`I don’t like losers.’ On Donald Trump, Miss USA and Ted Cruz

"I know what crazies are."

“I know what crazies are.”

Good morning Austin:

Donald Trump’s twitter handle is @realdonaldtrump. I guess that’s to distinguish it from a parody account. Sensible precaution.

The real deal is a thing of beauty.

A recent sampling:

In this video, Trump talks about how the U.S. economy is “going to hell,” because of the “cunning” of Mexican and Chinese leaders.

In this unedited video of a Trump rally in New Hampshire, he talks about the Iran deal, Hillary Clinton and his Republican rivals.

So what is Trump’s problem?

Four years ago, Maria Konnikova at Big Think suggested that Trump may be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

Hmm. Sounds right. I looked it up.

From the Mayo Clinic:
If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:– Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
– Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
– Exaggerating your achievements and talents
– Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
– Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
– Requiring constant admiration
– Having a sense of entitlement
– Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
– Taking advantage of others to get what you want
– Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
– Being envious of others and believing others envy you
– Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
– Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.

Wow. He’s textbook. They ought to just to rename it Trump’s Syndrome.

But, lo and behold, it turns out that Trump exists at a moment in American reality TV history when Trump Syndrome is not necessarily a debilitating malady. Indeed, it may be an advantage.

As Jelani Cobb wrote recently in the New Yorker:

In all the ways that matter, save actual performing, Donald Trump is a not a politician—he’s a rapper. If elected, he’s less likely to represent George W. Bush’s third term than Kanye West’s first one.

Actually, listening to Trump’s comments over the weekend about John McCain at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, I also heard the rhythms and sensibility of a New York insult comedian, say Andrew Dice Clay.

Here is a transcript of the pertinent remarks from Real Clear Politics:

QUESTION: John McCain, a war hero, five and a half years as a prisoner of war and you called him a “dummy.”

Is that appropriate in running for president?

DONALD TRUMP: I know him too well, that is the problem. Let’s take John McCain. I’m in Phoenix, we have a meeting that is going to have 500 people at the Biltmore Hotel. We get a call from the hotel, it is turmoil, thousands and thousands of people are showing up, four days before they’re pitching tents.

The hotel says we can’t handle this it is going to destroy the hotel, we move it to the convention center, we have 15,000 people. The biggest one ever. Bigger than anybody Bernie Sanders, bigger than anybody and everyone knows it… Wonderful, great Americans…

John McCain goes, “oh boy, Trump makes my life difficult, he had fifteen thousand crazies show up,” he called them all crazy.

I said, they weren’t crazy, they were great Americans…

I know what a crazy is, I know all about crazy, These weren’t crazy.

So he insulted me, and he insulted everyone in that room. So I said, somebody should run against John McCain — and I supported him for president, I raised a million dollars for the guy, that’s a lot of money.

I supported him, he lost, he let us down. He lost, so I never liked him as much after that. I don’t like losers.

QUESTION: But he is a war hero, five and a half years as a prisoner of war.

He is not a ‘war hero.’

He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, let me tell you. He’s a war hero. Because he was captured, and I believe perhaps he is a war hero, but right now he’s said a lot of very bad things about a lot of people.

So what I said, is: John McCain, I disagree with him, these people aren’t crazy, and, very importantly, I speak the truth, he graduated last in his class at Annapolis [Naval Academy], nobody knows that. I said he graduated last or second to last, he graduated last at Annapolis. And he was upset, for what? For telling the truth. You’re not supposed to say that somebody graduated last or second to last, because you’re supposed to be very nice.

I want to make America great again… We don’t want to listen to his stuff with being politically correct. We have a lot of work to do.

There is a logic to Trump’s attack on McCain. It is the logic of the middle school playground. You insult me, I insult you. You hit me below the belt, I’ll hit you even harder below the belt – and it’s perfectly OK because you started it. The merit of what I’m saying is entirely beside the point.

