Op-ed: Comic-strip politics

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, August 20, 2016 12:17pm
  • Opinion

“I am who I am,” says Donald Trump, getting in touch with his inner Popeye. (I know it’s “I yam what I yam,” but cut me some slack here, Popeye purists.) Trumpy the railer man was assuring his interviewer that he’s definitely not going to get all Wimpy moving forward. That’s both fair and foul.

It’s fair because he’s gotten to where he is with a nasty mix of bigotry and hateful insults, spewing his sewage to millions who have made him their hero. Of course, that toxic mix is cheap-shot demagoguery and is as foul as it can be. But it’s the @realDonaldTrump, so why should he pretend he’s anyone else?

He has been under a lot of pressure to do just that from seasoned Republicans who say that he needs to turn down the spite spigot and try to act like a serious presidential candidate now that he is, in fact, the GOP nominee. Their contention is that while the hard-right-wingers in their party got whipped up enough by his simple-minded belligerence to put him at the top of their heap, the general electorate — even those who can’t abide the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton — might be horrified by his repeated crass cruelty.

The campaign brought on a political pro, Paul Manafort, whose job it was to somehow make Donald Trump appear to be at least minimally plausible to be president of the United States. Manafort deposed the first campaign leader, Corey Lewandowski, whose main strategy was “Let Trump Be Trump.” Lewandowski got to be vicariously Popeye, and among the ways he enforced his approach was to harshly grab the arm of a female reporter. He was accused of assault, but the charges were dropped. Later, thanks to Manafort, Lewandowski was dropped.

Thus began the efforts to clean up Donny’s act. Occasionally, his handlers could even get him to read off a teleprompter and not drop one of his verbal bombs for an entire speech. The problem was that Trump hated being handled. “I don’t want to change,” he exclaimed. Now he’s made that crystal-clear.

Now it’s Manafort’s turn to suffer the knife in the back, and he’s departing. Trump has brought in some new blood to call the shots going forward. Stephen Bannon — who has been chairman of the Breitbart News site, aka the Donald Trump propaganda organ — switches to campaign CEO, making official the unofficial role he had been playing. He’s a strong advocate of carpet-bombing politics. Kellyanne Conway, who’s mainly a pollster, also is from the “whatever it takes to win” school. She becomes campaign manager. Manafort, who would have been a figurehead, has decided to take the job and shove it. He can be out making real money in his normal pursuit, which is as a consultant to world despots and those close to Vladimir Putin. Oh yeah, the disclosures about all that had become a major embarrassment to Trump. Who knew he could be embarrassed?

With his new leadership team, Popeye has just fed himself a big can of spinach. He will be running an uninhibited campaign, meaning extremely mean. Obnoxious is what the Donald does best. He’s not a nuance kinda guy. Pardon the repulsive imagery, but he’s not very convincing unless he’s letting it all hang out.

The problem for him is his spurts of rank rants have been most corrosive to him. He’s tanking in the polls. Also, Hillary Clinton thrives when being treated like dirt — it’s fertile ground for her. Of course, by Election Day, Donald “I am who I am” Trump will let us all show who we are. Chances are, we’ll all first want to take a shower.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

The official ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Division of Elections)
Voices of the Peninsula: Check out the ballot before you vote

This kind of ballot is not something you have seen before.

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party

State Sen. Josh Revak (Photo provided)
The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The hope is that the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) will come to the Senate floor for a vote

Michael Heimbuch attends a memorial service for the late Drew Scalzi on Aug. 5, 2005, at the Seafarers Memorial on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Point of View: King salmon: The clash of culture and science

People do some pretty awful things to king salmon stocks

Lieutenant governor candidate Edie Grunwald speaks at a Charlie Pierce campaign event at Paradisos restaurant in Kenai on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Election Integrity: An Alaskan question with an Alaskan answer

A needless round of feel-good meetings and what-if conversations will be a thing of the past

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)
Opinion: Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

The cost of health insurance will rise substantially next year for about 13 million Americans

Most Read