Roger L. Simon

Will Trump's Signal-to-Noise Problem Sink Him and Us?

Does Donald Trump really want to be president?

Ask me a couple of weeks ago, when he was riding high, closing in the polls, and I would have rolled my eyes in disbelief at the question.  Now I’m not so sure.  I wrote long ago the presidency was Trump’s to lose. I meant it then and I mean it now—only Trump can bring down Trump. Unfortunately, he’s doing it. His signal-to-noise problem is getting the better of him. He doesn’t know where to pick a fight, so he’s doing it everywhere.

And it’s hard to believe he’s doing it when his hugely tarnished opponent, Hillary Clinton—just announced by the AP as having magically sewn up the nomination before Tuesday’s California primary—is so easy to beat. You really do have to wonder if Trump wants to win the presidency—or just to “be right” in every conceivable argument, even, and especially, those he shouldn’t be having.

If it’s the latter, he is truly betraying his supporters, the country and ultimately himself in a big way. Trump has said—in an interview with Megyn Kelly and elsewhere—that if he loses, his entire candidacy will have been a complete waste of time and money. He wouldn’t have done anything. He couldn’t be more right on that one.  And not just for him.

But what do I mean about this signal-to-noise problem? I don’t believe that Trump is a racist or a sexist, but his inability to distinguish between what’s important and what’s not, his confusion of signal and noise that propels him into making accusations and arguments he shouldn’t, makes him seem like one or, at the very least, gives his adversaries plenty of  ammunition to convince people of it.

His comments about Judge Curiel presiding over the”Trump University” lawsuit are an obvious case in point.  Practically the first thing out of Trump’s mouth was the judge was a “Mexican”  whom Donald would pursue legally if he (Trump) were elected president.  What an absolutely dopey thing to say! And then he doubled down on it, until Bill O’Reilly gave him a chance to wiggle ever so slightly out. (Whether Trump knows it or not, O’Reilly is his best friend at the moment.)  Trump’s behavior in this instance is the reaction of a man who’s not thinking, just talking, and WAY over-concerned about defending every little thing—the signal-to-noise problem.  He just can’t tell the difference.  That may make sense on a building site, but the world is not a building site.  Things take precedence, especially for a president.


“Trump U” is noise, particularly if you treat it that way.  If you make a big deal out of it, it ceases to be noise and becomes a serious problem.  And what is “Trump U” really?  One of dozens of Trump businesses.  Some were successful, some less so.  A few, like “Trump U,” pushed the “dodgy” envelope.  But it’s nowhere near as dodgy as the Clinton Foundation that dealt and deals with hundreds of millions from foreign powers.  The Clinton Foundation is the signal; Trump U is the noise.  Donald should concentrate on that, but he doesn’t.

He should be talking about the incredibly bad job numbers (and the lies about them) and the complete failure of the Obama economy or the reports of terrorists coming across our Southern border and instead he’s talking about Judge Curiel. How dumb is that!

Donald claims he wishes it were otherwise, but the fault is his. He started it — even if the judge really is biased, and he very well may be. There were other, more intelligent, ways to deal with it (like lawyers).

As one who has been a reluctant Trump supporter, I yearn to be a full-throated one, but just as I am prepared to do so, he prevents me by making some absurd assertion that usually has little to do with the job at hand or undermines it.  I know I’m far from the only one who feels that way. Many undoubtedly do. Sometimes I am on the verge of giving up on him.

But he is our only hope against Hillary Clinton, who, if elected, has absolutely no chance of bringing our country together because she will be inaugurated with nearly half the country thinking she should have been indicted. That is an almost untenable situation for a democratic society that is supposed to be governed by the rule of law—a criminal becoming president. The results of this are unpredictable and scary and reason the #NeverTrump people should think through their position. (This assumes, of course, that Hillary is not indicted. If she is, the proverbial bets are off. Despite her already having “won,” Bernie Sanders, you can be sure, is staying in this to the convention to find out.)

One of Trump’s problems is he seems to underestimate his supporters. He thinks he has to throw them red meat all the time, when he doesn’t. He’s already made all those points he needed to. Trump has a grave responsibility to the citizens of this country right now, but I don’t think he quite gets how serious it is.  I have seen him several times on the stump and, although he’s very engaging, he acts like a man who is tickled pink by all the adulation but hasn’t quite grokked what is being conferred on him. This is the presidency of the United States.  The time for a little gravitas is now, not at the inauguration. Otherwise there will be no inauguration.

Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His next book – I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already – will be published by Encounter Books on June 14, 2016.  You can read an excerpt here.  You can pre-order the book here.

(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com elements.)