It’s presidential politics as playing the dozens. If Trump runs as an independent, it ought to be on the Yo’ Mama People’s Party.

"I know what crazies are."

“I know all about crazy.”

According to Jonathan Martin and Alan Rappeport in the New York Times, the audience in Iowa was less offended by Trump’s comments on McCain than other aspects of his presentation.

Yet Mr. Trump’s awkward and ill-suited remarks about religion and marriage here may have done more damage to his candidacy, at least with Christian conservatives.

“I’m a religious person,” Mr. Trump offered. “I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.”

Mr. Trump also struggled to answer if he had ever sought forgiveness from God, before reluctantly acknowledging that he had not. “If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he said. “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

And Mr. Trump raised eyebrows with language rarely heard before an evangelical audience — saying “damn” and “hell” when discussing education and the economy — while also describing the taking of communion in glib terms. “When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness,” Mr. Trump said.

If all that was not enough to roil the button-downed crowd, he also described his three marriages in starkly frank terms, conceding that he had difficulty finding a work-life balance.

“It was a work thing, it wasn’t a bad thing,” Mr. Trump said. “It was very hard for anybody to compete against the work.”

Despite his marital problems over the years, Mr. Trump said that he was always available to his children and that he did his best to have dinner with them on most nights even when his work was grueling. He worked hard, he said, to instill good values and steer them away from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

“I was actually a great father,” Mr. Trump said. “I was a better father than I was a husband.”

It was these comments, not his attack on Mr. McCain, that prompted the most muttering and unease in the audience.

Yes, Trump seems an unlikely evangelical hero, without a thorough rewriting of the Gospels.

For example:

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek,  for they shall inherit the earth.”

Donald 5:5 “The meek are losers. I hate losers.”

As I watched Frank Luntz question Trump and the other candidates in Iowa, I thought how fortunate they were that they weren’t put on the spot the way the five finalists were at the recent Miss USA Pageant, a Trump production.

You may recall that Trump’s words about Mexican border-crossers when he announced his candidacy a month ago led NBC and Univision to cancel broadcast of the pageant at the very last minute.

From the New York Post:

NBC and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision refused to air the Miss USA pageant, as scheduled, on July 12. Niche cable network Reelz picked up the rights.

The pageant drew just 925,000 viewers on Reelz, down sharply from the 5.6 million viewers who watched the show on NBC in 2014, according to Nielsen data.

Trump has sued Univision in New York state court for $500 million over its decision to drop the pageant programming and plans to file a similar suit against NBC, a source said.

This is what Trump said that prompted the cancellation:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems … When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

I thought it was hugely unfair for NBC and Univision to cancel airing the pageant – a kind of self-satisfied preening that came at the expense of the contestants. I watched the pageant and this was an impressive group of hyper-accomplished young women – doctors, lawyers, newscasters, creators of non-profits devoted to civic betterment – and incredibly racially and ethnically diverse, with a sizable proportion the children of immigrants.

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The five Miss USA finalists

The individual penultimate question for each of the five finalists was, as usual, cringe-worthy. (The final question for all of them is what woman should be on the $10 bill.)

Miss Texas – Ylianna Guerra of McAllen – was asked whether the government should do anything about the fact that CEO’s make 300 times as much as the average worker?

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She gave the correct Texas answer. No.

“CEO’s, I believe they work hard enough for their money, so I think they should be able to attain whatever it is they are working for.”

For Miss Rhode Island it was, “Recently comedian Jerry Seinfeld spoke out against political correctness in our culture. Do you think political correctness is hurting or helping this country?”

That’s terrible. What is the politically correct answer?

Miss Rhode Island froze. Started to answer. Asked to have the question repeated. Resumed her halting answer. It was awful. A lovely young woman who we had learned earlier in the pageant had spent some of her growing up homeless living in a Walmart parking lot, was done.

 

Miss Rhode Island: "I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question?"

Miss Rhode Island: “I’m sorry. Can you repeat the question?”

