The Contradictions of Trump

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Donald Trump is a tough guy who assures his countrymen that when he’s in the Oval Office he will bully Russia, China and Mexico into doing exactly what he wants, thereby Making America Great Again – his official campaign slogan – just as soon as he gets over having his feelings hurt by Megyn Kelly.  

Trump continues to make news in his ongoing vendetta against the Fox News host and co-moderator of last Thursday’s Republican primary debate in Cleveland. Kelly, who is known for asking tough questions, queried Trump about his past unflattering utterances toward women. He responded with … more unflattering utterances toward the woman with the temerity to ask him the question.

The aftermath has been well documented. First, he castigated Kelly for “not being nice” and “behaving badly.”  Next he derided her as “overrated,” a “lightweight,” and implied her “nasty” question was the result of suffering from menstruation. Blanketing the Sunday morning talk shows – except for Fox News – The Donald (or “Mr. Trump,” as his aides are instructed to call him at all times) – doubled down on his attack and tried to make Kelly’s behavior the issue. He steadfastly rejected any suggestions that he apologize. By Monday morning Trump was tripling down on national television and demanding that Kelly apologize to him.  

The four-day-long harangue from a media personality highlights one of the great contradictions of Trump: He’s the macho, brash, ball-busting New Yorker who says he can turn the country around by the force of sheer toughness. He also has paper-thin skin, transparent insecurities, and the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old. 

For years his response to any criticism or uncomfortable inquiry, no matter how mild, is to lash out at the offender with a barrage of insults questioning the person’s intellect and talent. Since his entry into the Republican race for the White House he has demanded the GOP be "nice" to him or he will take his ball, go home, and run as a third party candidate. 

But he’s not nice to anyone else. More importantly, a massive ego and tendency toward petulance aren’t characteristics that spring to mind as conducive to successful global diplomacy. Just how will President Trump respond when Vladimir Putin deliberately pokes a finger in his eye on the world stage? Will Trump hold a press conference in the East Room to denounce Putin as an overrated, no-talent “loser” who’s suffering from PMS?  

If he spins into a rage over a single question from Megyn Kelly, what will President Trump do when he orders Mexico to pay $100,000 for every illegal who crosses the border and they laugh in his face? This is not an academic question. That $100,000 fee, or whatever you want to call it, is actually one of Trump’s few specific policy proposals. And the Mexicans are already laughing at him, judging by the sale of Trump piñatas south of the border. Would President Trump usher in the era of "Pendejo Diplomacy?" 

Trump’s supporters counter that, he is a TRUTH TELLER, which is exactly what the country needs. Except that’s another major contradiction of Trump: He’s not a real truth teller. Yes, he blurts out whatever comes to mind, but that’s self-indulgence, not political courage. In the arena Trump has entered, a “truth teller” is someone with a core set of beliefs he or she is willing to articulate honestly no matter what the political cost. It’s certainly true that this quality is in short supply in American politics. But this is not what Donald Trump does. It’s not even clear that he could, because he doesn’t seem to have a coherent set of political principles. 

Trump has changed his position over the years on health care, taxes, trade, and abortion (to name just a few issues) to suit his needs at the time. That’s not “truth telling,” it’s political expedience, though it appears many of Trump’s supporters can’t tell the difference. This group also appears confused about his attack on Megyn Kelly: complaining about her question by suggesting it was her time of the month is not speaking truth to power. It’s petty, pathetic and sexist. 

Over the years, however, there is one issue about which Trump has been completely, unfailingly and utterly consistent: He’s always been in it for himself. This time is no different.

Tom Bevan is the Co-Founder & Publisher of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of Election 2012: A Time for Choosing. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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