Politics & Policy

Godot Will Arrive before the New, ‘Presidential’ Trump

(Spencer Platt/Getty)

It didn’t take much for some of the biggest voices in political media to declare that a new, “presidential” Donald Trump has arrived.

After Trump’s triumph in New York Tuesday, the Washington Post declared that he “sounded like a more disciplined candidate as he claimed victory in a short statement at his Midtown Manhattan skyscraper, Trump Tower. Gone were [his] signature personal insults; he referred to ‘Senator Cruz,’ not ‘Lyin’ Ted.’”

“Now he realizes that this campaign is in a new phase, and there is a natural maturation of both the candidates,” said Monica Crowley on Fox News Tuesday night. Even Megyn Kelly, once the target of such fierce wrath from Trump and his supporters, seemed to concur: “He’s already giving fewer interviews, we’ve seen fewer tweets from him, he seems to be just more disciplined.”

But not 24 hours after his New York victory speech, Trump was back to his old self. “In the case of Lyin’ Ted Cruz — Lyin’ Ted — he brings the Bible, holds it high, puts it down, lies,” he said at a rally in Indianapolis. Thursday he declared that putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill was “pure political correctness,” and tweeted another taunt at his strongest rival. “Cruz said Kasich should leave because he couldn’t get to 1237,” he wrote. “Now he can’t get to 1237. Drop out LYIN’ Ted.”

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My, how different Trump seems!

Enough of this “new and improved Trump” nonsense. The media are so eager to announce the appearance of a matured Trump that all it takes for them to declare the metamorphosis complete is one speech avoiding the usual ad hominem guff. He’s set the bar so low that when he bothers to clear it for a minute there are plenty of pliant reporters ready to pipe up in amazement.

Perhaps the media’s credulity reflects the seemingly Svengali-like influence of Trump’s new campaign chief, Paul Manafort, who assured party insiders at this week’s RNC spring meeting in Florida that everything was about to change.

“That’s what’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” Manafort said. “The negatives are going to come down, the image is going to change, but Clinton is still going to be crooked Hillary.”

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Manafort, of course, is just doing his job, spinning so hard it’s a wonder he hasn’t made himself dizzy. But is there really any reason to believe that a transparently shameless 69-year-old man is going to abandon the bombastic, crass, larger-than-life, persona he’s ridden to the cusp of the Republican nomination? Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio wrote that the mogul learned a clear philosophy from his father, Fred Trump: “Life is mainly combat; the law of the jungle rules; pretty much all that matters is winning or losing and rules are made to be broken.” Just how easy do you think Trump would find it to give up that Darwinian ethos?

This is who he is. There is no other, better, more appealing Trump hidden behind some curtain, waiting to be unveiled to the general electorate at just the right moment.

#share#He always hits back twice as hard, and often below the belt, particularly in circumstances where it’s not in his long-term interest. Any cooler head would have told him not to tweet about Heidi Cruz, mock Carly Fiorina’s face or Rand Paul’s height, and compare Ben Carson to a child molester. (The latter indiscretion didn’t cost Trump the doctor’s endorsement, which says a lot about Carson.) Trump gains nothing from mocking Chris Christie as an absentee governor with Christie standing right next to him as a surrogate, grinning like an idiot. But he does it anyway, because he can, and because it amuses him. He has the impulse control of a toddler.

Trump’s going to give some prepared speeches? Big deal.

Trump’s going to give some prepared speeches? Big deal. There’s not much evidence that he thinks issues through, so every one of his off-the-cuff interview answers is a bomb waiting to go off. He can surprise Evangelical voters by announcing one day that he thinks transgender men should be permitted to use women’s bathrooms; embarrass pro-lifers by calling for women to be punished for seeking abortions; flail when asked about the nuclear triad; suddenly change his position on H-1B visas in a debate and then insist he meant nothing of the sort.

The media, the RNC, and Manafort may want Trump to change, but it’s not so clear his supporters want him to, and there’s little sign that he wants to.

#related#He periodically suggests that what most of the political world deems “presidential” is what he deems boring, predictable, and staid — in short, the opposite of Donald J. Trump. At a rally in Wisconsin on April 4, he mused that, “I can be presidential, but if I was presidential I would only have — about 20 percent of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say.” During a Thursday appearance on NBC’s Today Show, he was more direct: “I will be so presidential, you will be so bored. You’ll say, ‘Can’t he have a little more energy?’”

A ‘presidential’ Trump wouldn’t be Trump. He likes adoring interviews (“Nothing too hard, Mika”), hates being challenged, and is always alert for any perceived slight. Those who oppose him have malignant and selfish motives; all criticism of him is invalid. Either he wins, or his foes cheated. He relishes lashing out, inflicting the most abject humiliation on opponents. At least credit him for being honest: There’s nothing contrived about the face he shows the world.

In the coming weeks, Trump may try on the disguise of a “new,” “presidential,” “maturing” persona, but his true self will never remain hidden for long. This is who he is, and it’s a fool’s errand to try to pretend otherwise.

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

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