I've been watching Donald Trump pretty closely (How to avoid it? Dear God in Heaven, how to avoid it?) and I have a theory. Bear with me now, because at first you're going to laugh. I know I did. But here it is: The billionaire Trump would rather die than be president of the United States. But then he'd rather die than give up the attention, the fabulous, almost surreal attention. From the people, from the press, from the Big Guys in Washington, from the world! It's all his! Donald Trump's! He can't give it up! He just can't! But, damn, he does not want to be president.
One day, back in 2015, the showman Trump, the billionaire Donald, ridiculed by many, unliked by most, on a lark, dipped his toe--the most amazing toe in the world, let him tell you--into the presidential pool, and something magical happened. People--ordinary people--liked him! They really, really liked him! Some of them thought he'd make a great president! Not just a great president but the greatest president this country had ever seen! Maybe the greatest in the world! Him! Donald Trump!
He came up with a clever slogan. Such a clever slogan, you wouldn't believe: "Make America great again!" Word got around that this billionaire with no political ties was going to make America great again. The crowds came. They roared. He roared. They were hooked. He was hooked.
It didn't matter that he didn't have a plan. It was enough that he agreed to hate all the people they hated, that he spoke off the cuff, that he said the most outrageous things--godawful things--and got away with it. It became a spectacle and the show began to run on its own steam. It was better than any juicy, shocking reality show. It was better because they were all in it, participating, instead of just watching it on their TV screens.
But then something happened. Donald Trump began to be taken seriously. Some members of the fawning press went from enjoying the pure folly of it to asking him the hard questions. The questions any serious presidential candidate should know. Questions about the economy, about policy, about world affairs. But that's not what interested him. Not in the least.
He saw he would need to attack the press and make them look silly. And again, because everything he touched miraculously turned to gold, it worked! Beautifully! The press, because his campaign was the best copy ever, became his lap dogs. To his own surprise, they gave him so much free time he didn't have to spend a dime of his own vast fortune to get him to the very top.
Heady stuff, that. Not something a narcissistic egomaniac could easily turn his back on. So what to do? He didn't want to be president! Live in the White House, that tacky old relic? Deliver him! Deal with a Congress that wouldn't give him his way? Not on your life! Learn the names of all those countries, their leaders, their cultures, and whether or not they liked us or wanted us dead in our beds? He was a Wharton graduate--a graduate. School was over!
So Donald being Donald, he decided he needed to put an end to it. The president part, at least. He was enjoying the hell out of the attention--who wouldn't?--so he would have to figure out a way to keep the crowds coming, even though the idea of being president was beginning to seem like a real loser.
He would be their fearless leader, instead, demagoguing his way into their heads and hearts; he would keep those auditoriums, those stadiums filled to the rafters. He discovered, to his utter shock, that all he had to do was talk. He could do that!
He recognized early on that it was the throw-away, comedic insults that drew the heaviest crowds, that brought the shouts, the laughs, the catcalls. They loved him, not as a presidential candidate, but as an entertainer! Who knew?
He kept it up and they kept coming. The press couldn't get enough of the Phenomenal Donald He could insult them, call them "scum", point at them in their press boxes with a finger that oozed hatred, and still they would come. What the hell was going on? He didn't know, he didn't care. He was Number One. Numero Uno. One. As in O.N.E.
But, Good God, he might be president! How could he tell Melania Darling she might have to leave their Park Avenue penthouse? What to do, what to do? One day, as he was busy bragging himself up so as to avoid having to contend with real issues, he told the crowd that his followers were so loyal, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." The press went wild! The internet went wild! No way! Did Donald Trump really say that?
He did. He did say that. And even though he hadn't planned it that way (I'm guessing), it could well have been the moment he'd been waiting for. Who says something like that and gets away with it?
Donald Trump, that's who. So far, it hasn't hurt him AT ALL. He hasn't moved from the top of the polls, the mighty polls.
But Trump has just announced that he won't be attending the Fox News GOP debate--the last debate before the Iowa caucuses. Why not? Because Megyn Kelly will be moderating and he can't stand her. At the first debate she was rude to him. Downright mean. She dared to ask him how he would handle the criticism about the nasty comments he's made about women over the years. In answer, he began to make nasty comments about her. Over and over, day after day. He called her a bimbo, a loser, a bad reporter. He suggested it could have been menstrual flow causing all that meanness.
When he heard Kelly would be on the moderating panel, he gave Fox an ultimatum. Megyn or Trump. He harrumphed that Fox would never give up the crowds his presence would bring. They would have to cave.
"Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away," Trump said in astatement. "Roger Ailes and Fox News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump doesn't play games."
Trump can talk like that because he is not now and never will be a politician. He is a businessman who glories in his ruthlessness, a wheeler-dealer who always wins, a showman more comfortable in an arena than in an oval office.
He finally gets it: That, while the power and the glory of the presidency could be his, it won't come without four long years of compromise and crushing responsibility. He won't always get his way. He'll be required to work hard and give much. His every action will be answerable to millions of people who aren't among his gushing followers. The Megyn Kellys of the world will dog his every step.
He won't be able to stand it.
I want to help him. I really do. I want to make sure he's never president. Oh, I know he won't be grateful. He won't thank me. But sometimes it's those thankless jobs that are the most rewarding. So, how about it? Care to join me? Can we put this poor guy out of his misery already?
(Crossposted at Ramona's Voices)