When logic and his­tory don’t mat­ter

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Charles Krautham­mer Charles Krautham­mer Colum­nist Charles Krautham­mer’s email ad­dress is let­ters@ charleskrautham­mer.com.

And now, less than six weeks from the elec­tion, what is the main event of the day? A fight be­tween the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and a for­mer Miss Uni­verse, whom he had 20 years ago called Miss Piggy and other choice pe­jo­ra­tives. Just a few weeks ear­lier, we were seized by a tran­sient hys­te­ria over a mi­nor Hil­lary Clin­ton lung in­fec­tion hyped to near-mor­tal sta­tus. The lat­est cu­rios­ity is Don­ald Trump’s 37 snif­fles dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate. (Peo­ple count this sort of thing.) Dr. Howard Dean has sug­gested a pos­si­ble co­caine ad­dic­tion.

In a man who doesn’t even drink cof­fee? This cam­paign is sink­ing to some­where be­tween zany and to­tally in­sane. Is there a bot­tom?

Take the most strik­ing -and over­looked -- mo­ment of Trump’s GOP con­ven­tion speech. He ac­tu­ally promised that un­der him, “the crime and vi­o­lence that to­day af­flicts our na­tion will soon -- and I mean very soon -- come to an end.” Not “be re­duced.” End. Hu­man­ity has been at this since, oh, Ham­murabi. But the au­di­ence didn’t laugh. It ap­plauded.

Nor was this mere spur of the mo­ment hy­per­bole. Trump was read­ing from a teleprompter. As he was a few weeks ear­lier when he told a con­fer­ence in North Dakota, “Politi­cians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you noth­ing. I will give you ev­ery­thing.”

Ev­ery­thing, mind you. “I will give you what you’ve been look­ing for for 50 years.” No laugh­ter recorded.

In launch­ing his AfricanAmer­i­can out­reach at a speech in Char­lotte, Trump cat­a­logued the hor­rors that he be­lieves de­fine black life in Amer­ica to­day. Then promised: “I will fix it.”

How prim­i­tive have our pol­i­tics be­come? Fix what? Fam­ily structure? So­cial in­her­i­tance? Self-de­struc­tive habits? How? He doesn’t say. He’ll will it. Trust him, as he likes to say.

Af­ter 15 months, the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief has be­come so ubiq­ui­tous that we hardly no­tice any­more. We are oper­at­ing in an al­ter­nate uni­verse where the ge­om­e­try is non-Eu­clidean, facts don’t mat­ter, his­tory and logic have dis­ap­peared.

Go­ing into the first de­bate, Trump was in a vir­tual tie for the lead. The bar for him was set al­most com­i­cally low. He had merely to (1) suf­fer no ma­jor melt­down and (2) pro­duce just a few mo­ments of co­her­ence.

He cleared the bar. In the first half-hour, he es­tab­lished the en­tire premise of his cam­paign. Things are bad and she’s been around for 30 years. You like bad? Stick with her. You want change? I’m your man.

His great weak­ness is his van­ity. He is tem­per­a­men­tally in­ca­pable of al­low­ing any at­tack on his per­son to go un­avenged. He is par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive on the sub­ject of his wealth. So cen­tral to his self­im­age is his busi­ness acu­men that in the de­bate he couldn’t re­sist the temp­ta­tion to tout his clev­er­ness on taxes. To an au­di­ence of 86 mil­lion, he ap­peared to con­cede that he didn’t pay any. “That makes me smart,” he smugly in­ter­jected.

Big mis­take. The next day, Clin­ton of­fered the ob­vi­ous re­tort: “If not pay­ing taxes makes him smart, what does that make all the rest of us?” Mean­while, Trump has been go­ing around telling Rust Belt work­ers, on whom his Elec­toral Col­lege strat­egy hinges and who might still be­lieve that bil­lion­aires do have some obli­ga­tion to pay taxes, that “I am your voice.”

When gaffes like this are com­mit­ted, the can­di­date ei­ther dou­bles down (you might say that if you can legally pay noth­ing, why not, given how cor­rupt the tax code is) or sim­ply de­nies he ever said any­thing of the sort. In­deed, one of the more re­mark­able fea­tures of this cam­paign is how brazenly can­di­dates deny hav­ing said things that have been cap­tured on tape, such as Clin­ton deny­ing she ever said the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship was the gold stan­dard of trade deals.

The only thing more amaz­ing is how eas­ily they get away with it.

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