotten along well” with Cruz, but that “I’m so much now focused on New Hampshire.”

If one blinks an eye, they could easily lose track of where Trump is on just about anything at any given moment. Trump uses the misfortunes of his opponents to lend fake sympathy, while at the same time affording him the opportunity to point out how pathetic they are. Of Rubio and the fall out from the debate. “He’s been hit very hard on the Twitter,” Trump said Saturday night. Wincing, he added: “I don’t know. I mean, I don’t want to comment on anybody else’s performance, because I actually have a very good relationship with Marco.” Certainly Marco Rubio earned the spanking he got from Christie, but Donald is being disingenuous once again. Of course he wants to “comment on anybody else’s performance” because in bringing it up, he just did.

It sounds like Trump’s definition of a “good relationship” with people involves, by necessity, his reserving the right to demean them publicly when it is convenient.

Finally, I can’t help but wonder if Jerry Falwell, Jr. and the other evangelical cats that put their stamp of approval on the Donald, would be willing to put their stamp of approval on Trump’s public use of profanity in campaign appearances such as his Trump turret of companies that offshore profits and avoid taxation. “And you can tell them to go f**k themselves.” It’s certainly a sentiment that I agree with, I just don’t know if expletive laden rants are appropriate in the context of a campaign speech. There’s a time and place. Does Donald Trump know the difference? Or care?

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