The Alpha Male Neutered

Who was that subdued and rather boring man, with odd orange hair, reading a rather dull prepared speech, from a teleprompter, on national television? Was that the wild and crazy Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president? Where were the outrageous claims? Where were the sneers? Why wasn’t he mocking a disabled reporter or something? Why wasn’t he telling folks to beat the crap out of a few reporters or something? Why wasn’t he telling these folks to make America great again by building a giant wall down Mexico way and banning all Muslims from America, because there’s “so much hatred there” and so on?

Where did the old Donald Trump go? What happened? Complications from the private law suit against him, for fraud, happened. He finally took things one step too far:

Under a deluge of criticism from fellow Republicans that peaked on Tuesday, Donald Trump said that he intends to stop talking about a Latino federal judge he has repeatedly admonished on the basis of his ethnicity and that his words were “misconstrued.” He did not apologize for his remarks.

He simply won’t talk about that anymore, and for good reason:

Trump’s new position came only minutes after Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) became the first vulnerable Republican senator to abandon support for the real estate mogul and several hours after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) said Trump’s attack on the judge was “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

That’ll do it, but people keep misunderstanding him:

In a lengthy written statement issued after an uncharacteristically quiet day on social media, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said that his repeated comments about U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel were “misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.”

Trump said he does “not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial.” But he reiterated that he believes he has been treated unfairly by Curiel in two fraud cases against his defunct Trump University real estate seminar business and is therefore “justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.”

He concluded: “While this lawsuit should have been dismissed, it is now scheduled for trial in November. I do not intend to comment on this matter any further.”

Of course there was this:

It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.

He loves those people and they love him, but Kevin Drum adds this:

No one has construed his comments that way. We’ve all construed them as a categorical attack on Curiel. That’s because Trump has explicitly said that Curiel is “a hater” of “Mexican heritage” who is handing down unfair rulings because he dislikes Trump’s anti-immigrant politics. “I think that’s why he’s doing it,” he told Jake Tapper; just to make sure there was no question about it. Then this:

“Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.”

“Questions were raised.” Golly. I wonder who raised them. No one knows, I suppose. But raised they were, and then Donald had no choice but to address them. But he really hopes these questions all turn out to be unfounded. Really. He does.

There it is. You have the whining, the lying, the passive voice row-back, and the faux sorrow that this has become such a divisive issue, all in just a few sentences. This is vintage Trump, folks.

This was also the problem, with this answer:

In an interview with Fox News Channel that was broadcast Tuesday night, Trump said Republicans who were upset by his comments about Curiel should “get over it, ideally.” In a Tuesday night speech celebrating his presumptive nomination at the official end of primary season, Trump sought to push beyond the controversy, avoiding the matter altogether and instead striking a confident tone as he vowed to charge forward to the general election.

He also became boring, but that was necessary:

The episode also stretched the limits of Trump’s fraying relations with many of the people who will officially nominate him in Cleveland in six weeks: Their standard-bearer had suddenly forced them to choose between being disloyal to the party and backing a candidate who attacks a judge’s ethnicity as part of a petty personal feud.

While most lawmakers twisted and contorted themselves, GOP strategists, pundits and others in the anti-Trump camp hardened their opposition and revived talk of trying to derail him. Some, such as the blogger and pundit Erick Erickson, cast the episode in stark moral terms, arguing that no conservative could in good conscience support Trump.

“If you believe Trump’s comments are racist, you have an obligation to publicly reject him, not just say you disagree,” Erickson wrote Tuesday. “Shame on you if you do not…”

Trump clearly had a mess to clean up:

Ryan, who went to the Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast Washington on Tuesday morning to lay out a Republican anti-poverty agenda, was questioned repeatedly by reporters about Trump.

While the House speaker criticized Trump for his “racist comment,” he said he would continue to back the presumptive nominee.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” Ryan said. “But do I think Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

Other Republicans took a stronger position against Trump. Kirk, who is facing a challenging reelection campaign in a heavily Democratic state, said Trump’s remarks cemented his decision not to back him.

