The Don­ald tries out for the team

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

Now even Don­ald Trump is tak­ing him­self se­ri­ously. He’s try­ing now to be col­or­ful with­out be­ing reck­less, care­ful not to be rude when he doesn’t have to be, and play­ing less the show­boat and more like some­one try­ing out for the team.

He’s still Don­ald Trump, and he hasn’t been to the bar­ber shop. He can’t put a leash on his ar­ro­gance, and he still can’t re­sist tak­ing cruel (and telling) shots at Jeb Bush, but the Jeb is a shrink­ing tar­get. Throw­ing darts at him is be­com­ing an in­dul­gence.

The Don­ald signed the loy­alty oath Thurs­day de­manded by Reince Priebus, the chair­man of the party, promis­ing not to run as a third-party can­di­date if he doesn’t get the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. “I just wanted fair­ness from the Repub­li­can Party,” he said Thurs­day. “I will be to­tally pledg­ing my al­le­giance to the Repub­li­can Party and the con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples for which it stands.”

Such a de­ci­sion was a no-brainer. If he had de­clined it would have spo­ken vol­umes about how he, as a front-run­ner ren­der­ing the other can­di­dates as mutts chas­ing the meat wagon, in his gut mea­sures his chances in Iowa and New Hamp­shire.

Be­sides, Mr. Priebus and the rest of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment can’t do any­thing about it if the Don­ald comes upon a burn­ing bush by the side of the road later and changes his mind. He would of­fend only the es­tab­lish­ment and the party’s prospects in the elec­tion, but not his con­sid­er­able ego.

Now that he’s the run­away fron­trun­ner he has to act like one. Suc­cess is the curse of in­sur­gents. The suc­cess­ful in­sur­gent has to re­mem­ber “who brung him to the dance,”and he can’t run against him­self, tempt­ing as it may be to try. Two new public-opin­ion polls show just how suc­cess­ful the im­prob­a­ble Mr. Trump con­tin­ues to be.

One of them, a sur­vey by Mon­mouth Univer­sity of New Jersey, finds him polling na­tion­ally 30 per­cent, up 4 points, and lead­ing in ev­ery ide­o­log­i­cal cat­e­gory. He’s the choice of the Tea Party, of the “very” con­ser­va­tive, of the “some­what” con­ser­va­tive, of lib­er­als, men, women, young peo­ple and old peo­ple. It’s a re­mark­able per­for­mance.

Ev­ery more re­mark­able, the run­nerup, though dis­tant at 18 per­cent, is Ben Car­son, another out­sider gain­ing on ev­ery­one. The mes­sage to the party reg­u­lars, who mea­sure ev­ery word and whose milk-toast mes­sage is “vote Repub­li­can, we’re not as bad as you think.” It’s hard to get any­one to throw his hat in the air over that, when many of the peo­ple in the weeds, the jon­son grass and grass­roots think es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans are in­deed just “as bad as you think.” These vot­ers think the party won the lottery in 2012 and 2014 on their nickel, and they’re in a rage over the theft. The in­sur­gents are telling the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment, loud and clear: “You stink, so get out of the way.”

The col­lapse of Jeb Bush tells this story in full, plain and blunt and with nei­ther tact nor ten­der­ness. The one­time gover­nor of Florida promised that he would mount “a dif­fer­ent kind of cam­paign.”

He would be the happy war­rior (ap­par­ently no one re­minded him of what hap­pened to Al Smith, the orig­i­nal happy war­rior). He had never liked the grit and grime of take-no-pris­on­ers pol­i­tics, any­way, and he just wouldn’t be part of that. He’s down to the sin­gle dig­its in the public-opin­ion polls, far from the sound of the guns, safe from grit and grime. Ci­vil­ity is nice, but not this year.

Grit and grime is the nat­u­ral home of Don­ald Trump, who boasts of his prow­ess at “the art of the deal.”

He’s a vet­eran of con­flict with con­struc­tion unions, banks, in­vestors and gov­ern­ment bu­reau­crats who think it’s their job to stand in the way of any­one try­ing to get some­thing done.

Blus­ter is more ef­fec­tive than bon­homie in these wars, and to the as­ton­ish­ment of ev­ery­one — and to the terror of the reg­u­lars — this year it works in pol­i­tics, too.

Ben Car­son has the sur­geon’s as­sur­ance that he’s got the an­swers and ev­ery­one should give him room. (Op­er­at­ing room nurses joke that “the dif­fer­ence be­tween God and a sur­geon is that God doesn’t think he’s a sur­geon.)

Mr. Car­son is selling the same elixir the Don­ald is ped­dling, with just a touch more sugar to make it go down, and his elixir is be­gin­ning to fly off the shelves in his shop, too.

It’s still dif­fi­cult to see how ei­ther the Don­ald or the doc­tor can get the del­e­gates to ac­tu­ally win the nom­i­na­tion, and ac­tual del­e­gates, not polling num­bers, is what the race is all about. But noth­ing seems be­yond imag­i­na­tion this year, when the es­tab­lish­ment in both par­ties in tak­ing a lick­ing. This is what makes pol­i­tics the most en­ter­tain­ing game in town. Wes­ley Pruden is editor emer­i­tus of The Washington Times.

Don­ald Trump

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