One huge reason why a whopping 61 percent of Americans dislike Trump as a person, and why 57 percent say he’s unfit to serve as president, is because so much of what he says is so laughingly contemptible. How else are we to describe his boast about how brave he’d be in a gunfight?
You’ve heard his riff by now. Referring to the Parkland massacre yesterday, he said: “I really believe — you don’t know until you’re tested — but I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.” That, from the same guy who ran from serving his country in Vietnam, courtesy of five deferments and a purported boo-boo in his foot. That, from the same guy who couldn’t even walk with world leaders at a G7 summit in Sicily, opting instead to roll a short distance in a golf cart.
Now suddenly he thinks he’s Rambo. No, wait, he fancies himself more macho than Rambo, because even Rambo deemed it prudent to tote a weapon.
Yesterday afternoon, propaganda minister Sarah Huckabee Sanders was tasked with explaining Trump’s remark. When asked whether Trump would actually do what he claimed he was willing to do, and whether he was trained in firearms, Sanders said: “I don’t think that was the point he was making. He was saying that he would be a leader.” Yeah, that clears it up.
There’s a school of thought that we should ignore Trump’s verbal idiocies, that we not be “distracted.” But it’s important to parse the words of presidents (or, in this case, an alleged president), because what they say, especially off the cuff, often tells us how their brains are wired (or, in this case, cross-wired). And what they say often resonates on the policy front. For instance, if a president says that he’d bravely rush a high school shooter — that, in effect, we’d solve the shooting epidemic if only bystanders were braver — then it’s likely he’s a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby.
So when he decrees that he would brave a field of fire like King Henry V — “Once more into the breach, dear friends!” wrote Shakespeare — we know that his aim is to confront the shooting epidemic by doing nothing. On one of the most important existential issues of our era — the safety and security of our children — he just takes up space. He had lunch with NRA bigwigs over the weekend, and in all likelihood the most substantive question he asked was what shoe polish they preferred.
Theoretically, it’s worth pondering why an alleged president would further crater his credibility by making such preposterous boasts. Why would anyone (except Trump trolls) believe that he’d rush into a building to protect strangers’ kids from bullets when he won’t even hold an umbrella to shield his own kid from raindrops? Why would anyone believe he’d rush an active shooter when he’s reportedly loath to even climb a flight of stairs? If this guy had been on the Titanic, he would’ve leapt onto a lifeboat wearing a dress. Doesn’t he understand, at least from a tactical viewpoint, that he sabotages himself by talking like a jackass?
The answer, by now, is obvious: He can’t help what he says. His riffs are symptoms of his titanic insecurity, his primal need to pump himself up as compensation for the emptiness inside. He needs to make grandiose claims about personal courage to compensate for his personal cowardice. Of that, we have actual evidence. This is a guy who, by his own admission, recoils at the sight of blood: “I’m not good for medical. In other words, if you cut your finger and there’s blood pouring out, I’m gone. [Blood] is just not my thing.”
Yup, that’s what he said on the radio, talking to shock jock Howard Stern on July 16, 2008. And there was so much more. He recounted the time that an 80-year-old man fell off a stage during a charity event at Mar-a-Lago. Did Trump rush to the aid of the injured octogenarian? Yeah, sure. As if.
Here’s the future President Rambo, in his own words:
“So what happens is this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died. And you know what I did? I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away. I couldn’t, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away. I didn’t want to touch him … I felt terrible. You know, beautiful marble floor, didn’t look like it. It changed color. Became very red … Nobody wants to help the guy. His wife is screaming — she’s sitting right next to him, and she’s screaming … I was saying, ‘Get that blood cleaned up! It’s disgusting!’ The next day, I forgot to call [the injured man] to say he’s OK.”
He felt so terrible! That beautiful marble floor!
But that was then. Today he’s a self-professed profile in courage, and perhaps he’ll say he got that way by serving in Vietnam. Perhaps he’ll say that he fought in Quang Tri province; that he led Marines through an eight-hour battle against small arms and automatic weapons; that he directed counter-fire; that he supervised the evacuation of wounded comrades; that he was awarded the Bronze Star …
Oh wait! That was Robert Mueller.