A nice col­umn about Trump

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— When my syn­di­cate ed­i­tor told me a few clients had been ask­ing, Don’t you have any­one over there who can write some­thing pos­i­tive about Don­ald Trump?, I thought, well, that could be fun. But hard. Then, as if the Muses and Fates had con­spired to help me in this Olympian task, every­thing in Trump World changed. Not only did Trump’s cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort re­sign fol­low­ing re­ports of his in­volve­ment in Ukrainian pol­i­tics but Trump hired a wo­man, Kellyanne Con­way, to be­come his new cam­paign man­ager. And: He sud­denly started be­ing nice. Call it a wo­man’s touch or the des­per­a­tion of a fal­ter­ing can­di­date, but Trump was even kind of cute Thurs­day when he ex­pressed re­gret for some of his ill-cho­sen words dur­ing the cam­paign, es­pe­cially those that might have caused per­sonal pain, pre­sum­ably in oth­ers. What’s next, a prayer for for­give­ness of sins?

If his com­ments weren’t strictly an apol­ogy, they at least were an ac­knowl­edg­ment of er­ror. They also in­di­cated that Trump can learn new tricks. He’s train­able and, ap­par­ently, is open to ideas not his own.

Clearly, this was a tec­tonic plate-shift­ing mo­ment in a cam­paign pre­vi­ously de­fined by in­sult and ar­ro­gance.

“Some­times I can be too hon­est,” he said, bril­liantly set­ting up his op­po­nent’s fa­tal flaw: “Hil­lary Clin­ton is the ex­act op­po­site. She never tells the truth.”

It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Con­way, a vet­eran of the anti-Clin­ton wars, is also a poll­ster. Who bet­ter to turn things around than some­one who pays her bills by mea­sur­ing the pub­lic’s tem­per? More im­por­tant, Con­way spe­cial­izes in women vot­ers. Her firm, The Polling Com­pany, Inc./Wo­manTrend, has mon­i­tored women’s think­ing on a wide va­ri­ety of is­sues since 1995.

Her hand­i­work, which pre­vi­ously has in­cluded telling Repub­li­cans to stop us­ing the four-let­ter word “rape” in cam­paigns, is in clear ev­i­dence with her new­est client.

Which means, I sup­pose, that this pos­i­tive Trump col­umn is re­ally about Con­way.

Will her magic work to shift women and swing vot­ers to­ward Trump? Which is the real Trump? The guy who in­sults ev­ery­body, or the one who al­most says he’s sorry and wants to bring the coun­try to­gether? Can he sus­tain this new per­sona and for how long? At­ten­tion span isn’t his strong suit, but then nei­ther is it Amer­ica’s.

We are still soon to the pivot so we’ll wait and see. Un­less Trump has been pro­ject­ing some­one else the past year just to cap­ture the con­ser­va­tive, white male voter who was never go­ing to vote for Clin­ton, any­way, there’s ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve his im­petu­ous­ness will pre­vail.

More­over, it’s ques­tion­able whether vot­ers can be swayed by a sud­den per­son­al­ity change, even among those who read­ily grant sec­ond chances to the pen­i­tent.

Will women sud­denly for­get every­thing Trump has said while be­ing “too hon­est”? Will African-Amer­i­cans buy Trump’s prom­ise that their lives will be “amaz­ing” if they vote for him? Will the seed Trump planted of Clin­ton’s big­otry, see­ing blacks only as votes, take root?

Such a state­ment from any other Repub­li­can would burst into flames from the volatile com­bi­na­tion of hypocrisy and ab­sur­dity, but nearly ev­ery­one un­der­stands that Trump isn’t re­ally a Repub­li­can.

The out­sider non-politi­cian who re­grets say­ing hurt­ful words, who is some­times “too hon­est” but “will never lie” to the peo­ple may sur­prise us. At least he has of­fered a sliver of de­cency to those look­ing for some­thing to cling to — a lit­tle hu­mil­ity, a smat­ter­ing of re­morse, a hu­man con­nec­tion — to help them jus­tify vot­ing for any­body but Clin­ton.

Trump has been los­ing ground essen­tially be­cause of the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect of his per­sis­tent nas­ti­ness. Add to this his off-the-cuff re­marks about maybe us­ing nukes, leav­ing NATO to its own re­sources, his praise of dic­ta­tors and strong­men, and he was some­one you wouldn’t want any­where near the foot­ball.

Or one­self, as Wash­ing­ton Post Ed­i­to­rial Page Ed­i­tor Fred Hi­att wrote so bril­liantly, say­ing Trump was the per­son you hoped wouldn’t be seated next to you at a din­ner party. On the other hand, I’ve long ad­mired the sen­ti­ment pop­u­lar­ized by Alice Roo­sevelt Long­worth: If you can’t say some­thing good about some­one, sit right here by me. Who bet­ter than Trump? The man is funny, even at his mean­est. What many have found re­pug­nant about his style was in­deed the se­cret to his suc­cess. Peo­ple love hear­ing said aloud what they’re re­ally think­ing.

But that was then — and for now at least, it ap­pears to be Con­way’s show: No more in­sults, stick to script, fo­cus on Clin­ton’s dis­hon­esty. It just might work. Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.


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