Trump de­feated by his ego

Our view: GOP nom­i­nee shows his cam­paign is about him, not the coun­try

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD -

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.

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