For Miss Maryland, it was whether restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba was a good thing.

“Yes … We should not be holding onto old grudges.”

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Miss Nevada got the ultimate pageant question: “What would you do to improve race relations in the U.S.? Please be specific.”

 

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Suffice it to say, she couldn’t solve the race problem, in 30 seconds, dressed in her evening gown. She was through.

And here was Miss Oklahoma’s question.

“The Confederate flag, excessive force by police and same-sex marriage are all recent hot-button issues in our country. What will be the next we have to tackle on a national level?”

What?

What would Donald Trump say?

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 6.07.54 AM

Miss Oklahoma did what a good politician would do. She didn’t answer the question. She answered the question she wanted to answer.

“I think we still need to talk about race relations in this country. We have still not solved that problem.”

Bravo.

Of course, she didn’t have time to solve the problem – and frankly, that was really Miss Nevada’s responsibility – but, boom, done, without hesitation or doubt, she had offered an assertive, politically correct reply and she was crowned Miss USA.

The point here is that Donald Trump could never have won based on the Q-and-A at his own pageant. But in the realm of Republican Party politics, the assertive, politically incorrect reply is gold, and that bears serious attention.

As Brookings demographer William Frey warned in the Washington Post, even before this latest to-do, it’s time to Stop Laughing at Donald Trump, even if it is, as this First Reading suggests, tempting.

But writing Trump off is dangerous. The billionaire may play the buffoon, but he is an important one — one whom Americans appear to adore. A USA Today-Suffolk University poll released Tuesday shows him leading all Republican presidential hopefuls. And while establishment candidates in both parties might want to ignore him, or express a milder version of his anti-immigration opinions, an enormous number of voters clearly like his views. Pretending they don’t allows Trump and other immigration firebrands, such as Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz, to resuscitate a century-old nativism that could stick around beyond this election. Given that the United States is undergoing a demographic diversity explosion, our workforce — our very future — is tied to people Trump is rallying support against.

Trump’s message is a call to 1950s American greatness and a simmering, mad-as-hell populism that blames Chinese imports, freeloading Saudis and Mexican immigrants (and Mexico) for the nation’s ills. It appeals to a vein of the U.S. electorate that will remain a significant voting bloc for several election cycles to come: older whites. Trump calls his supporters the “silent majority,” the same name Richard Nixon used to marshal support from a white, middle-class, middle-aged population that felt underappreciated and feared the dramatic social change wrought by activist, antiwar youths and the civil rights movement.

Public opinion polls and recent election results reflect similar views among older whites today. Pew Research Center data from 2012 showed that more than half of white baby boomers and seniors believed that increasing numbers of newcomers from other countries represented a threat to traditional American values. They were less likely than minorities and younger whites to hold a positive opinion of the growing numbers of Hispanics and Asians in the United States. These views translate into negative attitudes toward government programs they see as not benefitting their own children and grandchildren. A 2013 Pew survey showed that, given the choice between a larger government that offered more services and a smaller government that offered fewer, less than a quarter of white baby boomers favored larger government, compared with 7 in 10 minorities of the Gen X and millennial generations.

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Democrats cannot make the politics of fear go away simply by courting the young-adult and minority voting blocs. While it is true that the supersize turnout and support of those groups helped elect President Obama twice, the white portion of the electorate, which votes strongly Republican, underperformed in support of John McCain in 2008, and white turnout was down in 2012. Rhetoric playing to the fears of older Americans could change that pattern and draw more white voters to the polls in 2016.

While racial minorities now account for 95 percent of U.S. population growth and represent 38 percent of the population, as reported by the Census Bureau last month, there is a sharp lag in diversity between the overall population and the portion that turns out on Election Day. A disproportionate number of Hispanics and Asians are either too young to vote, are not citizens or are not registered, qualities that will not change for several more election cycles. Even in 2012, with strong minority turnout, whites made up 74 percent of all voters. And within the white voting bloc, it is the older electorate — those most greatly fearing change — that will be gaining as baby boomers continue to age. By my calculation, the number of (mostly white) eligible voters over age 45 will be 26 percent larger in 2024 than those under age 45. This disparity will be further widened by the higher turnout of older white voters, who may not determine future elections but will continue to have a strong voice.

