Sorry, GOP: There Is No Trump 'Reset' Button
Back in mid-March—when Americans could still operate in healthy denial regarding the political tragicomedy to come—Dr. Ben Carson, fresh off of endorsing Donald Trump for president, delivered a somnolent yet strangely chipper performance on MSNBC’S “Morning Joe.” Trump’s Chicago rally had just been canceled after rounds of fisticuffs between his supporters and protesters. Carson was there to assure America, or at least Republicans, that all was well.
“Donald Trump will come to the realization that this is a golden opportunity for leadership,” Carson said, appearing, as usual, as if he might nod off right then and there. “I think you’re probably going to see him pivoting more in the direction of everybody, rather than just those who are angry.” This magical and inevitable “pivot,” Carson assured the audience, would come “very shortly.”
I now invite readers to join me in a short yet hearty belly laugh, followed by a brisk bout of wheezing, followed by the wiping of tears from one’s eyes, either from hilarity or despair. The long-fabled Trump “pivot,” of course, never came.
It never came when Newt Gingrich predicted it would. It never came when Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan reluctantly tied their wagons to the Trump Train, silently hoping it would somehow magically jump to a completely different track running in the opposite direction 500,000 ideological feet away. It never came when Scott Walker helpfully endorsed Donald Trump while managing not to use his name.
Heck, it never even came when Trump himself predicted it. “As I get closer and closer to the goal, it’s going to get different,” he announced to Greta Van Susteren in February. “I will be changing very rapidly. I’m very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.” Or, as he later told his obsequious pal Sean Hannity: “At the right time, I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that, it’s too much.’”
Right. So, here we are. The GOP has its nominee, and it is Donald Trump. This has been documented for quite some time, and we are reminded of it daily—and yet, amazingly, a good number of otherwise intelligent people seem repeatedly shocked that Donald Trump is indeed Donald Trump, and not a Calvin Coolidge/Ronald Reagan/Ludwig von Mises hybrid hiding inside a fantastically clever and wildly expensive Donald Trump look-alike suit.
How else can one explain the GOP’s bizarre nervous breakdown this week, shortly after its own convention, inspired by the same brand of Trumpian behavior that has been on clear display for the past year? “The Republican Party was in turmoil again Wednesday,” the Washington Post reported breathlessly, “as party leaders, strategists, and donors voiced increasing alarm about the flailing state of Donald Trump’s candidacy and fears that the presidential nominee was damaging the party with an extraordinary week of self-inflicted mistakes, gratuitous attacks and missed opportunities.”
Those “mistakes” and “attacks” included broadsides against Paul Ryan and John McCain, reports of major internal campaign dysfunction, various odd comments about sexual harassment, missteps in an interview about Ukraine, and an elongated and exhausting feud with a Gold Star military family who lost their son in Iraq. In an impressively short period of time, Trump tossed out enough media red meat to drown out any peep of Hillary coverage, positive or negative—or Obama coverage, for that matter.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the presidential campaign over the past few months, you know this is nothing new. This is classic Trump. He is not slipping “off message,” as hopeful Republican insiders like to claim. This sort of thing is Trump’s message, and it has been since the day he announced his candidacy. But alas, dear GOP: These days, it seems, you can’t do anything right—and in this case, you can’t even properly time your freak-outs.
“Key Republicans close to Donald Trump’s orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours,” NBC News reported Wednesday, in news that could have come out of a contentious sorority chapter meeting. “Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days.”
Ah, the fabled “reset,” paired with an intervention, paired with various other quixotic attempts to craft a candidate into something he’s not, and perhaps doesn’t even want to be! I’m sure it will lead to more “message discipline,” and perhaps learning “some new skills”—that helpful suggestion comes from Newt Gingrich, in the Post story—and a quick and easy personality transformation. Good luck with that, GOP. As the old chorus goes: I’m sure this time will be different.