Trump Seriously: On the Trail With the GOP’s Tough Guy
With his blue tie loosened and slung over his shoulder, Trump sits back to digest his meal and provide a running byplay to the news. Onscreen, they’ve cut away to a spot with Scott Walker, the creaky-robot governor of Wisconsin. Praised by the anchor for his “slow but steady” style, Walker is about to respond when Trump chimes in, “Yeah, he’s slow, all right! That’s what we got already: slowwww.” His staffers at the conference table howl and hoot; their man, though, is just getting warm. When the anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump’s momentum, Trump’s expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. “Look at that face!” he cries. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
And there, in a nutshell, is Trump’s blessing and his curse: He can’t seem to quit while he’s ahead. The instincts that carried him out to a lead and have kept him far above the captious field are the same ones that landed him in ugly stews with ex-wives, business partners, networks, supermodels and many, many other famous women. At 69, he can still carry on like the teen who was yanked out of prep school and delivered to Col. Dobias, the take-no-shit instructor at the military academy. After I met Ivanka and praised her to her father, he said, “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father . . . ”
He’d made essentially the same crack nine years ago on a talk show while promoting Season Three of The Apprentice — but now he’s running for president, not an Emmy. “Does the guy have the wisdom to grow his base, what Kennedy called ‘greatness and fitness?’ ” says Schmidt, the GOP strategist. “Can his range and tone expand to meet that criteria?” Maybe what Trump needs is another Dobias, someone to tell him enough is enough and to get back on his game already. But if he had a consigliere, how likely is it that he would even listen? He’s gotten this far largely taking only his own instruction, acting on his gut and nose for blood. Attack, attack, attack, said his old man at the wheel, driving around Brooklyn on summer Sundays to spring surprise inspections on lazy supers. Trump paid attention and learned another lesson beside it: Take plenty of muscle with you when you go.
Meantime, you can say this for the man: He keeps a campaign promise, at least through dessert. After dinner on the plane, Trump gets up to stretch his legs, wandering to the galley for something sweet. He rummages through the cupboard, where his beloved Oreos live. Trump grabs the pack of cookies, eyes them fondly a moment, then replaces them on the shelf, uneaten. Returning to his seat with a couple of Vienna Fingers (made by Keebler, not treasonous Nabisco), he catches me looking at them and grunts. “I meant what I said: No more Oreos for Trump! And you can quote me on that if you want.”