Andy Schmookler: The Trump supporter’s week from hell
For Donald Trump’s supporters, as the week of the first presidential debate began, things looked better than ever. Once Trump stopped going after a judge of Mexican descent and a Gold Star father, and started keeping such impulses under wraps, Trump had climbed steadily in the polls, pulling almost even with his Democratic opponent.
Then came the Monday evening debate — with all it revealed to nearly 100 million Americans — and all that transpired in the days afterward.
For a Trump supporter, the week’s developments have not only diminished the likelihood of a Trump victory (according to all the evidence from polls and predictor markets). What’s worse, I would think, is how what the week’s revelations raise red flags about the desirability of his becoming president.
In the wake of the debate, Trump insisted on waging a days-long fight with a former Miss Universe. Engaging in this fight was worse than getting sidetracked. It was positively injurious to his presumed purpose of getting elected. Which surely must raise the question: does it make sense to put into the hands of someone who picks his fights foolishly the power to choose decide for America between war and peace?
Trump’s major supporters had advised him — since his self-destructive rants in August — to avoid just this sort of conduct – advice that apparently was renewed as he went after this former beauty queen. But he ignored that advice. Does it make sense to choose as the steward of America’s foreign affairs, and as commander-in-chief of our armed forces, a man unable or unwilling to follow wiser counsel to protect him from his own bad decisions?
Trump had surely seen how seriously he had injured his campaign, back in August, by continually pressing fights against people irrelevant to his task of persuading the American electorate to elect him president. But here he was, doing the same thing again. How well-served will America likely be if the person at the helm — a rookie ino the political world — is incapable of learning from his own mistakes?
During the debate, Trump’s opponent said that Trump “thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese,” to which Trump replied, “I did not. I do not say that.” Within minutes, the fact-checking universe brought forward Trump’s own tweet saying, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Which should raise the question for all Americans, If we can’t trust him to tell us the truth about something that is so easily verified, how well could we trust him as president to tell us the truth about situations that play out away from the public eye?
The evidence was overwhelming that Donald Trump was the loser in this first presidential debate. But in the course of the ensuing days, Trump himself seemed to deny that evident reality, insisting that he’d done just fine. Word came out, moreover, that he angrily forbade the people around him to concede that there had been any problem with his performance. How safe would the nation be in the hands of someone who cannot admit his errors?
Much of the discussion of Trump’s disastrous debate performance centered around his lack of proper preparation for the event, in stark contrast to his well-prepared opponent. Various people privy to Trump’s debate prep process later spoke to reporters about what the process was like. It emerged that Trump was apparently unable to focus on the task, unable to approach the challenge in a disciplined way. How well able would an unfocused, undisciplined mind be to deal with a complex, dangerous crisis that might arise on his watch?
For example, the 2000 film “Thirteen Days” portrays the most dangerous crisis thus far in human history: the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis in which the United States and the Soviet Union came closer than ever before or since to an all-out nuclear war. The film shows what disciplined and sustained strategic thinking, on the part of President Kennedy and his advisers, went into finding a successful resolution of that crisis. The well-being of all Americans (and indeed the whole world) depended on the American president having capabilities that members of Trump’s inner circle report that Trump lacks.
Is there anything in the political picture that any American can wisely say should outweigh these revelations from Trump’s week from hell?
Andy Schmookler, who was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District in 2012, is the author most recently of “What We’re Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World – and How We Can Defeat It.”