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An old friend who has known Donald Trump a long time says I don’t understand Trump. But I do understand Trump. Trump is a know-it-all who sometimes needs someone to sit on him.
That’s why Trump’s campaign manager seems even more of an odd choice.
Today Trump sent out a photo of his wife Melania, alongside an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, the wife of Ted Cruz. The message read: “No need to ‘spill the beans.’ The images are worth a thousand words.” Yesterday Trump had tweeted: “Lyin Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful lyin’ Ted or I will spill the beans on your wife!”
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Americans have a president who does not stand up for America and has sold out, to Iran and now Cuba. They want the real thing, someone patriotic with gravitas and dignity. Trump finally was presidential in his appearance before AIPAC, but has he now regressed? Trump was well received at AIPAC itself, and the national coverage was favorable. But Trump’s campaign manager still doesn’t get it.
Europe is under attack from “J.V. ISIS” – as President Obama initially called the vast terrorist network that his policies spawned. Later Obama said the U.S. had no plan to destroy ISIS. As recently as the day before the San Bernardino attack, Secretary of State John Kerry said don’t worry about ISIS. After news of the Brussels attack on Tuesday, Obama went to a baseball game with Cuban gangsters. Then he went to Argentina for the tango. Recall that after the beheading of James Foley, Obama – in casual clothes — had made a perfunctory statement, with no emotion or feeling, while on his extended Hawaiian vacation, then he immediately played golf. Later he said he misjudged “the optics.” When an American in Israel is killed by Palestinian terrorists, the White House barely reacts. There was a time when bad guys feared the consequences of killing an American. No more.
Trump has been gaining because his supporters see him as a potential strong president while Obama is seen here and abroad as a weak president. But how can Trump criticize Obama’s insensitive and embarrassing behavior when Trump himself pursues juvenile antics?
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If Trump is trying to signal that in a general election he will take on Hillary’s spouse, Bill Clinton, this is no way to do it.
Cruz does not control his independent SuperPAC, which did the ad, although average voters don’t understand that. As with most anti-Trump ads, it was stupid and might help Trump. But what does Trump gain with recurring name-calling — the ‘lyin’ Ted tweet? Is the petty “spill the beans on your wife” a Trump “counter-punch” – or just immature? For months Trump has tweeted, often to good effect, to define the news cycle. But this news cycle should have been: “ISIS kills in Brussels, Obama goes to baseball game,” not “Trump threatens Heidi Cruz.”
In short, the terrible events in Brussels help validate Trump’s call for a temporary halt to Muslim refugees. Trump should own this continuing news cycle — on terrorism-and-Muslims. Instead Trump is off message and onto trivia.
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Trump doesn’t get it, but his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski should. Instead of tweeting impulsively, Trump should be learning about the issues. But Trump is the boss, you say. Thus, the manager (evidently the wrong guy for the job) can’t control Trump. But the manager evidently also can’t control himself, and perhaps that explains why he lacks the grounding and stature, and the judgment, to earn Trump’s respect, so that Trump would listen to him.
Last Sunday George Stephanopoulos asked Donald Trump about the conduct of Lewandowski. Upset about anti-Trump signs, Lewandowski grabbed at the collar of one protestor. At least that’s what footage seemed to show.
“I give him credit for having spirit,” Trump said. “He wanted them to take down those horrible profanity laced signs. Now he didn’t touch him.”
This was the second public incident (there are more privately) involving Lewandowski who seems assertive with everyone except Trump. Reporter Michelle Fields said he grabbed her on March 8 when she was posing a question to Trump. In the case of Fields and the recent protestor, the footage seems to implicate Lewandowski though not conclusively, pending review.
The Secret Service protects Trump. Private security guards work the crowd. Police officers provide support and make arrests. Why does Lewandowski pursue a Walter Mitty fantasy as Trump’s bodyguard? Why does he troll the crowd for protestors?
Most campaign managers are too busy to be on the road with the candidate. It’s a power trip, normally not a good use of time. Lewandowski apparently is not a peripatetic executive but an insecure gatekeeper.
Within the entourage of a presidential candidate there is an Old Wise Man, even a younger one, with a cool head. On the road Trump especially needs a steady, calming influence, not someone who feeds his ego and strokes his anxiety. When he is about to tweet another attack on, say Megyn Kelly, he needs an alter ego. Instead, Lewandowski earlier this year called a Fox News executive to threaten Kelly with “a rough couple of days.”
Trump believes in (1) winning and (2) loyalty. Trump’s electoral base responds to Trump’s strength, not the antics of his campaign manager. What would a discerning manager tell Trump? Stop the personal attacks, enable civil discourse and discourage violence. That would not only be the right thing to do, it’s good politics.
Lewandowski does not understand the fragile equilibrium of a Trump rally, and the consequent risks, nor the long game. Lewandowski’s experience in politics is mainly as an organizer, not a strategist. He had a major position in another campaign that failed miserably. Lewandowski lacks the courage to stand up to Trump.
In business Trump is known to value informed counsel. In politics he prefers a yes-man. The combative Trump believes he needs someone pugnacious, when the opposite is required.
Trump’s policy speech at AIPAC was an overdue step forward. His manager should have insisted months ago on daily briefings for the candidate. Damage control on Trump’s Ku Klux Klan response (that Trump didn’t hear the exact words of the question) should have occurred within minutes of the disastrous interview.
When Trump won in Florida on March 15 he thanked Lewandowski, who was on stage. Normally, you highlight your family and campaign volunteers, not your paid staff. Given Trump’s “in your face” style, he doubled down on Lewandowski. Is this boldness or imprudence?
Trump’s campaign team is demoralized but weary of challenging Lewandowski with the candidate. Trump has created a Frankenstein and cannot say, “You’re fired,” but when things deteriorate, Trump will blame his compliant manager. Lewandowski is delusional – seeing himself as a future White House chief of staff. He would make Richard Nixon’s Bob Haldeman look like a shrinking violet. Haldeman was effective because Nixon had vast experience in public service – World War II, Member of Congress, U. S. Senator, vice president. Nixon then went from two failed campaigns — president and then governor, before becoming president. A political novice, Trump has gone far, but it’s time for impulse control and strategy.
If Trump had won Iowa he could have run the table, and then – as the inevitable nominee — preempted the Stop Trump movement. A sharp manager would have insisted that Trump do the Iowa debate and spend more there on the “ground game.” Loyalty to the candidate is more than doing what you’re told. Nor does a manager serve the candidate by becoming part of the story or failing to deliver bad news to his boss. And a manager who hassles reporters or protesters is not doing his job. Lewandowski should be in the headquarters focusing, for example, on contingency plans for an open convention.
Lewandowski is licensed as a real estate agent and a notary, truly the Renaissance Man. He graduated from the New Hampshire Police Academy, which apparently did not prepare him for his dubious role as a frustrated bouncer. If only he had a baton and handcuffs. It’s time for Lewandowski to return to the campaign’s back-office where he can down his Red Bulls without acting out his aggression publicly.
A job handling security at a Trump building will not be open forever.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.