The way things are going in this country and the world—the worst U.S. economic recovery since 1949, hideously-violent Islamic terrorism metastasizing across the globe on a daily basis, an appalling epidemic of police assassinations, an opponent who was branded a pathological liar in 1996 and has proven that assertion multiple times to the present day with even more of her treachery yet to be exposed—Donald Trump should be winning the election by acclamation.
But at this moment he appears to be floundering, losing as much or more ground than he gains by engaging in self-destructive personal battles he should never have participated in in the first place. Even when he is right, these fights accomplish nothing and almost always hurt the larger cause, allowing the media to paint him as racist, sexist or, most importantly to them, unfit to lead.
They would do so if he were St. Francis of Assisi, of course. Former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell calls pro-Clinton media bias a “terrifying crisis in democracy” for good reason. But Trump should know better than to give that media the chance to exercise that bias by naively playing into the hands of the likes of George Stephanopoulos and The New York Times.
It’s his old signal to noise problem I wrote about earlier coupled with the most juvenile narcissism. And, tragically for all his supporters, not to mention the country, it doesn’t appear to be getting any better.
Driven by private demons, Trump is on the verge of betraying all of us. He says repeatedly he is leading a movement, but he acts like a man off by himself, tilting at windmills. Though different in specifics, the controversies surrounding Khizr Khan and Judge Curiel both have that characteristic. In both cases, he shouldn’t have gone there.
Trump—to his credit—has also said repeatedly that if he fails to win the presidency, his entire candidacy was not worth the time, money or effort. He’s right, but it is worse than that. He took other more conventional politicians off the playing field who may have been able to defeat the wounded Clinton. For that reason Trump has a special responsibility now. He has to discipline himself as never before to succeed.
Can he do it? Many say it’s unlikely and it’s easy to see why. I’m agnostic—but hopeful.
We are soon approaching what Magic Johnson used to call “winnin’ time,” those last crucial minutes (in this case weeks) in the game when that discipline, that focus, will determine victory.
Can Trump hold that focus? If they can find it in them, the NeverTrumpers can be helpful. Unless they want to see a Supreme Court that would radically, perhaps irreparably, change our republic, they can postpone their crusade for the nonce. They have made their points and they will be remembered.
But the real decisions are up to Donald. He can begin by listening to his loyal supporter Rudy Giuliani, who today implored Trump to concentrate on Hillary while he (Rudy) volunteered to do the candidate’s “light work.” Trump should take him up on it.
Further, he should quit believing the propaganda of the mainstream media he claims to loathe. His supporters are not uneducated nitwits just because most didn’t go to Harvard. On my frequent attendance at Trump rallies, I learned those supporters could be as sophisticated on the issues, probably more so, than most Ivy Leaguers or their professors.
Trump must honor them and the many undecideds by getting more deeply and concretely into the details of the issues—not content himself to soundbites or reciting past primary victories. We’ve heard all that before and it’s getting boring.
Although it is the pivotal issue of our time, literally civilizational, the Democrats barely mentioned Islamic terrorism at their convention. All the more reason for Trump to address it more thoroughly, while reminding the country that his opponents are sticking their collective heads in the sand.
We also need more from Trump on his economic proposals. He has come up with a good tax plan and surrounded himself with some excellent advisers like Stephen Moore and Arthur Laffer, but we need to know how this meshes with his hard line on trade. The return of manufacturing jobs is a nice idea, but what if they’re all done by robots in the end?
It would be the surprise of the year if Donald turned into the serious policy wonk of the campaign. It actually wouldn’t be that hard because most liberal ideas have been tried and proven faulty, often destructive. Hillary Clinton has proposed very little in her campaign for a reason.
Therefore she and her proxies are coming at Trump on temperament, not the issues. Trump has to wake up to that and deal with it accordingly before it’s too late, not by banging his shoe on the table and insisting his temperament’s better than hers, as he did Tuesday night on The O’Reilly Factor, but by being being cool and exhibiting that temperament. In other words, he should shelve his ego and learn to shut up when opening the mouth does nothing but self-inflicted harm. That’s what winners do. For one who brags so much about winning, it’s surprising he hasn’t learned that.
If I had any real advice to Donald, it would be this. When everyone’s watching the Olympics next week, turn off the television and crack open a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Read it carefully and digest it and you will be the next president of the United States. It’s an even better self-help book than The Art of the Deal.
What it comes down to finally is the struggle of Donald versus Donald. I wrote a year ago now that the presidency was Trump’s to lose. Forget Hillary. Only Donald could defeat Donald. Now that we are at “winnin’ time,” that still seems to be true. Will he or won’t he? It does make for great theater. Too bad we, the audience, have to pay such a great price if he loses.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His book—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already—is just published by Encounter. You can read an excerpt here. You can see a brief interview about the book with the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal here. You can hear an interview about the book with Mark Levin here. You can order the book here.