Kayfabe companions? On Hillary Clinton’s `He may still beat me, Jonathan.’

Good morning Austin:

Following the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I spent a week and a day off from work in New York, from whence I originally came, visiting with friends and family, and immersing myself once again in the home state of our next president, assuming this election does not take an even stranger turn.

I worried all week about that stranger turn, as it appeared that Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, sanctified in Cleveland only two weeks earlier, might not last the week.

From Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, under the headline, The Week They Decided Donald Trump was Crazy.

I think this week marked a certain coming to terms with where the election is going. Politics is about trends and tendencies. The trends for Donald Trump are not good, and he tends not to change.

All the damage done to him this week was self-inflicted. The arrows he’s taken are arrows he shot. We have in seven days witnessed his undignified and ungrateful reaction to a Gold Star family; the odd moment with the crying baby; the one-on-one interviews, which are starting to look like something he does in the grip of a compulsion, in which Mr. Trump expresses himself thoughtlessly, carelessly, on such issues as Russia, Ukraine and sexual harassment; the relitigating of his vulgar Megyn Kelly comments from a year ago; and, as his fortunes fell, his statement that he “would not be surprised” if the November election were “rigged.” Subject to an unprecedented assault by a sitting president who called him intellectually and characterologically unfit for the presidency, Mr Trump fired back—at Paul Ryan and John McCain.


If it is rigged, it would appear to have been rigged by Trump to benefit Clinton. Unless maybe this is Manchurian Candidate complicated and Clinton has plotted with her ostensible enemy Putin to set up Trump.

Or maybe everyone is in on it except Mike Pence – who, by the end of the campaign will be signaling the American people his despair with the eye-blinking-Morse-code expertise of former POW Jeremiah Denton.

And Tim Kaine, who may already be signaling something with his audaciously independent eyebrow.

More from Noonan

The mad scatterbrained-ness of it was captured in a Washington Post interview with Philip Rucker in which five times by my count—again, the compulsion—Mr. Trump departed the meat of the interview to turn his head and stare at the television. On seeing himself on the screen: “Lot of energy. We got a lot of energy.” Minutes later: “Look at this. It’s all Trump all day long. That’s why their ratings are through the roof.” He’s all about screens, like a toddler hooked on iPad.

Mr. Trump spent all his time doing these things instead of doing his job: making the case for his policies, expanding on his stands, and taking the battle to Hillary Clinton.

By the middle of the week the Republican National Committee was reported to be frustrated, party leaders alarmed, donors enraged. There was talk of an “intervention.”

Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake.

I looked for signs in New York.

A week ago Monday, driving south toward New York City from the Catskills on the Taconic State Parkway, I passed a sign for Donald J. Trump State Park.

That was intriguing. Perhaps it was here that money grew on trees.

I got off the road. But I couldn’t find it.



From Atlas Obscura:

Donald J. Trump State Park is covered in weeds, wild brush, graffiti-covered abandoned homes and is closed to the public. Once Trump’s “gift” to New York, now he wants it back.

Donald J. Trump State Park was created as a result of Trump’s failed attempt to build a golf course in upstate New York. Trump purchased the 436 acres of land in the 1990s for around $2 million, initially intending to develop it into a private golf course. Unfortunately his plans for the land were repeatedly foiled by the meddling of the surrounding towns (and their pesky dogs too) who weren’t so keen on the plan. It didn’t help that the golf course would have been an environmental disaster for the area.

Unable to turn the land into a recreational get away for other Trumpian types, he finally gave the land to New York state as a “gift”, with the intention of turning it into a park. Or with the intention that someone would. Or something. Trump seemed too busy cashing in on the taxes breaks he received from the donation of land, which he conveniently valued at $100 million, to care. Unfortunately, wanting a thing to be, and making it so are two different things entirely, and even though Trump’s donation was generous, there was very little money to maintain it.

The park was given an operating budget of a whopping $2,500 a year, and a maintenance crew, who already worked at nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, was asked to peel off some time to care for Trump’s “gift.” Surprising exactly no one, given its anemic resources, the park closed after just four years in operation, locking its gates in 2010.

Not taking kindly to his generosity being left to rot, Trump threatened to take the land back, like a spoiled child. But Papa New York wouldn’t give it back, so the park remains, closed and overgrown.

Signs on the nearby highway emblazoned with Donald Trump’s names till lead drivers to the closed park. Should you actually try and find out what is inside of Donald J. Trump park you will only find an empty, unloved ruin with a famous name. 

An empty unloved ruin with a famous name.

Not good sign.

An hour later, I found myself in New York City, driving along the Donald J. Trump Adopt-A-Highway on the Henry Hudson Parkway.



Eric March at Upworthy took photos of all the trash he found along Trump’s adopted highway.

Trump seemed to be doing well as an impulse purchase by the register at the Strand Bookstore.




But the real revelation came when I visited an old friend who had bought her daughter a talking Trump doll for her birthday some seven years ago.



It was in mint condition and on message.

Here are the things the Trump doll said:

  • Stay focused.
  • Remember the buck starts here.
  • I should fire myself just for having you around.
  • This one’s easy for me. You’re fired.
  • That was a tough one.
  • Ideas are welcome but make sure you have the right ones.
  • Think big and live large.
  • In my businesses you’ve got to be tough. You under-performed and you let people walk all over you. As a result, I have to tell you, you’re fired.
  • You really think you’re a good leader. I don’t.
  • Brand yourself and toot your own horn.
  • Try to avoid shaking hands whenever possible.
  • Have an ego. There’s nothing wrong with ego.
  •  Never give up. Under any circumstances. Never give up.
  •  Always enjoy what you’re doing.
  • I have no choice but to tell you, you’re fired.
  •  Go with your gut instinct.
  •  Always maintain your momentum.
  •  I’ve made some mistakes in my time but you really screwed up. When confronted with your mistakes you made one excuse after another. I hate excuses. You’re fired.

