Trump Will Change for No One
The president wasn’t presidential in honoring John McCain. That’s precisely his strength.
The recent furor over President Donald Trump’s muted response to the death of John McCain last weekend offers renewed insight into the mind of Trump, as well as evidence as to why, despite nearly universally negative coverage by the press, Trump remains as popular as ever with his base. Moreover, he’s gaining support among independents and even blacks.
Donald Trump was not elected to be presidential. America elected the real-estate tycoon/reality-TV star not because they expected the niceties, decorum, and political correctness that are the stock-in-trade of the DC establishment. He was elected to be a political neutron bomb detonated in the heart of the Swamp.
Rhetorically and stylistically, Trump is the anti-Reagan. Whereas Ronald Reagan was gracious even to his harshest critics, using a folksy humor to counter their attacks, Trump is a street-brawler with a sledge hammer who leaves no attack unanswered.
This blue-collar-billionaire style infuriates the political and Hollywood elites, but endears him to the millions of Americans in “flyover country” who are routinely mocked and dismissed by elites — which is why no scandal, real or imagined, has been able to dent his core support.
With McCain’s passing, Trump did the bare minimum to recognize the event. That’s because McCain, the epitome of the Washington establishment, loathed Trump, and the feeling was mutual.
Trump received enormous criticism for his initial response to the senator’s passing. Instead of an official statement, he merely tweeted, “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” Respectful, not effusive, but with the history of feuding between the two, everyone read between the lines. Trump reportedly told advisers he did not want to lavish praise on McCain because everyone would recognize it was not genuine.
After all, it was McCain who infamously and spitefully to Trump cast the deciding (and promise-breaking) vote against the Republican effort to repeal ObamaCare — an effort McCain himself campaigned on. It was also McCain who said of a 2016 Trump rally in Phoenix that Trump had “fired up the crazies.” It was in response to that jab that Trump commented about liking people who “weren’t captured.”
The fires were stoked when the White House returned its flag to full staff after only a day and a half at half-mast (as per official protocol). Enormous pressure to re-lower the flag came from Republicans, veterans groups, and even Democrats like Rep. John Lewis (who now says McCain was a “warrior for peace,” a stark reversal of his 2008 comments about then-Republican presidential nominee McCain, who Lewis claimed was fostering an “atmosphere of hate” and “hostility” like the one that led to a 1963 black church bombing by white supremacists). Soon, Trump issued a proclamation re-lowering the flag to half-staff, stating, “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.”
This is the essence of Trump: He heaps superlatives on his friends (or those he is trying to win over), while firing rhetorically brutal and often just plain nasty rebukes to his opponents.
This shunning of cultural norms and presidential courtesies has made him an easy target for his critics. Trump often creates public relations problems for himself with his relentless attacks when a kind word or an ignored slight would win points.
But Trump revels in the role of outcast and pariah. His supporters see every attack on him by the elites as evidence that he is their champion. And if they have to choose between a nice guy who gets steamrolled by the Left and a bare-knuckles brawler who conquers the deep state, well, that’s not even a close call.
After all, the media and Democrats have, since the nomination of Trump, lamented the “good old days” when Republicans nominated nice, respectable men like Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney (who couldn’t be more bland and inoffensive if he was a vanilla bean). Yet when these men ran for president, Democrats still accused them of being racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, rich (and for the rich) white guys.
At 72 years old, it is highly unlikely Trump will change. His relentless, bombastic, hard-charging personality made him one of the world’s richest and most famous men. It helped him dispatch 16 highly qualified candidates in the 2016 Republican presidential field. And it helped him achieve one of the most shocking upsets in American political history when he destroyed the Clinton political machine and won an election that, even on Election Day, many pundits and pollsters gave him less than a 10% chance of winning.
In the end, despite his abrasive style and often uncouth rhetoric, Trump has had a remarkable record of success in his first year and a half as president. So we can be appalled at his demeanor or we can accept him for what he is — a street fighter doing whatever it takes to restore American greatness.
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