Trump’s pivot to Da­m­as­cus

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Kathleen Parker

— If you turned on ca­ble TV news Mon­day, chances are good that you caught Corey Le­wandowski fib­bing that he doesn’t have a clue why Don­ald Trump fired him as his cam­paign man­ager. Of course he knows. In a se­ries of in­ter­views on sev­eral shows, Le­wandowski dodged ev­ery ques­tion, in­clud­ing from CNN’s Dana Bash whether Trump’s daugh­ter Ivanka and her hus­band had any­thing to do with his dis­missal. Ten­sions among them were well-known to cam­paign fol­low­ers, but Le­wandowski shrugged off such con­cerns as typ­i­cal of all campaigns.

No doubt. But Le­wandowski was a spe­cial case — he looked and acted more like a body­guard/bouncer than a cam­paign man­ager. At one Trump event, he was ac­cused of as­sault­ing a fe­male re­porter. On Mon­day night, how­ever, there was no ev­i­dence of the tough guy. Rather, Le­wandowski por­trayed a hum­ble, thought­ful, soft-spo­ken, gee-whiz guy who only wants to do the right thing for his coun­try and get Trump elected.

Nat­u­rally, peo­ple won­dered: How big is his golden parachute? And spec­u­la­tors wa­gered: He must have signed a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment. This is highly prob­a­ble. Usu­ally, when high-pro­file em­ploy­ees are es­corted from the build­ing, as Le­wandowski was, they tend to leave with two things: a check and a prom­ise never to speak ill of the com­pany. And Trump is the com­pany. There’s no dis­agree­ment that Le­wandowski had be­come a li­a­bil­ity. His brash style, which re­flected that of his em­ployer, rubbed many the wrong way. More­over, Trump’s cam­paign is in dire straits. His poll num­bers are slip­ping and are below any can­di­date’s, Demo­crat or Repub­li­can, in the past three elec­tion cy­cles.

Adding to his tra­vails, Trump’s cam­paign cup­board is rel­a­tively bare with just $1.3 mil­lion com­pared to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s $42 mil­lion. Some­thing had to change and some­body had to take the fall. Or so the ob­vi­ous the­o­ries have gone. An­other plau­si­ble the­ory is far more cyn­i­cal and seems more Trumpian. It wasn’t money or cam­paign dis­cord — at least not ex­clu­sively — that got Lew the boot. He was fired as a sac­ri­fice to one of the few con­stituen­cies Trump hasn’t thus far in­sulted di­rectly — and one he des­per­ately needs — evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians. Could it be mere co­in­ci­dence that just one day later — on Tues­day — Trump was sched­uled to meet in New York with a con­gre­ga­tion of about 900 Chris­tian lead­ers to sort things out in ad­vance of likely en­dorse­ments? That’s a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion.

Those gath­ered wanted to know more about the “real” Trump, to find a way to sup­port him, de­spite his un-Chris­tian be­hav­iors and at­ti­tudes. And Trump’s pur­pose was to as­sure them that he’s re­ally a good guy who loves the Lord, “be­lieve me,” and just wants to make Amer­ica great again.

The meet­ing was closed to me­dia, es­pe­cially The Wash­ing­ton Post, which Trump has ban­ished from all events. It seems he doesn’t like the way the pa­per is cov­er­ing him. Richard Nixon felt the same way.

But one imag­ines that his meta­mor­pho­sis mir­rors Le­wandowski’s. Re­mem­ber Le­wandowski, the hum­ble, soft-spo­ken, gee­whiz-I-just-love-my-coun­try fel­low? Just add “and-Je­sus” af­ter “coun­try” and you’ll have a fair idea of how a new, im­proved Trump might ap­pear. Not so much pres­i­den­tial as born-again.

This is how I imag­ine Trump’s han­dling of the meet­ing: “Look, I never meant any of those things I said, not re­ally. Sure, we need to se­cure our bor­ders and be smarter about im­mi­gra­tion, but this doesn’t mean I dis­like Mex­i­cans or think they’re rapists, even though, I as­sume, some of them are.

“I just get car­ried away some­times be­cause I’m so pas­sion­ate about mak­ing this coun­try great again. God will­ing. Plus, to be per­fectly hon­est, I was get­ting some re­ally bad ad­vice from my cam­paign man­ager and that’s why I had to let him go.” Ba-da-bing. Le­wandowski, not Trump, was the prob­lem all along, you see. He told Trump to act like a rag­ing, misog­y­nis­tic, xeno­pho­bic, racist. Cleansed of Le­wandowski’s in­flu­ence, he’s lib­er­ated to be his pres­i­den­tial self. And, in this new light, the evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­nity can jus­tify sup­port­ing this un­likely bearer of civ­i­liza­tion’s torch. Chris­tians love the pen­i­tent sin­ner who has sought for­give­ness and been re­born.

Not all will buy Trump’s rein­ven­tion, no mat­ter what sort of in­can­ta­tions tran­spired Tues­day. In­deed, just across town on the same evening, an­other group of faith lead­ers gath­ered for dinner with mem­bers of “Bet­ter for Amer­ica,” a new or­ga­ni­za­tion aimed at find­ing and fund­ing an al­ter­na­tive to Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Bar­ring di­vine in­ter­ven­tion, they’re probably too late. Then again, mir­a­cles can hap­pen. A pen­i­tent, born-again Trump would cer­tainly be one.

Kathleen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post. com.

WASH­ING­TON

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