Hard Choices

It is the title of Hillary Clinton’s recent memoir, but it applies more to Donald Trump than to her at this point in the campaign.  Trump has to decide who he wants to be, his know-nothing racist, misogynistic, bragging and insulting self, with no policy ideas to speak of, other than cutting his own taxes, building ‘The Wall,’ deporting 11 million people and keeping all foreign Muslims out of the US, or what the Republican establishment wants him to be: a controlled and civilized spokesperson for Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand-inspired policy agenda, who always stays on script, using the teleprompter to make sure that his vocal cords don’t go where his wacky brain wants to take them.  Trump tried the latter disguise twice now, first last Tuesday night, when he gave an uninspired victory speech in which he forgot to claim victory and to thank his voters, but incoherently rambled about his future greatness as president while his daughter Ivanka, who apparently co-wrote the speech, stood next to him looking like she couldn’t wait to get to the ladies’ room, which was caused by fear that he would go off the mental reservation she had confined him to.

Yesterday Trump appeared similarly cloaked a second time, at a faith-based event in DC, and the result was even worse.  He stumbled through his sentences, occasionally looking slightly panicked from one part of the teleprompter to the other while skipping a line and thus mutilating a sentence because his eyes had lost contact with the text.  In the evening, at an event in Richmond, VA, he had decided to ditch the teleprompter and try to be himself again, by calling Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ in response to her blistering attack on him the night before, and subsequently apologizing to ‘the real Pocahontas’ for comparing her to Elizabeth Warren, undoubtedly securing a large chunk of the native-American vote.  But it was not easy for Trump to get back into his former belligerent shape, and you could almost see him think about all the things he now knew he should not be saying anymore, pretty much like a golfer who constantly tells himself not to shank his shots and therefore screws up every time.  We’ll know better what shape Trump is shifting towards during his ‘major speech’ about the Clintons on Monday night.

The whole thing creates two dilemmas for Trump.  If he concurs with the demands of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell he looks like a neutered bull that’s trying to leave the china store without causing any more damage, and that will disappoint the under-educated white male rednecks who are the core of his constituency, possibly to the point where they stay home rather than voting for a spineless wuzz.  And if he doesn’t Ryan and McConnell might distance themselves from him.

The second dilemma is that Trump cannot change who he is, as personality theory teaches us and as 70 years of his life, a milestone he’ll reach next Tuesday, have shown.  So although the first dilemma leaves him with only bad choices it’s inevitable that in the end he won’t capitulate to the GOP and will be a thin-skinned loudmouth bully until the bitter end of the campaign.

The Democrats in the meantime won’t give poor Donald a chance to change, as they’ll make his head spin with simultaneous attacks from Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Bill and Hillary Clinton.  It will be hard for Trump, Sarah Palin and Chris Christie to respond.

Hugo Kijne

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