Trump Is Looking for a Way Out
Long before Donald Trump made his first foray into Las Vegas real estate, I had an unsettling experience gambling in a downtown Vegas casino. The cards were falling my way until late at night, when I began making subtle mistakes. My stack of poker chips, once piled high, dwindled. Ahead a few thousand dollars at one point, I cashed out with little more than my original stake.
I slept fitfully, and in the morning called my father, who grew up in Nevada and is also a gambler, to relate the previous night’s turn of events. He asked me a single question.
“Were you tired?”
“Yes,” I said. “I got up very early in the morning, traveled here, and played cards until after midnight.”
“That explains it,” he said. “You lost because you wanted to lose.”
“No,” I said. “I hated losing.”
“Of course you did, but your body needed sleep,” he said. “Your body knew that the only way it could get you to quit playing and go to bed is if you lost your money. You’re lucky you didn’t lose everything.”
That was how I learned how powerful our subconscious desires can be. All these years later, the episode puts me in mind of Donald Trump. I’ve only met the man once, and if one of my friends wrote this column, I’d tease him about going all Gail Sheehy -- I don’t usually cotton to journalists who psychoanalyze their subjects. But I believe that Donald Trump, the man who famously disparages “losers,” knows deep down he isn’t equipped to be president.
Let’s call this more reflective subconscious entity “Don Trump.”
Donald Trump loves winning and hates losing, while Don Trump knows that running a smart campaign and beating Hillary Clinton means he’d inherit a job he has neither the qualifications nor the temperament to perform successfully. Don Trump wants to lose. He wants this campaign to be over so Donald Trump can go back to doing what he’s good at: promoting his personal brand and counting his money.
To me, that’s the best explanation for the loony “Mexican” judge comments and other unforced errors Trump has made since clinching the Republican presidential nomination. A man who wanted to win this election wouldn’t make these mistakes.
Let’s start with Susana Martinez. As governor of New Mexico, she’s the chief executive in the state with the highest percentage of Latinos in the country, a border state where Trump’s famous “wall” would be built, and a bellwether that Republicans would like to carry in November. She’s the GOP’s most prominent a female Hispanic, two demographic groups Trump has trouble with. So does he woo Martinez and praise her? No. Because she skips his rally in Albuquerque, he throws a tantrum, gratuitously lashing out at her in her state's largest city.
“We have got to get your governor to get going,” he told the crowd at his event. “She’s got to do a better job. Okay? She’s not doing the job. Hey! Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”
This is Don Trump talking. A candidate trying to win wouldn’t have drawn attention to the fact that the governor was skipping his rally, let alone publicly disparage her. A candidate who wanted to win wouldn’t have mentioned her at all. If he did, it would have come out something like this: “Your governor is doing a great job! She endorsed somebody else in the primary, but we’ll get her on our side because she proves that an independent-minded Republican can carry New Mexico—and we’ll do it together in November!”
Trump was also dismissive of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another rising GOP star—and the country’s most prominent Asian-American Republican elected official. When Bret Baier of Fox News asked Donald Trump about a published report that she was under consideration as a possible running mate, Don Trump cut Baier off in mid-sentence. “No, not Nikki Haley,” he said. “No, Nikki Haley, no, she wasn’t under consideration.”
Don Trump struck again when The Washington Post investigated whether the candidate had made good on his pledge to make a $1 million contribution to a wounded military veterans’ organization. A billionaire trying to win this election would have donated the dough before it became an issue. Not Don Trump. He sent a check only after the newspaper had the goods on him—and after calling the Post reporter “a nasty guy.”
Which brings us to Don Trump’s most transparent sabotaging of Donald Trump’s campaign to date. This is his infamous slander of the San Diego-based federal “Mexican” judge handling the lawsuit by disgruntled former Trump University students. A man with Trump’s resources who actually desired the presidency would have settled this case before it made news. He could afford to refund the tuition of every former student who complained.
Or, if the lawsuit was too far down the tracks, Trump could have responded to press inquiries by simply saying, “The litigation is proceeding apace and I shouldn’t try the case in the media. The case is being heard by a liberal judge appointed by Obama, but I’m confident we’ll prevail on the merits.”
But see, saying that would have been a missed opportunity for Don Trump to undermine the campaign. And Don Trump rarely misses such an opportunity. So instead, he began jabbering about a second-generation Mexican-American judge who is treating him “very unfairly” by issuing “horrible rulings” because he’s “very strongly pro-Mexican.”
Even as he was saying that no Mexican-American jurist proud of that ethnic heritage could be fair to him in court given the things he’s said in this campaign, Trump insisted that Hispanic voters will flock to him. This was Don Trump’s finest hour of the campaign. It made chumps of the Republican officials who’d reluctantly endorsed Trump while simultaneously making the GOP nominee himself sound incoherent.
I will confess that there is another likely possibility.
Perhaps “Don” Trump doesn’t really exist, and Trump is The Donald all the way down to his subconscious. In that case, the explanation is that Trump simply cannot help himself: He’s so narcissistic and needy and thin-skinned that he must lash out at those he perceives are against him—while thinking he can be president anyway.
I like Don Trump better than that guy. I’m even betting on him.