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The Closing Of Trump’s Door

Crazy like a fox -- or just crazy? (a katz / Shutterstock.com)

Elsewhere on TAC, Pat Buchanan insists that Trump still has a path to victory this fall. Excerpt:

In August 1964, Barry was 36 points behind LBJ. As of today, Trump is 10 points behind Clinton. From Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush, many presidential candidates have been able to close a 10-point gap and win.

What does Trump need to do? In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Keep your eyes on the prize”—the presidency. And between Trump and the presidency today stands not Paul Ryan, but Hillary Clinton.

The Donald, his campaign, and the party need to cease attacking one another to the elation of a hostile media, and redirect all their fire on the sole obstacle between them and a Republican sweep.

Nor is it all that complex or difficult a task.

Buchanan is right, but he’s also too late. Trump has spent the last week or two demonstrating to everyone that he has no self-discipline, even when the presidency is on the line. Peggy Noonan writes the obit for a suicidal campaign. Excerpts:

All the damage done to him this week was self-inflicted. The arrows he’s taken are arrows he shot. We have in seven days witnessed his undignified and ungrateful reaction to a Gold Star family; the odd moment with the crying baby; the one-on-one interviews, which are starting to look like something he does in the grip of a compulsion, in which Mr. Trump expresses himself thoughtlessly, carelessly, on such issues as Russia, Ukraine and sexual harassment; the relitigating of his vulgar Megyn Kelly comments from a year ago; and, as his fortunes fell, his statement that he “would not be surprised” if the November election were “rigged.” Subject to an unprecedented assault by a sitting president who called him intellectually and characterologically unfit for the presidency, Mr Trump fired back—at Paul Ryan and John McCain.

The mad scatterbrained-ness of it was captured in a Washington Post interview with Philip Rucker in which five times by my count—again, the compulsion—Mr. Trump departed the meat of the interview to turn his head and stare at the television. On seeing himself on the screen: “Lot of energy. We got a lot of energy.” Minutes later: “Look at this. It’s all Trump all day long. That’s why their ratings are through the roof.” He’s all about screens, like a toddler hooked on iPad.

Mr. Trump spent all his time doing these things instead of doing his job: making the case for his policies, expanding on his stands, and taking the battle to Hillary Clinton.


Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake. … This is what became obvious, probably fatally so: Mr. Trump is not going to get serious about running for president. He does not have a second act, there are no hidden depths, there will be no “pivot.” It is not that he is willful or stubborn, though he may be, it’s that he doesn’t have the skill set needed now—discretion, carefulness, generosity, judgment.

Meanwhile, says Noonan, Hillary continues her public mendacity. Republicans ought to be mopping the floor with her right now. Instead, they’re stuck with this narcissistic head case called Trump. Read the whole thing.

Serious question for the room: is there anything Trump can do to turn this around? I mean, yeah, there might be some things he can do on paper to refocus his campaign, but it’s agonizingly obvious that he does not have what it takes inside him to win this thing. You can’t fix crazy. Trump can’t keep his eyes on the prize because he can’t keep his eyes off of TV, and his own self-image. The question now is whether or not the GOP can save the House and/or the Senate.

And the question to come is, Can populism survive Trump’s implosion? That is, which aspects of the Trump agenda — immigration restriction, non-intervention, economic populism — can be salvaged and made part of the GOP, and how?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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