Politics 2016: Bring in the Clowns

By Roger Simon

August 26, 2015 6 min read

The movie is about a future America in which everybody is dumb. It is called "Idiocracy," and it is supposed to be fiction. It is supposed to be funny.

The movie came out in 2006, but I have been seeing it a lot on cable recently. It may be an attempt to explain Donald Trump's popularity.

Trump's campaign for president is currently popular not because people are dumb but because Trump is entertaining in a political process that rewards good entertainers.

All candidates for president have large egos, but Trump's is so pure, so distilled that you could almost bottle it.

Here is Trump last Friday in full ramble mode in Mobile, Alabama, talking about his uncle John G. Trump, a physicist who helped develop radar in World War II. He died more than 30 years ago, and Trump does not bother to name him. All Trump anecdotes tend to be about Trump.

"Went to a great school," Trump told the crowd, speaking about himself. "Excellent student, smart guy. My uncle was a professor at MIT who was a smart guy. You know, good smart guy, right? Good family. Do we believe in the gene thing? I mean, I do. Right? You know? I do."

What this means is open to question. Should the people in Mobile go out and select better genes? Too late! You're stuck with what you've got. Or does it mean you should mate with someone with good genes in order to produce genetically superior families? Watch "The Bachelorette" and see whether you can pick out the guy who is likeliest to develop the next scientific breakthrough like radar or who could even invent something like the cup holder.

No, we must take Trump on his own terms, which is to say he is a showman, a pitchman who is selling one product: himself. Which is also why it is so difficult to pin him down on anything he has said. It is like wrestling with an eel.

On Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos, an excellent interviewer, tried to break through the Trump persona and get some answers on something — anything! Stephanopoulos chose the sole plan listed under "Positions" on the official Trump website. It is Trump's plan for making Mexico pay for a wall on our southern border, deporting "criminal aliens" from the United States and ending "birthright citizenship," among other complex, controversial and expensive programs.

Stephanopoulos attempted to find out how Trump would carry out his plan. Specifically.

Did I say it was like wrestling with an eel? It was more like punching a pillow.

"You have so many illegals. We don't even know how many," Trump said. "I hear 11 million. I hear 30 million. The government has no idea. We have lost control of our country. We've lost control of our borders."

Specific enough for you?

Stephanopoulos kept trying. He wanted facts, figures, hard numbers, real plans. Instead, he got showmanship.

"George, it's called management," Trump replied. "The first thing we have to do is secure the border, but it's called management."

But how, specifically, would Trump carry out his plan? Stephanopoulos asked.

That's "very simple," Trump said. "I'm going to get great people that know what they're doing, not a bunch of political hacks that have no idea what they're doing appointed by President Obama, (who) doesn't have a clue. I mean, the man doesn't have a clue."

He doesn't have a clue, Trump believes, because he is weak. Maybe he didn't come from a family with great genes. Maybe his family's genes weren't even American genes.

About six weeks ago, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Trump whether President Obama was born in the United States. "I don't know. I really don't know," Trump replied. "I don't know why he wouldn't release his records."

Trump, who often speaks of himself in the third person, as if he were Queen Victoria, said other politicians had tried to get the records but were unsuccessful. "Hillary (Clinton) failed. John McCain failed. Trump was able to get (Obama) to give something," Trump said of Trump. "I don't know what the hell it was."

Trump then brightened. "But it doesn't matter, because I'm off that subject," he said. "I'm about jobs. I'm about the military. I'm about doing the right thing for this country. I want to make our country great again."

And there it was — an entire campaign reduced to just eight words. Plain. Simple. Strong. Trite.

But it reminded me of the best campaign slogan I had ever heard, on the first presidential campaign I ever covered, in January 1976. It was spoken by Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, D-Wash.

"Others may seek to make America great again," Jackson said. "I seek to make America good again. For in the last analysis, our claim to greatness will be found in our goodness."

Weak, really weak, Trump would sneer. American goodness? The guy doesn't have a clue.

Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist. His new e-book, "Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America," can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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