Politics & Policy

On Donald Trump and the Two-Bit Thugs Who Do His Bidding

Trump with Corey Lewandowski (left) in Palm Beach, Fla. (Win McNamee/Getty)

There’s a long-observed adage in business: The key to success is hiring people better than you are. Today, the obverse principle was demonstrated: If you want to fail, hire like Donald Trump hires.

Earlier this morning, the Republican front-runner’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested in Jupiter, Fla., on charges of simple battery against former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a Trump campaign event on March 8. To anyone with even one operational eyeball, Fields’s claim — that Lewandowski yanked her by the arm when she tried to ask Trump a question as he headed toward the exit at his Trump National Golf Club — was never much in dispute. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who was standing beside Fields at the time of the alleged incident, corroborated Fields’s story. She tweeted pictures of the bruises on her arm. Audio of the incident emerged. Then video appeared. And on Tuesday, the Jupiter Police Department released security-camera footage that clearly shows Lewandowski grabbing Fields.

But Lewandowski is not going anywhere. Discussing the charges on CNN Tuesday afternoon, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said that Lewandowski would remain with the campaign even if he is convicted. Since simple battery in Florida carries the possibility of a year-long prison stint, this could be the first presidential campaign since Eugene Debs’s to be managed from behind prison walls.

For anyone still laboring under the delusion that a President Trump would fill his administration with the “best people,” this episode is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Trump doesn’t hire the “best people.” He hires people just like him: thuggish, hot-headed, mendacious, and concerned above all else with winning.

As of late, Trump rallies have become occasions for out-and-out brawls. Trump’s canceled rally in Chicago gave experienced politicos shivers of 1968. The violence culminated earlier this month in a Trump supporter sucker-punching a protester, then telling reporters the next protester might have to be “killed,” prompting Trump to respond that he’d happily pay his felonious fan’s legal fees. This was a few weeks after Trump himself fantasized aloud about a protester at his rally in Nevada: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

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Meanwhile, he has spent the last week threatening, then mocking, his chief opponent’s wife on Twitter — a sequence squarely in line with his history of vile remarks toward women. Ask Megyn Kelly (“blood coming out of her . . . wherever”) or Carly Fiorina (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”). Hell, ask Trump himself, who explained how he handles women in a 1992 New York Magazine profile: “You have to treat ’em like shit.”

And throughout it all, there are the lies. Trump has lied about always being against the war in Iraq — and about always being for the war in Afghanistan. He has lied about his position on single-payer health care, about self-funding his campaign, about how much he inherited, and about how much he is now worth. His personal and professional and political lives are built on one lie after another — to spouses, to business associates and employees, to voters.

#share#Thuggery, misogyny, and lying are the three pillars of the Trump campaign, courtesy of the candidate himself. Is it any surprise, then, that Trump hired a campaign manager who went on to assault a woman and lie about it (Lewandowski called Fields “delusional” on Twitter)? For that matter, is it any surprise that Trump’s spokeswoman is a bigoted opportunist whose fidelity to the truth is as stalwart as Trump’s fidelity to his marriage vows?

RELATED: After His Campaign Manager Was Charged with Battery, Trump Melted Down on Twitter

That old adage, about hiring people better than you, is only useful to people with humility, who are invested first and foremost in the success of an enterprise, and able to subordinate their egos to it. Trump has never been like that. He does not want people better than him; he wants people who will flatter him. He doesn’t want a cabinet; he wants a cult of yes men.

#related#On Tuesday afternoon, Trump took to Twitter not simply to defend Lewandowski, but to impugn Fields. He accused her of changing her story. He mused that he should sue her for battery. He tweeted a security-camera photograph of Fields, holding a pen near his arm, and asked suggestively, “What is in her hand??” — as if to suggest that Lewandowski had been protecting him from some imminent threat.

In a campaign, or a White House, the culture is set from the top. Trump doesn’t hire good people, because he’s not a good person himself. He doesn’t hire honest or thoughtful or responsible people, because he’s not honest or thoughtful or responsible. He is a small, nasty, self-absorbed fabulist, and he has gathered a coterie of small, nasty, self-absorbed fabulists to prop him up.

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.


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