Trump defeated by his ego
Our view: GOP nominee shows his campaign is about him, not the country
On election day in 2000, Vice President Al Gore beat Texas Gov. George W. Bush by a half million votes nationwide. He had clear victories in states totaling 266 electoral votes compared to 246 for Mr. Bush. In Florida, the decisive state, he trailed on election night by about 1,700 votes out of nearly 6 million cast. An unusual ballot design in Democratic-leaning Palm Beach County led to what even Pat Buchanan’s campaign called a suspiciously high number of votes for the third-party conservative, suggesting that a majority of Florida voters intended to vote for Mr. Gore. Recounts, some automatic, some triggered by litigation, steadily reduced Mr. Bush’s margin, whittling it down to 537 votes by the time the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in an extraordinary decision to halt the process and hand the presidency to Mr. Bush.
One day later, Mr. Gore addressed the nation. Despite all the reasons to dispute the outcome, he said he had just called to congratulate Mr. Bush on winning the presidency and pledged to help “heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we just passed.”
“Other disputes have dragged on for weeks before reaching resolution,” Mr. Gore said. “And each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation. So let it be with us. I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country.”
Let that stand in contrast with what Republican nominee Donald Trump said during Wednesday’s third and final presidential debate when moderator Chris Wallace asked Mr. Trump about his repeated suggestions in recent weeks that he might not accept the outcome of an election he claims, based on no evidence whatsoever, to be “rigged.”
“What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time,” Mr. Trump replied. “I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?” A day later at a campaign rally in Ohio, he added that he would “totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election ... if I win.”
His opponent, Hillary Clinton, was precisely correct in calling that “horrifying.” In the previous debate, Mr. Trump had trampled on 240 years of American political norms by promising to assign a special prosecutor to the task of jailing Ms. Clinton after the election. In this one, he reduced the principle of orderly transition of power to the conventions of a reality TV show. Is he imagining himself in his fake “Apprentice” boardroom with the nation on tenterhooks waiting for him to say who the voters had fired? Will “Survivor” host Jeff Probst snuff out someone’s torch? Or is he picturing something more like a LeBron James “take my talents to South Beach” kind of situation?
Whatever the case, it was just the latest sign that, for Mr. Trump, this election isn’t about making America great again, whatever that means. It’s about self aggrandizement. The candidate who spent much of the primary season talking about how well he was doing in the polls and how many people showed up to his rallies has spent the general election season whining, in President Barack Obama’s apt description, about perceived personal slights and alleged unfairness. He is incapable of seeing anything beyond his own inflated ego.
That’s why he contradicts his running mate, his advisers and even his own daughter on issues. It’s why Ms. Clinton has so adroitly managed to get under his skin. OnWednesday night, she was able to dodge altogether a question about her husband’s past infidelities by reiterating charges several women have made that Mr. Trump had sexually assaulted them. He didn’t call her on it because, given the opportunity to talk about himself, he can’t resist.
Perhaps that, not seeking to lead the nation, was the real point of his exercise from the start. This week, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law reportedly held meetings with media industry insiders about the possibility of setting up a Trump TV network after the election, and he used an online platform during the debate to set up an alternate reality “news” program of pro-Trump surrogates proclaiming, among other things, that he had just turned in “the greatest Republican debate performance since Abraham Lincoln.” After the debate, his son, Donald Trump Jr., observed that the presidency would be a “step down” for his father.
In less than three weeks, the American people have the chance to save him from that sacrifice.