Since the Democratic National Convention (it’s hard to believe it ended only 5 days ago, given the height of the still rising bounce it gave to Hillary’s theretofore faltering campaign!), it seems as if Donald Trump has accelerated the frequency of his personal attacks on those who have somehow run afoul of his ire. His outbursts now seem to happen, as the President pointed out today, on a daily or even two-a-day basis, such that it becomes difficult to keep them all in mind. Crazy has truly become normal- or, at least, unsurprising.
Unless we want to adopt the tempting conspiracy theory that he’s deliberately tanking his campaign (I will admit that I’ve entertained that thought a dozen times during the past year), it’s hard to escape the only other plausible conclusion, which is that Trump sustained a massive, devastating narcissistic injury as a result of the avalanche of criticism dumped on his head by two dozen remarkable speakers at the DNC. This was unprecedented for him to be ridiculed and attacked over a period of 4 days, with the world watching, and with him having almost no opportunity to (his favorite word) counterpunch. And perhaps most woundingly of all to his eggshell ego was when he was blindsided by an unlikely enemy: the short, punchy moral condemnation of him by someone nobody ever heard of--- Khizr Khan, the grieving father of a dead war hero, who provided the Welch-McCarthy moment that we’ve all been waiting and praying for this past year.
And when Trump rose to the bait, and attacked the Khans on multiple levels, each more appalling than the previous one, this became the gift that keeps giving…to the Clinton campaign! Trump must now be walking around 24/7 in a state of barely contained hysteria, unable to sleep, unable to function without frequently blowing off ill-conceived steam. But the more he lashes out, the more it boomerangs back on him, thereby upping the pressure still further.
He has turned the entire Khan family, including Mrs. Khan, into American heroes instantly recognizable by the entire country and world. I just watched father Khan, speaking with Anderson Cooper, rebut the latest smear directed against him by Trump surrogates, that his immigration law practice caters to wealthy Arab clients—let’s just say that Trump is now taking fire from every one of those 360 degrees!
And that brings me to my real punchline today --- the fire that Trump sprays at Republican targets, as he takes his petty revenge on those on his side who dare to agree with his Democratic critics that Trump has gone way too far in attacking a Gold Star family. The most recent “warning shot” was Trump’s mocking comment today about Ryan: “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
In this way, Trump obviously and pointedly echoed the very same closely parsed language that Paul Ryan initially used about his hesitation in endorsing Trump after Trump won the primary race, a month or so before Ryan eventually did so at the Republican National Convention. It is no coincidence that Trump made this statement today of all days, after Ryan (to Trump’s way of thinking) did not have Trump’s back on the Khan-troversy.
It’s been a while since I first realized that there is even more to Trump’s endless chain of personal attacks on Republicans, who have somehow run afoul of his good graces, than wounded narcissism. What’s also going on, particularly in these instances of “friendly fire” directed by Trump against fellow Republicans, is that Trump is in effect peeing on the leg of these establishment Republican figures, marking his territory. He is showing them all (and therefore also the American people watching this grotesque reality show) that he is THE Alpha Dog among all the alpha dogs.
When this happens (just recall Chris Christie being humiliated very publicly by Trump several times), this reminds me every time of the great scene in Mike Nichols’ Wolf when Jack Nicholson’s newly “enwolfed” publishing exec takes a very singular and satisfying lupine revenge on the sleazy protégé who betrayed him, played by James Spader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dstVRc-tifk (start watching from 1:27:50--the exact moment of territory marking occurs at 1:30:56, and then the scene ends shortly afterwards).
As I just rewatched that scene for the umpteenth time (this is one of my most favorite movies), viewing it this time through the lens of Donald Trump, I realized for the first time that the best line comes right before the peeing, when Nicholson’s character shocks Spader’s by sneering, "You're fired". As I think about the chronology here, given that Wolf was released in 1994, and has been in continuous cable TV circulation since then, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn that Wolf has long also been one of Trump’s favorite movies as well. And I bet he just lurves that scene in particular- and perhaps lurved it so much for so long, that when he started doing his shtick in The Apprentice in 2004, he adopted Nicholson’s “You’re fired” as his own trademark phrase. If I’m correct, then he owes Nicholson a LOT of royalties!
And in case you were wondering, check out the photo that Google just led me to---it’s of much younger Trump, Nicholson & Warren Beatty sitting together in 1988 at the Tyson-Spinks fight in Atlantic City.
So, in conclusion, how fitting if Donald Trump, by his overaggressive marking of his territory, winds up committing political suicide—knocking himself out with a devastating one-two combination while the world sits ringside and gawks--or drowning, if you will, in his own “marking fluid”.
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter