Steinberg: Ready for President Trump

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Neil Steinberg finds himself sometimes lapsing into a state where he takes the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency seriously. | AP file photo

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President Trump. President Donald Trump. “… and in international news, President Trump arrived in Berlin today for the start of the NATO summit ….” The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Museum.

Sorry. Just practicing. Newspapers are nothing if not cheerleaders for the status quo. We howl, for a while, then we fall in line. This was driven home to me a couple Decembers ago when I was in Boulder as Colorado welcomed legal marijuana. The Sunday Denver Post suddenly read like High Times, with recipes for pot brownies in the lifestyle pages, tips for raising your own weed, and such a general sense of ballyhoo you had to smile.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

I’ve observed a lot of presidential elections — 14, by my count, from the day in 1968 when I pressed my parents to take me to the Hubert Humphrey headquarters in Berea, Ohio, and scoot me in to receive a “Humphrey/Muskie” button, which I still have, to the current free-for-all contest of extra odd characters, like a brawl in the Mos Eisley cantina in “Star Wars.”


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One thing I noticed, long ago, is there is a presidentification process, as various wannabes stride toward the White House, where the media starts slapping layers of varnish on the deeply flawed individuals who want to be president, just in case we have to keep looking at them.

It’s as if we want to give the spittle we’ve flung a chance to dry before they take office.

Still, I was shocked to see that now being done to Trump, by the New York Times no less, in a front page story headlined “Night in Motel, a Day in Church: Trump Means Business in Iowa.” After sneering at Trump since June, the Gray Lady suddenly took an intake of breath at his humble descent to the common folk:

“On Friday night, the candidate who almost always flies home in his private Boeing 757 to Trump Tower in New York or his palatial Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., instead slept in a Holiday Inn Express in Sioux City, Iowa. (“Good mattress,” he said afterward. “Clean.”)”

But that wasn’t the part of the story — complete with color front page photo of Trump at prayer at the First Presbyterian Church in Muscatine — that rattled the china on the buffet. It was this:

“Classic rapid response, pragmatic logistics and overt shows of faith are all basic parts of the job of running for president. But for Mr. Trump they have been only sporadically employed, yet with each day evidence accumulates that the master of the New York tabloids now grasps what it will take for him to win in Iowa, and beyond — and that he is laser-focused on doing it.”

Trump isn’t just standing in front of a camera, saying whatever pops into his head. He’s serious, now.

Which still isn’t the really scary part. The really scary part is, at least while reading the story, I found myself nodding my head, thinking, “Yes, yes, Donald Trump, working hard, maybe the man deserves to be president.” And I had to catch myself, and remember that this is the guy firing up the yahoos and the haters in this country, condemning Muslims, playing into the hands of ISIS, slurring Mexicans, promising results domestic and international that are impossible to achieve and you’d have to be a fool to expect. But I forgot myself, for a moment. Imagine what’s happening to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sixpack.

Because Trump isn’t the worst Republican candidate. Compare him to a true nightmare like Ted Cruz, half Richard Nixon, half Joe McCarthy, his Ivy League biography airbrushed out like one of Stalin’s aides fallen from favor, his anthracite heart forged in the furnace of far-right-wing Christian fundamentalism. I’d vote for the Trump/Palin ticket first.

Marco Rubio has been the security blankie for what’s left of the Republican establishment. But so was Jeb Bush before he stood, flailing impotently in debate after debate. We haven’t even mentioned the Democrats — readers keep asking when I’ll dig out the fringed jacket and start grooving to Bernie Sanders. And my answer is, when I forget George McGovern being trounced by Nixon, the way Sanders would lose big time to Ted Cruz or any Republican who could fog a mirror.

“Good afternoon, President Trump. You’ve called the complaints of Americans alarmed at your emblazoning “TRUMP” across the South Portico of the White House as the ‘BS bellyaching of babies ….’ But aren’t their concerns about your commercialization of the presidency even a little legitimate?”

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