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What ‘Trump Being Trump’ Hath Wrought

Years of being an awful boor have paid off handsomely for the president.
January 10, 2019
What ‘Trump Being Trump’ Hath Wrought

Among the gradations of friendship, none surpasses the level when your buddies begin name-checking you twice in the same sentence. When they begin saying things like, “Sure, he walks around with meatballs in his pockets, but that’s just Brad being Brad,” you have officially conditioned your friends and family to accept your oddball quirks and flaws uncritically. You have then assumed dominance in your relationship; once they relieve you of the responsibility of self-agency, your friends become the proverbial frog to your scorpion.

We presently have a scorpion occupying the White House. Donald Trump is often granted a license to be awful because … well … he’s always been awful. To expect a modicum of decency from President Trump would be like asking an otter to do your taxes; “Trump being Trump” is often the most vigorous defense his supporters can offer up.

If any other president were to, say, take the Soviets’ side in the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, mock decorated military officials after they leave their administration, insult the leader of a potential nuclear nemesis as”short” and “fat,” pick a fight with basketball star LeBron James, and ridicule a female talk show host’s plastic surgery, it would be a national scandal. And yet because Trump’s brain is a bottomless cocktail of buffoonery, you now just say yourself, “what hour today did he do all those things?”

This is why efforts to hit Trump for the campaign-finance scandal that resulted from payoffs to Stormy Daniels will ultimately fail. Trump’s now-convicted former attorney, Michael Cohen, implicated the president in a scheme to keep Daniels quiet about an alleged affair that took place over a decade ago. Clearly, l’affaire Stormy is sitting in the Democrats’ bottom drawer, waiting to be called upon in case Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia provides insufficient fuel for the impeachment engine.

It actually works in Trump’s favor that he has forever been a public reprobate. We have known about his shady business deals, his very public infidelities, and his cruelty toward others for decades. It’s safe to say that no other future president has gone on a radio show publicly declare he was “not into anal.” (A line Abraham Lincoln mercifully cut from the Gettysburg Address.)

For many Americans, this theatrical asininity became the very reason they supported Trump. Here was finally the guy who was going to disrupt the status quo. But now Trump’s coarse boorishness serves as his escape hatch. What’s that, you say? The president is pulling U.S. troops out of Syria without letting his generals know? Well he’s always been impulsive.  Now he’s saying he fired the defense secretary who resigned in protest? What about Trump’s various statements on requiring loyalty did you not understand?

The “good” news for Republicans is that they no longer have to pretend to represent the “silent majority” of Americans who value decency and morality. As religious leaders line up to defend Trump’s daily actions, Republicans have been permanently relieved of moral leadership.

On the other hand: For Trump’s strategy to work, you really have to commit to the bit. You have to spend years being loathsome in public to condition people to expect nothing from you. If you want to lower expectations to the point where you can get away with anything, you have to dedicate your life to being a loud, consistent boor.

This is why Democrats, despite their best efforts to join Trump in coarsening the national debate, will never reach his grandmaster status. Anything the left does to spice up its rhetoric now simply looks like a flaccid imitation. And it’s why Democrats face a longshot in their effort to, in the phrase du jour, “impeach this motherf–er.”

Christian Schneider

Christian Schneider is a member of the USA Today board of contributors and author of 1916: The Blog. Twitter: @Schneider_CM.