Day Twenty Five: New York, New York ($179)
The Huffington Post has a very strict, and admirable, policy against ad hominem attacks. I know this because a couple of weeks ago I submitted the first draft of a post calling for a boycott of Donald Trump's Las Vegas hotel and, an hour or so later, I got a phone call politely but firmly explaining that policy.
On that occasion, it was an easy fix -- a couple of tweaks so that I was hating the game and not the player. This time around, having sat in a ballroom at the Treasure Island last night, listening to Trump address a group of Nevada-based "Republican Women's Groups," my task is way harder.
In fact, after less than an hour in the same room as Donald Trump, I defy any right-thinking human being not to want to call him some pretty unpleasant names. After all, if Trump gets his way, America will immediately be plunged into a pit of political and economic isolationism that would make the Bush Jr years seem positively warm and fuzzy. As a foreigner who loves America, it took all of my reserves of self control not to heckle from my press seat.
That's Trump's word, not mine, obviously. My journalistic impartiality -- and the Huffington Posts rules -- explicitly prohibits me from calling Trump a motherfucker. And so, accordingly, I will keep my opinion of the man -- whatever that opinion might be -- to myself. No, "motherfucker" is how Donald Trump referred to Chinese politicians. As in, "I'm going to say, listen you motherfuckers, here's a 25% levy on Chinese imports..." Throughout his speech, Trump cursed like a tourettic Soprano. This despite the fact that the average age of attendee was close to triple figures, even allowing for the half dozen children I counted scampering around the room. On Iraq he cursed about how we can build schools in the war-blighted country ("schools, which they then blow up") but "we can't get a fucking school built in Brooklyn"; On oil: "You have oil at this much a gallon because someone in Washington said 'You ain't gonna raise the fuckin' price"; on Trump's lack of racism: "Some of my friends are Chinese; But now they're not talking to me. They're like 'shit, can you believe this guy?'"
And on and on. To the point that the AP reporter sitting next to me broke off her conversation with one of the organizers: "Sorry, I have to listen to this -- he's going to curse some more."
Between the fucks and the shits, though, lay actual concrete Trump policy; "The Trump Doctrine," as he straight-facedly referred to it. For a start, Trump promised to be tough on nature, and tough on the causes of nature. "Nobody knows more about the environment than I do. I receive a lot of environmental awards," he assured the crowd, to murmurs of approval. "Green technology is important. But what good is green technology here when China is spewing out crap. We gotta drill in Alaska. We gotta drill. There is so much oil."
That particular point caused the first of many confused audience reactions of the night. Conditioned to respond to clearly flagged platitudes and talking points, the crowd gamely tried to second guess the appropriate reaction to each word as it came out of Trump's mouth. In the above case, the response went like this...
"Green technology is important"
"But what good is green technology here when China is spewing out crap...?
"We gotta drill in Alaska!"
Even more comical was the audience reaction to Trump's defense policy...
"We went into Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction!"
"But there weren't any weapons of mass destruction!"
"And people said it was all about oil"
"And I say, well that would have been a good reason to go in!"
Make no mistake, Donald Trump loves oil, like the Cookie Monster loves cookies or the Republican Women's Groups of Nevada love hairspray. On Libya: "I say, we go into Libya and we take the oil. People say, Donald that's a sovereign nation. I say, there's no nation!" That one got a big cheer too. Fuck sovereign nations.
Fuck also America's inability to bomb one back to the stone age. "Out leadership is weak and pathetic -- we can't even take over Libya" Big laugh that time. America is weak, ho ho ho. Apparently, to Trump supporters, for all the flag waving and singing of the national anthem (the pledge of allegiance was recited too), America is only great when it's run by Republicans. The rest of the time: "America isn't a great country. We love our country, but it isn't a great country."
Really? I'm just a persistent visitor to these shores, but from where I'm sitting, it looks pretty great. I mean, where else but America would you find a system so democratic that it allows a clown like Donald Trump can run for office rather than, say, locking him in an asylum?
The next of Trump's weird semantic somersaults took him spinning towards his critics: "Some of the press is scum," -- and then away again, with a nod to the Fox cameras in the room -- "not all of the media -- but some of the media." Accordingly his mention of the New York Times elicited a boo, until it became clear that he was quoting a positive review of his own TV show, whereupon it turned instantly to a cheer. To this crowd it seems that, like America itself, the media is scum until the point you agree with what it says.
More contorted still was Trump's rhetoric on foreign goods: "Every time I buy a television -- and I buy a lot of televisions for the Trump hotel -- I look at the market and I end up buying LGs from South Korea."
The crowd waited for its cue. Where was Trump going with this, I wondered. If he attacked foreign goods, then he's tacitly admitting the TVs at his hotels suck. But he can't praise foreign manufacturing. Unless... "they're good televisions -- but why don't we make them?" Huge applause.
In fact, televisions form an important cornerstone of Trump's foreign policy. If South Korea wants American troops to continue to help defend it against the North, he explained, then they're going to have to agree to make their televisions in America. Problem solved. Big cheer.
China too will have to outsource its manufacturing to America, if it wishes to continue having the honor of owning American debt. "This year China is going to make from this country, $300 billion" exclaimed Trump. Again, the crowd didn't know how to react, so they let out a kind of collective "ahhh--oooh-eeeh" noise. But then came the punchline... "Why shouldn't we make $300 billion?" Why indeed, Donald? Except for basic economics, but let's not get dragged down by those. Let's also gloss over the fact that your tie pins and clips are made in China. Those motherfuckers. "We had the president of China here and we gave him a state dinner. When people are screwing you, you don't give them dinner"
(For the record, I do like to give dinner to people who are screwing me. It seems only polite.)
And so the madness continued, for a good solid forty minutes -- all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Like some kind of grotesque burlesque dancer, Trump littered his speech with hints at a presidential run, being careful not to peel off his pasties and naming a date. "Run for president" shouted a woman in the crowd. Trump responded with a smile: "Thank you darling; I think I'm going to make you very happy."
Just don't expect dinner afterwards.