“While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for president regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party,” Kirk said in a statement. …

About a month ago, Kirk had described Trump – who won the Illinois primary in March – as a “net benefit” to his candidacy who was luring many new Republican voters to the polls.

There was no more net benefit, and Kirk wasn’t alone:

Shortly before Trump issued his statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a Trump supporter, said it was “time to quit attacking various people you competed with or various minority groups in the country and get on message.” McConnell said Trump “has an opportunity to do that; this election is eminently winnable.”

“I hope that’s what he’ll do,” McConnell added. “We’re all anxious to hear what he’ll say next.”

McConnell didn’t really sound all that hopeful, but he was risking nothing, as the tide had turned:

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has said he cannot back Trump right now, raised the possibility that Trump could face a revolt at next month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland as a result of his racial rhetoric. Such a scenario he said is “certainly more likely now than it was last week.”

Even beyond the halls of Congress, the anger with Trump could be felt. In Iowa, state Sen. David Johnson announced that he was suspending his Republican Party membership because of Trump’s “racist remarks and judicial jihad.”

Well, it had been a jihad:

As recently as Monday, Trump was steadfast in defending his ethnicity-based criticism of Curiel and gave every indication that he intended to push ahead – causing turmoil and infighting within his campaign. In a conference call Monday, the real estate mogul told surrogates to step up their attacks on Curiel as biased and on reporters as racists, overriding a directive from his own staff distributed over the weekend, according to reports.

He told them to stop listening to his staff – his staff was stupid – and to listen to him – any reporter who brought this up, as racist, should be called the real racist. That would do the trick, but then the whole damned party revolted. Major donors were walking away. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus warned him – back off or at least shut up about this.

Conor Friedersdorf notes how awkward this had become:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and the former speaker Newt Gingrich have all publicly criticized Trump’s comments. Those critiques are to their credit, but merely criticizing Trump is not enough to get them out of the corner into which they’ve foolishly painted themselves.

They’ve now told the American people that the man they all endorsed to be president is irresponsibly launching nakedly prejudiced attacks on a federal judge – but also shown they don’t regard that behavior as reason enough to withdraw their endorsements.

They can live with a stone-cold racist, but not Hillary Clinton, which is an unfortunate statement of values:

Especially for Ryan, Rubio, and others who’ve invested in changing the perception that the Republican Party is hostile to minorities, this is both a strategic setback and an albatross that political opponents can and will hang around their necks. “Even when confronted with behavior that you yourself believed to be nakedly prejudiced toward Americans of Hispanic heritage,” future critics can truthfully say, “you kept on endorsing the man responsible. Why should anyone trust that you possess the integrity to stand against bigotry or believe you when you say that you’ll represent people of all backgrounds?”

So long as they back Trump they have no persuasive answer.

That critique would echo across their careers even if Election Day were tomorrow, but it is early June. Trump will be running his mouth every day for another five months.

Perhaps he will, but perhaps he won’t, and that explains the odd speech, which Chris Cillizza explains here:

Donald Trump took the stage at Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, Tuesday night with self-inflicted chaos swirling all around him and the chatter growing louder about whether he could make it to the ballot on Nov. 8.

Trump, reading off his long-despised TelePrompTers, delivered a composed, serious address full of just the sort of speechwriterly phrases that he has so long resisted. (“Tonight we close one chapter in history and begin another,” Trump said at the start of the speech in a feat of un-Trumpian language.)

It was a speech meant for one audience and with one message. The audience was the Republican establishment – led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The message: I get it. I need to do and be better. I can.

“I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle,” Trump said at one point. “I will never let you down.”

The only way he could have been more clear about what he was trying to do is if he had directly addressed McConnell and Ryan. And, to Trump’s credit, the speech was one that had to make both Republican leaders – as well as the increasingly panicky flock of elected officials they speak for – smile.

It was the speech the GOP establishment had hoped and prayed Trump could and would deliver. And it came not a moment too soon as McConnell, during a question-and-answer session Tuesday evening at the American Enterprise Institute, had signaled that Trump had one last chance before the GOP began a full revolt against him. “I think it’s time for him to look like a serious candidate for president,” McConnell said.