This helps explain why it is that Sen. Ted Cruz has refused to join most of his fellow Republican candidates, beginning with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in criticizing Trump.

In an interview with Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin Cruz explained, with great earnestness, how much he admires the courage of his “friend” John McCain, but would not play the “media game” of denouncing his “friend,” Donald Trump.

Now Cruz has crafted the persona of the truth-teller who doesn’t play the Washington game of fake “friends,” but we’ll have to take his word for it that he and McCain and Trump are well and truly BFFs.

Still, he is walking a fine line.

From a Wall Street Journal editorial posted Sunday evening:

But note the silence of Ted Cruz, who declined to criticize Mr. Trump because he said the media enjoy such intra-Republican fights. Mr. Cruz has recently released a book whose main theme is an attack on other Republicans. It’s central to his campaign strategy. The Texas Senator must be hoping to inherit Trump voters once the casino magnate flames out, but he’s revealing his own lack of political character.

As to the Cruz campaign strategy, last week a Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise, posted a PowerPoint affirmatively answering the question, Can he win? From CNN:

Keep the Promise, whose strategy is detailed in a 51-slide PowerPoint presentation titled “Can He Win?” recently posted to the organization’s website, mercilessly attacks 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney as unable to elevate “wedge issues,” or divisive issues that polarize voters, to the forefront of the Republican debate. Calling Romney a “terrible candidate with a terrible campaign,” the slides pillory him as a Republican who managed to squander winnable states just like every other “loser” moderate candidate.

 

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The terrible candidate with a terrible campaign almost won, is the PowerPoint’s repeated refrain.

 

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Romney was a “terrible candidate” who ran a “terrible campaign.”

“Moderate candidates are losers.”

The language, the tone is Trumpian, and clearly, their strategy is to harness what Frey called the “mad-as-hell populism” that Trump has tapped into.

 

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The PowerPoint notes that the only moderate Republican to win the presidency in recent decades was George H.W. Bush, and then only thanks to the contributions of Ronald Reagan, Lee Atwater and Willie Horton.

It’s a bracing note.

After all, on his deathbed, Lee Atwater had his regrets.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12— In a detailed and candid article about his career and his fight against an inoperable brain tumor, Lee Atwater has apologized to Michael S. Dukakis for the “naked cruelty” of a remark he made about the Democratic Presidential nominee in the 1988 campaign.

The apology by Mr. Atwater, who is now in his last month as chairman of the Republican National Committee, is included in an article in the February issue of Life magazine, where he also starkly describes his often-desperate attempts to deal with his illness and his fear on some nights that if he falls asleep, “I will never wake up again.”

As manager of Mr. Bush’s campaign, Mr. Atwater succeeded in making the case of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer, an issue against Mr. Dukakis.

Mr. Horton, who is black, raped a white woman and stabbed her husband while on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison. The Bush campaign used the case to portray Mr. Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, as a liberal who was soft on crime.

“In 1988,” Mr. Atwater said, “fighting Dukakis, I said that I ‘would strip the bark off the little bastard’ and ‘make Willie Horton his running mate.’ I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not.”

Since being stricken last year, the 39-year-old Mr. Atwater has apologized on several occasions for many of the campaign tactics he once employed and for which he was criticized. But rarely has he spoken in such detail or with such candor as in the interview for the first-person Life article.

“In part because of our successful manipulation of his campaign themes, George Bush won handily,” Mr. Atwater said. He conceded that throughout his political career “a reputation as a fierce and ugly campaigner has dogged me.”

“While I didn’t invent negative politics,” he said, “I am one of its most ardent practitioners.”

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