“She said, ‘man, there’s really something wrong with you.
One day you’re going to self-destruct’….
You’re blowing it all with paranoia
You’re so insecure you self-destroyer.” — The Kinks
“You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts;
You do it to yourself, just you, you and no one else.” — Radiohead
COMMENTARY: It’s weirdly almost impossible to criticize Donald Trump on issues, because he so freely changes or denies his earlier positions. It’s not that Donald has nuanced positions reflecting multiple angles or contexts, or changes positions based on new information or new socio-cultural norms. Donald changes his positions sometimes within a sentence, and does so with virtually no thought, reasoning, or concerns for policy consequences.
Donald’s lack of knowledge, understanding, or curiosity about issues foreign and domestic would normally disqualify any candidate in either party from the presidency. But amazingly, that’s not even close to the main reason he shouldn’t be anywhere near the White House. It’s not even about flip-flopping on virtually every single issue of the day. It’s about a vindictiveness that overwhelms even basic self-preservation instincts.
Attacking in Albuquerque
Last month, Donald visited Albuquerque and spent a significant part of his speech ripping Gov. Susana Martinez on everything from food stamps to jobs to crime. I readily admit I’m far from Gov. Martinez’s biggest supporter, but Donald coming into a fellow Republican’s home state and blasting her on a wide range of issues in front of many of her strongest supporters was stunning.
It’s true that Gov. Martinez skipped Donald’s Albuquerque event, she has criticized him on immigration, and she endorsed one of his opponents. Donald felt that he’d been slighted by Gov. Martinez, and in some small ways he was.
But his response was dramatically disproportionate, even going so far as to suggest that he’d be a better governor of New Mexico.
Undoubtedly Donald hitting her hard explains some of his support: Some people think a candidate is strong if he or she lashes out wildly at the slightest provocation.
In a world where others have the ability to hit us back just as hard, that kind of reaction is insanely dangerous. What would Donald have done in response to Putin’s Russia invading the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, for example?
That’s not the worst of it, though. Making Donald’s attacks on Gov. Martinez even more notable was that they hurt his chances to win a state where he has little margin for error. Attacking Gov. Martinez, who is still very popular with New Mexico Republicans and does decently well with indies who previously voted for her, limits his ability to win the state.
Cycle of abuse
Maybe the Albuquerque attacks were part of an intentional plan by Donald that included coming back later and playing good cop — he does that frequently. But then his hopes of winning Gov. Martinez over derailed again (at least for now) by more self-destructive behavior. Donald asserted that people of Mexican descent can’t fulfill their judicial duties if a litigant makes strong public statements against immigration — even if the case has nothing to do with immigration. You have to go back to George Wallace to find a presidential nominee making such explicitly racist statements.
Beyond obviously being awful on their face, the statements were also completely unnecessary and self-destructive. I don’t know Gov. Martinez personally, but it’s probably safe to assume that, like most legal professionals, as a prosecutor Gov. Martinez prided herself on being competent and fair, and that she resents Donald’s accusation that her parents’ country of origin limited her ability to do her job.
Gov. Martinez may calculate that she needs Donald’s hardcore fans for a possible 2018 U.S. Senate run, so Donald’s pattern of attacking and then seeking support later may work on her — as it awkwardly has with John McCain and Marco Rubio. But even then, plenty of Republicans, independents, and conservative Dems who voted for Gov. Martinez in the past will remember Donald going after Gov. Martinez in her own home state and questioning the capacity of Americans of Mexican descent to work in the judiciary.
Donald will still get most Republican votes, but many Republicans and most independents will vote for Hillary or Gary Johnson, and still others won’t vote at all because of Donald’s attacks on Gov. Martinez specifically and Hispanics more broadly.
Truth in humor
Donald was born, raised, and has lived most of his life in New York City. I was born there but raised in a far duller suburb. I love New York City, but some New Yorkers have a legendary vindictive streak that overwhelms even basic self-preservation. There’s even a joke about it: An Englishman, Frenchman, and New Yorker are captured by cannibals. The cannibals’ leader says, “I have bad news and good news. The bad news is that we’re going to skin you, use your skin for canoes, and eat you. The good news is that you get to choose how you die.”
The Englishman says, “I want a firing squad.” They bring out the guns, he says “God save the Queen!” and is shot. The Frenchman says, “I choose the guillotine.” Right before the blade drops, the Frenchman says “Vive La France!”
The New Yorker says “gimme a fork.” The cannibal says, “What? Why?” “You said I could choose how I die, gimme the damn fork.” The leader obliges, and the New Yorker starts stabbing himself with it. He’s screaming in pain, there’s blood everywhere, he’s writhing on the ground, it’s awful, but he keeps going.
The cannibal says, “what on earth are you doing?” The New Yorker says, “so much for your ****ing canoe!”
Wanted: thick skin
There are plenty of groups, nations, leaders, journalists, and other individuals who will say horrible things about the United States and its president, whether the president is Bernie, Hillary, Donald, Obama, Reagan, Kennedy… it really doesn’t matter. The job entails being criticized — a lot — by people inside and outside the country. It involves a never-ending stream of slights (perceived and real), and ongoing threats of physical attacks on America and our allies.
Donald’s disproportionate, gratuitous attacks on Gov. Martinez and Hispanics went a long way toward destroying his chances for New Mexico’s five electoral votes, providing a window into his character. His words and actions have long evinced a character that is petty, thin-skinned, and vindictive. Fellow Republican and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan even called Donald’s comments the textbook definition of racism.
But for purposes of the presidency, none of those attributes is the worst part of his character. Donald’s worst attribute is that he is self-destructive, and that’s the last trait that America — and the world — needs in the White House.
Bundy is the political and legislative director for AFSCME in New Mexico. The opinions in his column are personal and do not necessarily reflect any official AFSCME position. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.