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Trump Frustration

Getting some pushback from Trump fans for my blowing up over him Sunday morning. Some of it is the usual can’t-hear-a-bad-word stuff, but there are some completely fair complaints. Let me address them.

1. My laptop melted down on Friday, so I haven’t been online much. I truly had no idea that the epic Louisiana flooding had not been all over the national news. True, Trump has said nothing about it, but to my knowledge, neither has Hillary, or the president, for that matter. So why did I lose it over Trump, but not over Hillary?

2. Because it wasn’t really about the flooding, though going over to the shelter and seeing the incredible suffering people here are enduring crystallized my anger at Trump. The deal is, I am in despair over this election. Hillary Clinton is so bad in so many ways, especially when I think about the Supreme Court she’s likely to appoint, that I have been trying to find any way I could justify a vote for Trump. On Sunday morning, drinking coffee, I checked my Twitter feed, and found six or seven tweets in a row from him bitching about how unfa-i-i-r the media are to him. Then I saw this NYT story about how people in Trump’s inner circle are desperately trying to save him from himself, but getting nowhere. Excerpt:

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party. In a visit to Capitol Hill in early July, Mr. Trump bickered with two Republican senators who had not endorsed him; he needled Representative Peter T. King of New York for having taken donations from him over the years only to criticize him on television now.

3. Think about what is at stake here. This man has the GOP nomination for president. He is running against an extraordinarily unpopular Democrat, a woman who represents what people hate about American politics at the elite level. Any other Republican nominee, whatever his flaws, would be hammering away at Hillary’s sleazy ethics, at the Clinton Foundation and its entanglements with the Hillary-run State Department, and so forth. But not our Donald. No, he’s got to pick fights with a Gold Star family, and let The New York Times get inside his head. Every Republican presidential candidate knows that he faces a hostile news media. Do they go to pieces over it? No! Well, Richard Nixon did, but he held it together long enough to win two presidential elections. Trump is such an immature narcissist that he cannot hold it together for four months, even though the prize of the US presidency could be his.

Who does this? What kind of person behaves this way with so much at stake? For one thing, the Supreme Court could be gone to the liberals for an entire generation if Republicans lose this election. The chance to remake US foreign policy away from the interventionist Washington consensus — gone. The opportunity to pivot away from globalism towards a more robust nationalism — also gone. And on and on, all because Trump thinks it’s all about him, always. If Donald Trump can be unhorsed by Khizr Khan and the news media, how on earth would he be able to handle the challenges of foreign leaders?

Seriously, think about it. A man whose emotions control him can easily be controlled by someone who can manipulate those emotions. Can’t you see President Trump’s advisors sitting in the Oval Office, begging him to pay attention to what’s happening in the South China Sea, while he’s on his smartphone checking Twitter to respond to this or that slight by a pundit or an editorial page. Sure, Hillary is going to be Nixonian, but Trump on his best day won’t be as capable and as controlled as Tricky Dick, who was, as we know, brought down by his own hatred and paranoia.

4. And consider that this is what it has come down to for American conservatism. The self-serving smugness of the GOP Establishment rendered them incapable of discerning the conditions that made Trump’s rise possible. Trump didn’t come from nowhere. However crudely and often, well, insanely he spoke, Trump raised issues (e.g., immigration, trade, interventionism) that really do matter to a lot of Americans, and that the GOP elites didn’t understand or accept. They needed to have their heads knocked around, and Trump did that. Good for Trump! But now look at what conservatives are stuck with: this boob who can’t even be bothered to put together field offices in states he has to win.

He’s not even trying. Would a sane GOP presidential candidate spend a Saturday night three months before the election at a rally in … Connecticut?! Excerpt:

That a Republican presidential candidate was spending a Saturday night and campaign resources addressing a crowd in Connecticut was surprising, given that a Republican presidential candidate has not won the state since 1988, a fact that Trump himself acknowledged.

“You know, we are making a big move for the state of Connecticut, just so you understand,” Trump said. “Normally that wouldn’t happen because a Republican, in theory, doesn’t win Connecticut.”

How many electoral votes does Connecticut have? Seven. How many does Florida have? Twenty-nine. And Ohio? Eighteen.

So naturally the GOP presidential nominee spends a Saturday night in August in Fairfield, “making a play” for a state that no Republican has one since George H.W. Bush in 1988, and that even if a Republican won it this time, no big whoop. Seven electoral votes.

At some point, “But he’s not Hillary!” ceases to be a plausible excuse for this guy. There is so much wrong with the country right now, so many real and serious things that Donald Trump could focus on, if he actually cared. He doesn’t. At some point this fall, the Republican Party is going to have to cut him loose, and do what it can to save the House and the Senate, to have some way of checking Clinton II. There is not going to be a Trump reset. This is who he is. A spoiled brat who is taking what’s left of political conservatism in America down with him.

I look forward one day to voting for a Republican presidential candidate who is smart, decent, and who actually cares about the problems of ordinary people more than Conservatism, Inc., does. I eagerly anticipate the day I can cast my ballot for Ohio Gov. J.D. Vance for President. Campaign 2028 cannot come soon enough.

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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