Trump will be a good little boy now, not the sneering dominant alpha-male at all, but Cillizza has some questions:

Have his comments about the Mexican heritage of federal judge Gonzalo Curiel – not to mention the collective weight of all of his past controversial remarks – already done too much damage to him both within the GOP and the broader electorate?

Do wavering Republicans believe that the Trump we saw tonight was the real thing or do they view it as just another short-lived attempt by Trump to show he can be something other than the brash bully who won the GOP primary? Trump has had fleeting moments of “gravity” before; his performance in the final GOP debate, for example, was clearly an attempt on his part to demonstrate that he could be serious and “presidential.” It didn’t last long.

Cillizza is skeptical:

Given Trump’s track record in this campaign, it would be silly to conclude that tonight he, finally, made the much-talked-about pivot to the general election. I am skeptical that there exists a “real” Donald Trump within the Donald Trump that we have seen during this campaign.

Dana Milbank agrees with that:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, just one day after endorsing Trump, said on a radio show that Trump’s remarks about the Hispanic judge were “out of left field.”

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but that’s nonsense. … More than six months ago, I began a column by proposing, “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.” His bigotry went back decades, to the Central Park jogger case, and came to include: his leadership of the “birther” movement suggesting President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, his vulgar expressions for women, his talk of Mexico sending rapists into America, his call for mass deportation, his spats with Latino news outlets, his mocking Asian accent, his tacit acceptance of the claim that Muslims are a “problem” in America, his agreement that American Muslims should be forced to register themselves, his call to ban Muslim immigration, his false claim about American Muslims celebrating 9/11, his tweeting of statistics from white supremacists, his condoning of violence against black demonstrators and his mocking of a journalist with a physical disability.

Now that Trump has secured the nomination, Republican officeholders are shocked to discover that his racism continues?

A month ago, the Trump campaign chose prominent white nationalist William Johnson to be one of its delegates. The campaign blamed a “database error” and Johnson resigned, but the racist American Freedom Party claims it has “more delegates” on Trump’s list. Another Trump delegate was indicted recently on federal child-pornography and weapons charges, and Mother Jones magazine, which discovered Johnson’s selection, on Friday reported that another Trump delegate, David Riden, has said that U.S. leaders who abuse the Constitution should be “killed by American citizens with weapons.” And the Chicago Tribune reported that Illinois Trump delegate Lori Gayne uses the social-media handle “whitepride” and said: “I’m so angry I don’t even feel like I live in America. You can call me a racist.”

Republicans, look at your nominee over here.

Or look over here:

Eight years to the day after she suspended her first run for the White House, Hillary Clinton took the stage Tuesday night for a hard-earned victory lap as the first woman to clinch a major party’s presidential nomination.

“Tonight’s victory is not about one person, it belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible,” Clinton said as she began her victory speech.

She’s got this wrapped up. They’re still counting votes out here in California, but it looks like 60-40 in her favor and she’ll have a majority of the pledged delegates, so those superdelegates won’t matter much after all. This is over, and now she’s out to prove that she’s not the crazy one:

Clinton’s message Tuesday night was a call for unity – not just within the Democratic Party – but to stave off a Trump presidency.

“This election is different. It really is about who we are as a nation. It’s about millions of Americans coming together to say, we are better than this. We won’t let this happen in America,” Clinton said.

After thanking her supporters, Clinton fell comfortably into her attacks against her general election opponent businessman Donald Trump – a bomb-throwing outsider who surprised his own party with his victory and has already dredged up some of the highest profile controversies of the 1990s to attack Clinton.

Yeah, he’ll run against Bill Clinton, and she’ll run against Trump:

Clinton sought to define Trump Tuesday as a slimy, dangerous and uniquely disqualified for the office.

“It’s clear that Donald Trump doesn’t believe we are stronger together,” Clinton said. “He has abused his primary opponents and their families, attacked the press for asking tough questions, denigrated Muslims and immigrants. He wants to win by stoking fear and rubbing salt in wounds. And reminding us daily just how great he is.”

