Trump's Rehabilitation: Preparing The Ground
November 10, 2016

Maureen Dowd seems to believe that Donald Trump's brand will have a hard time recovering from this campaign. In a New York Times Magazine story, she writes:

New York elites have gone from flabbergasted that Trump got this far to debating how the Trump family ... will be received if they have to slink back into town....

“Will the word ‘Trump’ be used almost in profanity for some time to come among average New Yorkers?” asks Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic political consultant. “Likely so.”

... “I can tell you, in my crowd, they would rather not do anything associated with Trump,” says one advertising and marketing big shot. “People are nauseated by what he’s doing.”

Cindy Adams, the New York Post columnist, disagrees: “He’ll go back to being the most famous face on this planet. No, his brand won’t be hurt. Trump will be Trump. Everybody will still want to meet him.”

... One friend of Trump’s from the real estate world is worried that Trump does not understand how the groups he has derogated and demeaned will wreak revenge on him. “He’s alienated women,” the friend says. “He’s alienated wealthy people. He’s alienated people from the Middle East. He’s alienated people from Latin America. These are all fertile ground where people could buy condos from him.”

And yet if you turn to Dowd's regular Sunday column, you see the makings of a rehabilitation campaign. The message: Trump was just pretending to be a racist, sexist thug!

Before he jumped into the presidential race, Trump was seen as bombastic, vulgar, a bit of a buffoon and a cave man, but there was also, as Tina Brown put it, “a cheeky brio.” He was not regarded as a bigot or demagogue....

But he created another character for the Republican primaries, playing to the feral instincts of angry voters, encouraging violence at his rallies, hatred toward journalists and disrespect for democracy itself.

“He’s so used to playing a role in different areas of his life,” said Donny Deutsch, the ad man and TV personality who appeared on “The Apprentice” a few times and was once friendly with Trump. “He saw the crowd’s adulation and it drove him. He started to get the biggest cheers for saying the most offensive things.

“He detached himself from himself. I don’t think he believes in the Muslim ban or half the things he’s saying. It was more, ‘If this gets applause, I do it,’ in a Pavlovian dog kind of way. He just got into this character. He was so taken with the whiff of his own musk....”

There it is, all set up for him: All he has to do is gaslight us into believing that he was playing to the crowd and never meant all those terrible things he said.

Whether or not he was seen as a bigot before the campaign, we know he actually was one. He was sued by the federal government for not renting to black people in the 1970s. One of his casinos was fined for removing black employees from the floor at the request of a particular high roller. An ex-employee has quoted him as saying, "Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day." As the Central Park Five case convulsed New York City, he bought a full-page newspaper ad that demanded the reinstatement of the death penalty. And, of course, with regard to President Obama, he was America's most famous birther.

Remember, he started talking up birtherism in 2011, the year he began doing regular political commentary on Fox & Friends. He may have refined this bigoted-demagogue character during this campaign, but the hate speech began years earlier.

And he's always believed in government by strongmen, if you knew where to look for the evidence. Jonathan Chait, who once thought it would be good for the country if Trump won the Republican nomination and then fell on his face, reminded us of this in a recent mea culpa:

By March, my point of view had changed. The main piece of evidence that turned me around was a rediscovered interview Trump gave to Playboy in 1990, in which he had praised the Chinese government for its crackdown in Tiananmen Square the previous year. The comments fit in with a long-standing pattern of praise he had offered to various dictators for their ruthlessness.... this, to me, encapsulates his most alarming trait. Through every iteration of his political profile ... Trump has never wavered in his belief that strong leaders dominate and put down their opponents. He’s never had any externally driven motive to say these things. He genuinely believes it.

Trump always was that guy, just as he always was the guy who felt he had the right to leer at and maul women.

But Dowd and Deutsch are already telling us that that wasn't the real Trump. What will they and other apologists be telling us when the campaign is history and Trump is no longer firing up crowds of deplorables? So, yeah, I think the rehabilitation will proceed surprisingly smoothly.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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