Sunday, January 17, 2016

Has Trump the Bully Hit a Wall?

I view both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz with revulsion.  Both would be an unmitigated disaster for America in the White House.  Trump is in many ways little more than a loud mouthed bully who excels at insults and nasty sound bites, but to date has offered zero in terms of any real substantive policies.  And when it comes to attacking his GOP rivals, he tends to prefer personal insults rather than debate and differences over policies and proposed initiatives.  Like a classic school yard bully, Trump has attracted those who like seeming confidence, especially when pandering to existing prejudices in his audience.  Ted Cruz, to my view, is equally despicable, but as a piece in Politico, Cruz just may be the one who can damage the Trump juggernaut.  Personally, I'd like to see both self-destruct.  Here are article excerpts:

Like all accomplished bullies, Trump understands that the real target is his opponent’s honor. Obeying the maxim that you haven’t gone far enough until you’ve gone too far, Trump slagged Bush’s wife last July, using Twitter to post a quotation from a tweet that said Bush “has to like Mexican Illegals because of his wife.” Trump deleted the tweet, which implied that Columba Bush was not in the country legally. Bush took personal umbrage over the tweet, which was deleted 24 hours after it was posted. “He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention,” Bush sputtered in the manner of someone whose honor has been wounded. The point of Trump's tweet was to lure Bush into defending Columba, his Spanish-speaking wife and the mother of his three children, thereby boxing him in as conflicted over immigration. It was a brilliant bully move.

When discussing the art of the verbal bully, you really can’t spend too much time on honor. The bully undermines his foes by stripping them of whatever esteem, standing and face they may have acquired. When a man’s mother, wife or daughter is disparaged in most cultures, he must defend her honor or risk losing his manliness. This prompted only more Bush sputtering that Trump must apologize to Columba; Trump’s resopnse (“I won’t apologize, I didn’t do anything wrong”) sliced Bush’s cojones right out of his trousers. 

So how do you beat a verbal bully? We’re actually starting to see it happen. Stanley Elkin sketched a strategy in his 1964 short story, “A Poetics for Bullies.” In it, a young bully named Push torments and leads all the kids in the neighborhood until he is undone by a princely newcomer John Williams, whose accent can’t be mocked, whose skin has no blemish, whose intelligence is impervious to insult. 

Nobody would ever mistake Ted Cruz for John Williams. No Adonis, he looks like a broken-nosed character actor in a film noir. He even whines when he talks. But inside his own head, Cruz is John Williams. He has been polishing the Cruz act for his entire life, making himself a perfectly smooth, unchanging object upon which no New York bully can get a grip. Although Trump may have bested Cruz on several topics in last night’s presidential debate as they fought toe-to-toe for the first time, the mogul seems unable to get under Cruz’s skin the way he has with Bush, Carson, Rand Paul (ridiculing him for being short, just 5’8”!), and the other candidates.

Like Trump, Cruz commands an alpha male’s ego. When towel-snapped, he does not shriek. When denigrated or teased, he does not frown or wince. He does not have to be perfect because he already thinks he’s perfect, which is just one of the reasons why the rest of Congress despises him.

The best way to beat a trash-talking bully is to convincingly pretend you cannot hear him. Donald Trump, you have met your John Williams.

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