Then he starts over again.

  • Stay focused.
  • The buck starts here.

Not bad.

And only a little odd.

Corey Lewandowski, who has gone from fired Trump campaign manager to pro-Trump commentator on CNN, appears to have taken the admonition about avoiding handshakes to its logical extreme.

The full video is even more revealing of Lewandowski as a kind of Trump mood ring.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 7.19.41 PM


It is hard to look at this without recalling sunnier days for Trump when he boasted, “I Could Stand In the Middle Of Fifth Avenue And Shoot Somebody And I Wouldn’t Lose Any Voters”.

I worry that the public has so soured on Trump that if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, he might actually get arrested.

By Saturday, there was so little joy in Trumpville that George P. Bush administered the coupe de grace – endorsing Trump as an act of pity that could not be lost on Trump.

Trump was now such a sure loser that the last best hope for the Bush line could back Trump without any fear that he would actually be elected.

But then, just when all hope seemed lost, a lone voice was raised Sunday for Trump from a most unlikely source.

He may still beat me, Jonathan

That was the startling subject line on the fundraising email I received from Hillary Clinton.

Jonathan —

This week, we learned that Donald Trump and the Republicans raised more than $82 million in the month of July.

This is the same man who mocked a disabled reporter and has called women “fat pigs.” The same man who took the stage at the Republican National Convention and told the world that his vision is to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, deport millions of immigrants, and repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving countless Americans without health care.

He’s unqualified and unfit to lead our country — but the unfortunate reality we must confront is that he still might be able to win if he spends enough to convince voters otherwise.

This team has what it takes to defeat him — I know that. But I need to know you’re with me right now. Will you chip in $3 or more to help make sure we win in November and build a future for our country that we can be proud of?

If you’ve saved your payment information, your donation will go through immediately.






Or donate another amount:


I have long speculated that Donald Trump may be the kayfabe candidate for president.

From Wikipedia:

In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature of any kind.

But, now it appears that Hillary Clinton is in on the kayfabe, propping Trump up, keeping him in the ring, because, well, she needs him.

From Noonan:

His supporters hope it will all turn around in the debates: He’ll wipe the floor with her; for the first time she’ll be toe-to-toe with someone who speaks truth to power. But why do they assume this? Are they watching Mrs. Clinton? She doesn’t look very afraid of him. “No, Donald, you don’t,” she purred in her acceptance speech. In debate she’ll calmly try to swat him away, cock her head, look at the moderator, smile. She’ll be watching old videos of Reagan-Carter in 1980: “There you go again.”

She is aware no one believes she’s honest and trustworthy. If there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton knows it’s how to read a poll. She has accepted that people understand her. Her debate approach will be this: In spite of what will no doubt be some uncomfortable moments, she will, in comparison with him, seem sturdy and grounded—normal. That, this week, could be her bumper sticker: “Hillary: Way Less Abnormal.”

It must be said that all this is so strange on so many levels.

Donald Trump is said to be in love with the idea of success, dividing the world between winners and losers. But he just won big and couldn’t take yes for an answer.

He got it all, was the unique outsider who shocked the entire political class with his rise. He should be the happiest man in the world, not besieged and full of complaint. All he had to do was calm down, build bridges, reach out, reassure, be gracious. In fairness, he could not unite the party. That isn’t possible now—it is a divided party, which is why it had 17 candidates. Mr. Trump won with just less than half the vote, an achievement in a field that big, but also while representing policies that the formal leadership of the party in Washington finds anathema. He was the candidate who would control illegal immigration, who wouldn’t cut entitlements, who opposes an interventionist foreign policy, who thinks our major trade deals have not benefited Americans on the ground. And he won, big time.


I end with a new word, at least new to me. A friend called it to my attention. It speaks of the moment we’re in. It is “kakistocracy,” from the Greek. It means government by the worst persons, by the least qualified or most unprincipled. We’re on our way there, aren’t we? We’re going to have to make our way through it together.

OK. But, for all the strangeness of Trump, it was that subject line from Hillary Clinton, barely a week after becoming the first women to be a major party nominee for president, that struck the strangest note of all.

He may still beat me, Jonathan.

Hillary Clinton is not the first well-known American woman to run for president.

There was Victoria Woodhull, the candidate of the Equal Rights Party in 1872. And Shirley Chisholm, who sought the Democratic Party nomination in 1972.

And, in between, there was Gracie Allen, who ran as the candidate of the Surprise Party in 1940.

Here is an excerpt from a Gracie Allen “press conference.”

Reporter: Miss Allen, my senior editor wants to know what you opinion is on capitalism versus the little man.

Gracie: I don’t know…I never go to wrestling matches.

Reporter: Are you in favor of monopolies?

Gracie: Oh, I don’t play Monopoly.  I like Mahjong better.

Reporter: Miss Allen, what do you think of the Neutrality Bill.

Gracie: Well if we owe it, let’s pay it.

George: Gracie, why don’t you call this off?  You know you know nothing about it.  You haven’t said one thing that’s right.

Gracie: Well, I’d rather be president than right.

As far as I know, no reporter ever asked FDR, “Have you stopped beating Gracie Allen?”


Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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