Call him “Teflon Don.” Campaigning in Iowa last weekend, Donald Trump was being, well, Donald Trump, fearlessly bellowing insults without mercy, until he finally landed a big blow on Old John McCain and managed to hit on the ONLY thing you cannot say bad about the senator from Arizona.
In mocking and belittling Mr. McCain’s tortured service as a downed Navy pilot in a Hanoi prison camp, The Donald’s meteoric ascent seemed threatened — but just for a moment.
Impetuous, spoiled and self-absorbed, John McCain gives countless reasons to be derided and scorned. He has been a media darling for decades — not for any kind of principle, but rather for his willingness to sell out fellow Republicans if it gains him some political edge. Knighted the “maverick,” Mr. McCain can always be relied upon for a disparaging quote.
His star turn in the “Keating Five” scandal gave us campaign finance “reform,” which in reality was nothing more than a bunch of tangled rules that spoiled free speech and gave Democrats an unfair edge in campaigns.
But it successfully laundered Mr. McCain’s own political career of an awful stain.
Worst of all, the old geezer somehow managed to lose the 2008 presidential campaign to a young street hustler spouting vague and empty promises. The only remotely savvy thing John McCain has accomplished in his post-Hanoi career was to pick former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. But even that was a self-serving choice in hopes of breathing the faintest life into his doddering campaign.
Then along comes Donald Trump, fighting the right fight but picking up the wrong weapon. The great and refreshing thing about The Donald is that he has never been to politician school. He says whatever he wants when he wants and how he wants.
Ironically, Mr. Trump is truly the maverick that John McCain has always dreamed of being as he’s stumbled through his long, long political career.
When it comes to mannerly decorum, Donald Trump is untrainable. He always has said and will continue to say things that are wildly impolitic. And that is precisely why people like him so much and trust him.
Newest polls out of Iowa and nationally already suggest that the breathless predictions of Mr. Trump’s demise from every corner of the national, political media set have been a wee bit premature. Once again, the experts utterly fail to understand the allure of a “Teflon Don” presidency.
People are drawn to Mr. Trump not because he is a polished insider who knows how to speak in hushed earth tones that put people to sleep and in the end say absolutely nothing. They like Mr. Trump because he says SOMETHING every time he opens his mouth. After all the years of meaningless yammer, ANYTHING is better than all the political blather. Even if what he says sometimes runs a bit foul of acceptable discourse.
Undoubtedly, Mr. Trump wishes he had steered a bit clearer of Mr. McCain’s honorable service. But he has built up so much credibility with his unflinching, unvarnished talk that supporters are willing to forgive him a verbal slip-up here and there.
People like Mr. Trump not because they think he will be dainty and gentle inside the china shop of the federal government. They love him because they think he will be an enraged, groaning and goring bull, slashing his giant, shiny horns deep into every corner of the china shop as all the experts — shrieking — go scurrying in every direction to get away from the rampaging beast.
The American people have watched for decades as all the political experts have worked their magic and built up this monstrous city where the streets are literally lined with slabs of expensive granite paid for by innocent taxpayers thousands of miles away.
They also look at the rampaging bull that is “Teflon Don,” and they smile broadly. They say to themselves, “Well, you can’t screw it up any worse than all the experts have. So let’s give Donald Trump a shot. At least I understand what he is saying.”
Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter via @charleshurt.