Many people have been defending Donald Trump because he has brought certain important political issues into the campaign. Without Trump, it is said, no one would be talking about immigration. Besides, his presence was a boon for Fox News’s ratings.
And yet, along with the message comes the man. Many people thrill to the bravado and braggadocio, to say nothing of the beautiful women and the massive fortune. But, there is more to Trump than that. Surely, the absence of humility is not a good sign.
Begin with Trump’s self-serving shading of the truth. Even though Trump proudly declared that he had donated to Rand Paul (and most of the other candidates), he had not. Of the top tier Republican candidates, he gave $10,000 to Scott Walker and $500 to Jeb Bush. That’s it. Nothing to Rand Paul or to any of the rest. So says the Washington Post.
Anyway, Megyn Kelly’s first question in Thursday’s debate ostensibly addressed Trump’s insulting remarks about women. I recognize that some people believe that saying obnoxious and stupid things about women is guaranteed to undermine political correctness. Excuse me if I disagree. The alternative to political correctness is good manners, not boorish vulgarity.
Kelly was asking whether Trump had the temperament to be president. Did he have the strength of character to be calm and collected under fire? Could he handle a crisis without flying off on a rant? Could he deal with foreign leaders when he could not impose his will on them?
The answer did not lie in his words, but in his behavior. Especially, in his continuing post-debate attacks on Megyn Kelly.
Now we know that the great Donald became undone when faced with big, bad Megyn Kelly. Keep in mind, as long as Trump is leading the Republican candidates in the polls, whatever he says reflects on the Republican Party.
Clearly, Kelly got to him. She got under his skin. She provoked an appalling rant, which did not subside after Trump got some rest.
Yesterday on CNN, Trump said this:
But, certainly, I don’t have a lot of respect for Megyn Kelly, she’s a lightweight. And she came out there reading her little script, and trying to be tough and be sharp. And when you meet her, you realize she’s not very tough, and she’s not very sharp. She’s zippo.
Kelly might not have been very tough, but she was tough enough to threaten the Donald. If he cannot deal with someone who is a "zippo"--presumably, he was talking about the lighters-- how could he deal with someone of substance. He was so threatened and so disarmed that he started lashing out, irrationally. I suspect that no woman has ever addressed him with such disrespect. As is his wont, Trump responded with a disgracefully indecent remark:
And you know, you can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever, but she was, in my opinion, she was off base.
When you can’t answer the question, you attack the messenger. It is not a sign of toughness or of strength. It signals weakness. It shows that Trump can be easily manipulated. Those who think that Trump is a tower of strength should revise their opinions. Trump is more bluster than strength; more boasting than leadership. One should be able to tell the difference.
As you know, the remark got Trump disinvited from the Red State conservative confab today. Host Erick Erickson invited Megyn Kelly in his place.
Do you all think that Trump’s attitude and temperament are still defensible? Do you still believe that whatever he has added to the political debate is worth the price? And keep in mind, this man justifies his bullying threat to run as an independent by saying that he just wants people to be nice to him.
[Addendum: Jonah Goldberg makes the same point here.]