So said Tucker Carlson, who related a story about Donald Trump. Way back when, Tucker insulted Trump’s hair and Trump left a message for Carlson to the effect of “you may have better hair than me, but I get more pussy than you.” Shocking. Vulgar. Indisputably True (per Carlson).
While I agree with none of Carlson’s politics, his pithy summation of Trump’s ability to zero in on someone and level them with a withering insult is what has dispatched each and every one of his competitors during this election cycle. George W. Bush may have had a false cowboy’s swagger, but Trump is an unabashed, in your face, New York bully. Jeb Bush? Low Energy. Ted Cruz? Born in Canada. Hillary Clinton? No lectures about women from someone married to Bill Clinton. Fox News? You need me more than I need you. No one can question the results. Bush went from front-runner to after thought. Cruz has been on a downward trajectory ever since he started tangling with Trump. Bill Clinton’s favorability ratings have sunk and his presence on the campaign trail is very low key. Fox News was left scrambling when Trump pulled out of their most recent debate and was left with egg on its face.
Trump’s criticisms are shocking to the political class and can be vulgar (I am not so sure about the indisputably true part), but in the same way Simon Cowell became a massive celebrity when American Idol first aired because he was rude and cutting in his insults (which usually contained a grain of truth), Trump zeroes in on a flaw and defines the person by it. He is unafraid of the blowback and, if anything, relishes it. He has taken the political playbook everyone is supposed to follow and ignored it. In the balance, he has given voice to a disaffected group in our country who only wish they could, to borrow from a dated 1970s cliché, tell their boss to take this job and shove it.
Love him or hate him, he unleashes his opinions without mercy and generates strong opinions. In Howard Stern’s 1997 movie Private Parts there is a scene between two executives at WNBC, the radio station Stern worked at in the mid-1980s. The two had commissioned a survey to understand Stern’s popularity and found that the people that hated Stern listened to the show twice as long as the people who loved him. The reason was the same for both groups - they wanted to hear what he would say next. Trump has mastered that same formula, and every thought piece that insults him, every media outlet that tries to mock him, and every rival who attempts to dethrone him, has no idea what to do about it.
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