Clinton has doggedly attacked Trump’s for-profit Trump University and suggested Trump isn’t disciplined enough to manage America’s nuclear codes.

“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander In chief,” Clinton said. “He’s not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico; he’s trying to wall off Americans from each other. When he says let’s make America great again, that is code for, let’s take America backwards.”

There are those who wish it were 1953 again, in Iowa – good for them. She’ll take everyone else, even some Republicans too:

Clinton used her speech to even reach out to some Republicans who may be on the fence about Trump.

“To be great, we can’t be small,” Clinton said. “We have to be as big as the values that define America. And we are a big-hearted, fair-minded country. We teach our children that this is one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

How can you argue with that? And there will be no Democratic civil war:

Clinton’s victory in the primary came after a surprisingly strong challenge from Sanders, a primary opponent who pushed Clinton to the left on everything from immigration to income inequality and earned broad grassroots support with his message deriding “millionaires and billionaires.” On Tuesday, Clinton seemed to have embraced some of Sanders’ progressive tone as her own. Sanders had consistently bested Clinton with young voters – a core constituency she’ll now need to make up with has she heads toward the November election. On Tuesday, Clinton congratulated Sanders on his campaign as she sought to win back his supporters.

“Let there be no mistake,” Clinton said. “Senator Sanders, his campaign, and the vigorous debate that we’ve had about how to raise income, reduce inequality, increase upward mobility, have been very good for the Democratic Party and for America.”

Trump would never say a parallel thing, with the opposite goals of course, to any Republican. Those he defeated in the primaries are pathetic losers. He humiliated them and they’ll stay humiliated, damn it. It’s an alpha-male thing – and that has been what Donald Trump has been selling. He humiliates losers. Elect him and America will humiliate all others.

That’s one choice in November, and here’s the other:

Clinton meditated on the historic significance of her victory. She drew parallels between her rise and the earliest days of the women’s rights movement in Seneca Falls, NY.

“In our country, it started right here in New York, a place called Seneca Falls when a small but determined group of women and men came together with the idea that women deserved equal rights and they said it forth and something called the declaration of sentiments, and it was the first time in human history that that kind of declaration occurred,” Clinton said.

Clinton reminded voters just how far women had to have come for her to be standing on stage Tuesday night. She noted that on June 4, her mother would have been 97 years old.

“On the very day my mother was born, in Chicago, Congress was passing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution,” Clinton said. “That amendment finally gave women the right to vote.”

That was a bad day for alpha males, and the Los Angeles Times’ Cathleen Decker sees where this is heading:

In recent days, Trump has questioned Clinton’s very presence in the race.

“She doesn’t even look presidential,” he complained via Twitter as Clinton delivered a foreign policy address scathing in its criticism of the Republican.

The primary campaign has been loaded with such allusions to gender, and there’s no reason to think that will change in the months before the general election.

The GOP primary contest “in many ways was all about who was man enough to be president of the United States,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

She cited Trump’s complaints that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush needed his mother’s help to get elected, his criticism of Carly Fiorina’s face as one that Americans wouldn’t want on a president, and the dispute between Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio over the size of Trump’s hands and other body parts.

“It’s all this masculinity,” she said. “This is what presidential politics has always been about: Who is man enough, who is tough enough, to be leader of the free world? The default image is always male.”

Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan harks back not only to a time before the civil rights of minorities had been secured, but also serves as a gender dog whistle, she said.

It implies, “Let’s go back to a time when white men ran everything,” Walsh said.

It may come down to that:

Tuesday, [Clinton] repeatedly credited “women and men” for securing rights for all.

“When I started the campaign more than a year ago, I wanted to listen,” she told supporters Sunday, an hour after a lengthy chat with Vallejo residents.

“I know that was kind of boring to some people. It’s like, ‘There she goes, listening again.'”

“I actually learn things when I listen, and I want people to know, not just in this campaign but in the White House, I’m going to keep listening.”

