A careful look at Donald Trump
Really, Kevin Baker’s column in the NY Times should be read in its entirety. It begins:
So now we know.
It took the killings in Orlando, Fla., last weekend and Donald J. Trump’s reaction to them to prove what he’s been trying to tell us all along. He really is unique in American politics and maybe even the modern history of the Western world.
This came into full relief when, faced with the bodies of 49 people, nearly all of them under 40, all he could think to do was ride the slipstream of our alternating rage, horror and frustration. He congratulated himself on his prescience, called again for an entire religious group to be barred from entering our country and repeated the same, appallingly dangerous suggestion that President Obama is some sort of secret traitor.
It was a gambit that, so far, has been disastrous, with Mr. Trump’s poll numbers plummeting. Democrats from the White House on down poured invective on him, while Republicans mostly retreated into embarrassed silence. He appeared callous, tone deaf, amateurish — everything the political pros had hoped and feared he would be.
And yet, even before his usual diatribe of insult and accusation could be fully absorbed, Mr. Trump had pivoted, sticking and moving like a young Muhammad Ali. Just a day after the shootings in Orlando, Mr. Trump was calling himself the real “friend of women and the L.G.B.T. community” and later pledged to gay Americans, “I will fight for you.”
During a bizarre digression in North Carolina on Tuesday night, Mr. Trump seemed to accuse America’s fighting men and women of plundering the war effort in the Middle East (although a spokeswoman later denied it): “Iraq. Crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money, millions and millions of dollars, and handing it out? I want to know who are the soldiers that had that job because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be.”
On Wednesday, he was tweeting out a Nixon-to-China moment: “I will be meeting with the N.R.A., who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action, quickly replied that he would happily meet with Mr. Trump, and that of course, “The N.R.A. believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period.”
Mr. Trump backs gays, bashes troops, gets the N.R.A. to consider gun limits — say what? It was another blinding flurry of unanticipated moves, the sort that left his Republican opponents flat-footed throughout the primary campaign, and drew more than 13 million votes. Will this sort of inspired improvisation, in what has already been the most extemporaneous, single-handed, personalized presidential campaign we’ve ever seen, be enough to take him all the way to the presidency?
What enables Donald Trump to move so lightly in the world is . . .