What is it with Donald Trump? No, really. This is something we rarely see in politics. I remember Ross Perot and the enthusiasm about him. It was special, too, but Trump is different. I’ve never really cared for the man. I’ve always found him egotistical, bombastic, confrontational for confrontation’s sake, but I have to admit I’ve gotten caught up in Trump fever. Why?
Well, I’m still trying to sort through that myself.
I remember when Perot jumped in the race in ’92. I was part of a small group at a reception for him just before he went on Larry King Live and was ‘talked into running.’ I asked him a question — about what, I couldn’t tell you — but I remember his response. I remember how his gaze was the most intimidating of any person I’d ever met. And he was a short, little fellow, too, but I was scared to death of him. I had to fight to keep from being stared down and looking away but I held his gaze, with beads of sweat forming on my brow.
Perot was a straight-talker, too. He was a businessman like Trump but his appeal was different. It was a Sam Waltonesque, folksy appeal. It was an almost “we can’t do any worse so let’s try Perot” appeal.
Trump is different. He has a sort of arrogant charisma. It’s one of those intangibles you can’t quite put your finger on. The man’s worth $10 billion, for crying out loud. It’s not like Romney money or Kerry money. It’s so much money that it puts him in another stratosphere. He’s like royalty. It’s funny because people who normally hate the rich love Trump. It’s like he’s a walking, talking caricature of himself. The expensive suits. The Trump scowl. The hair.
He doesn’t hold fundraisers because he doesn’t need fundraisers. He’s not meeting in back rooms with lobbyists. He doesn’t need them. He’s the only presidential candidate to come along in who knows when who is totally self-contained. He doesn’t need anything from anybody. It’s rather refreshing. All the people who’ve been wanting to get the money and influence out of politics? Trump’s your man.
As a talk show host there’s one fast rule. You don’t criticize someone’s military record, especially if you haven’t served. Trump went after John McCain after McCain said Trump “fired up the crazies.” If Trump does have one weakness it’s the fact that he’s hypersensitive. He doesn’t take criticism well. He tends to lash out and he lashed out at McCain in an area he never should’ve gone. His time as a POW.
Any other politician would’ve folded the next day but Trump isn’t any other politician. In fact, he’s not a politician at all. That’s what people love about him. Even after the gaffe, his poll numbers rose.
Gov. Martin O’Malley recently responded to a group of black folks chanting “black lives matter” by saying, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” He later apologized saying he didn’t “mean to be insensitive.” You think Trump would’ve wimped out like that? O’Malley looked weak and pathetic, not the kind of guy you want standing up to Iran.
And maybe that’s the allure. We’re sick and tired of mealy-mouthed politicians who carefully watch every syllable that comes out of their mouths and apologize to any overly-sensitive weenie who complains. Trump’s attitude? Screw ‘em. It’s a tough world and people are going to say tough things. Get over it.
It’s refreshing now. The only question is if it will wear thin before the primaries.
Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.