Eight years ago Tuesday, when she talked of the cracks in the glass ceiling, Clinton declared that light was shining through “like never before, filling us all with the hope … that the path will be a little easier next time.”

If this time has not been particularly easy, Clinton acknowledged Monday that she now feels the weight of history, happily.

Her supporters, she said, share a “belief that having a woman president will make a historic statement about what kind of country we are.”

We’ll listen? We won’t make it our policy to humiliate even our closest allies in the world? We’ll simply work to make things better for everyone as best we can? If so, then the choice is now between a nurturing earth mother – or grandmother in this case – and a merciless alpha-male pack leader that likes to drink blood and howl at the moon. There will be specific issues, and policy ideas, but the election may come down to that.

That’s clarifying, but the Republican Party just neutered their alpha-male pack leader, at least for one evening. Who was that subdued and rather boring man, with odd orange hair, reading a rather dull prepared speech, from a teleprompter, on national television? Ah, he was nobody, really. This may be over already.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to The Alpha Male Neutered

  1. Rick says:

    It’s true! Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know how to use a prompter when he speaks. It actually makes him more boring, and for what it’s worth, doesn’t help him at all look very presidential.

    Which is good news, I think! If speaking on a prompter actually were to suit him, he might be tempted to use it more often, which means he’d have to start tailoring his content to his presentation, and more people might actually start taking him seriously and, God forbid, liking him! I prefer his old way, where he just can’t help but pull stuff out of his ass, which makes people either love him or hate him — and hopefully more of the latter than the former, especially lately with this judge thing.

    The latest thing is that he’s apparently decided to just shut up about the judge, claiming that what he has been saying about all that has been “misconstrued” — which it has! By him! To me, this is just a tiny confession on his part that he had no idea what he was talking about, although it seems almost everyone else did.

    What Trump said in his own defense:

    It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.

    Okay, but the question is, if one of your Mexican friends or employees were a judge in a legal case of which you were a party, should they be disqualified, since they can’t help but know that you are, as you say, “building a wall” at the border? If your answer is yes, then you have not been misconstrued by the public, you’ve merely been construed.

    But racism aside, what I think people should all be getting on Donald Trump for doing in this case is dragging one of his many private squabbles into the public arena, essentially trying to leverage his run for public office for private gain. I don’t know if he realizes it, but were Trump president already, he could probably get impeached for that.

    But the odd thing is, according to Jeffrey Toobin, the judge’s rulings have been mostly pro-Trump!:

    CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin weighed in on the Trump University case this afternoon, and he said Donald Trump is strongly exaggerating how much the judge is supposedly biased against him.

    In addition to that whole “I’m building a wall, he’s Mexican!” thing, Trump has gone after Judge Gonzalo Curiel because of his “terrible rulings” (i.e. rulings that did not go Trump’s way).

    But as Toobin explained, the judge has ruled that plaintiffs in the case “are not entitled to complete refunds if they win” and so they have to argue individually “what percentage of the fee that they pair… was a ripoff.” And that, he added, “basically kills the whole idea of a class-action.”

    “This is a judge,” Toobin said, “who has by and large favored Donald Trump. The only thing he’s refused to do is throw the case out altogether.”

    He concluded that this is clearly not a judge on a “rampage” against Trump.

    If so, then, why is Trump doing this? I heard somewhere that Trump treats each transaction he gets himself into like a game, that playing with the details is more important to him than the outcome, so it’s possible that he’s just sort of toying with his food.

    You might think the “new” Trump campaign might be able to rein in his playful tendencies, but according to the Washington Post, maybe not:

    In a conference call Monday, the real estate mogul told surrogates to step up their attacks on Curiel as biased and on reporters as racists, overriding a directive from his own staff distributed over the weekend, according to reports.

    Which brings up a question:

    How many of these fun lawsuits does he have going on right now? At any given moment, he seems to be either in a lawsuit or he’s being audited by the IRS or bankrupting one of his companies. He seems to consider being in constant legal trouble a mark of success.

    Can we really afford this guy running the country the way he runs his life?


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