The Corner

Trump Isn’t Upset by the Obama Era, He’s Always Been a Wannabe Mussolini

In response to More Court

Jay — you note that Donald Trump praised the massacre at Tiananmen Square and suggested that the USSR was too weak:

An interview that Trump gave to Playboy in 1990 has just come to my attention. If I’m the last to know about it, forgive me. Trump was asked about Gorbachev — who was nearing the end of his time in power. Trump said, “Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.” His interviewer asked, “You mean firm hand as in China?” Trump answered, “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world –”

Forget for a moment how disgraceful it is to hear an American talking like this, and note how eerily familiar Trump’s language is here. To hear Trump tell it in 2016, he has been pushed over the edge by Barack Obama’s weakness on the world stage. America, he has suggested during this campaign, was once “great,” but, after George W. Bush and Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama got their hands on it, it was turned into a weak, directionless, laughing stock — a shadow of a country, with a hollowed-out economy and an underperforming military and culture that is shackled by a perpetually offended elite. At his announcement, Trump summed up this view well:

Sadly, the American dream is dead. But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.

Because we have gone through a long period of war and a terrible recession, this sort of talk appeals to many. And understandably. And yet it turns out that Trump isn’t talking this way because he has diagnosed a recent problem with American life; he is talking this way because this is how he talks. That Playboy interview, you will note, was published in 1990. Back when the country was riding high after the Reagan years. Back when the American military was capable of kicking Iraq out of Kuwait with no problems at all. Back when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. This isn’t about Obama. This isn’t about the Republican Congress. This isn’t about the recession. It’s about Trump’s being little more than a third-rate, wannabe strongman — a man with one hammer and one nail. Trump doesn’t praise Vladimir Putin because he thinks America is going through a weak period! He praises Vladimir Putin because that’s what he thinks leadership is. The Chinese Communist Party? Weak. The USSR? Weak. George H. W. Bush? Weak. Trump? Il Duce!

Trouble is, Trump isn’t strong at all. Here, for example, are a couple of Trump promises from the same Playboy interview:

Q. The Taj Mahal in Atlantic City is going to be ___ ?

A. The most spectacular hotel-casino anywhere in the world.

Q. And the Trump Shuttle will be ___ ?

A. Easily the number-one service to Washington and Boston.

The Trump Shuttle never turned a profit and collapsed within a year. Because he had taken out so much debt to finance the project, Trump was forced to default on his loans and lost the company to his creditors.

The Taj Mahal, meanwhile, is now the poster child for a failed and crumbling Atlantic City, and a perfect example of the disgraceful way in which Trump’s businesses practices tend to screw over the little guy.

Weak? Donald Trump knows a lot about weak.

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