If you are still confused about how Donald Trump is walking away with the Republican nomination for president, look no further than his swift, reflexive, fearless, and unvarnished response to the terrorist attack in Paris.
Within hours of what amounted to 9/11 for our oldest ally, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to ridicule the president of the United States and eviscerate his foreign policies.
“President Obama said ‘ISIL continues to shrink’ in an interview just hours before the horrible attack in Paris. He is just so bad!” he wrote.
And then to rub salt into the wound, Mr. Trump ripped off the president’s 2008 campaign slogan.
So much for the old Republican edict that politics end at the water’s edge, especially in a moment of dire crisis.
To quote Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump prefers “Winning!”
Or, as Mr. Trump says: “We will have so much winning if I get elected you may get bored with winning.”
Even after President Obama addressed the world and called for a united front in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, Mr. Trump would have none of it.
“Why won’t President Obama use the term Islamic Terrorism?” he asked pointedly. “Isn’t it now, after all of this time and so much death, about time?”
By the next day, Mr. Trump was just getting warmed up with all the things Republican politicians are not supposed to say in the wake of a tragedy like this.
“You can say what you want, but if they had guns — if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry — it would have been a much, much different situation,” Mr. Trump told a crowd of fans during a political rally in Texas one day after the massacre.
Ask any mainstream Republican political strategist and they will tell you this is political suicide.
One of the very first rules they teach in Republican political candidate school is you never, never, NEVER inveigh against gun control laws in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting like this.
You might offend somebody. Alienate women voters. Risk coming off as overly aggressive. Might invade some college students’ “safe space.”
But you know who never went to Republican political candidate school? Actual American voters. That’s who. And when Donald Trump breaks all the rules by ripping the president, questioning his religion and blaming gun control laws for a mass shooting, he is saying exactly what so many Americans were already thinking.
That is because Donald Trump — the great salesman-statesman — not only intimately understands the product he is selling (himself), he also has a deeply instinctual understanding of his customer (voters). He understands what they want, how they think and how to reach them.
And pretty much ever since, Mr. Trump has been just riding what has become the Third Rail of modern politics: the very real and bloody danger immigration and unsecured borders poses to Americans here at home today.
“We have no idea who these people are, we are the worst when it comes to paperwork,” said Mr. Trump, referring specifically to the Syrian refugees. “This could be one of the great Trojan horses.”
(By the way, when was the last time a candidate for president of the United States invoked Greek mythology? And they say Donald Trump isn’t sophisticated!)
“I’m putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they’re going back.
“They could be ISIS. … This could be one of the greatest tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000 man army maybe. I don’t know that it is, but it could be possible.”
Sure, it is tough talk and certainly threatens the sanctity of our “safe space.” But, then again, we are learning that the “safe spaces” are getting less and less safe.
At least until Donald Trump becomes president.
Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter via @charleshurt.