Trump used up his lifetime supply of self-discipline last night
Prior to Donald Trump’s convention speech, I wondered, as I’m sure many did, if the GOP presidential nominee would we be able to stick to the prepared script or if he would veer off in ways unhelpful to his campaign’s ultimate goal. I’m sure his team (his family?) insisted that he restrain himself, in particular because of how badly things had gone earlier in the week, and he mostly did.
Still, in the past, we have seen Trump bring up problematic issues that were beginning to die down simply because he was standing in front of a hot microphone and one more chance to explain things to us was too sweet an opportunity to pass up. I thought for sure he would at least revisit the Melania speech flap and take another shot at Ted Cruz.
To his credit he did neither, though it must have taken all the self-discipline he could muster.
Steve Benen at MaddowBlog had a piece today on, if you can believe it, comments Trump made this morning in an event with supporters in Ohio revisiting Trump’s earlier claim that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the assassination of JFK. Beside talking about what a top-notch news source the National Inquirer is for having originally “broken” the story, he said that he was simply pointing out that no one has denied some kind of connection between Cruz, Sr. and Lee Harvey Oswald. He was just “pointing that out.”
The allegations are so foolish that we would be best to ignore them, but for the fact that the man making them is the GOP presidential nominee. And then there is this, which Benen argues and I think is quite credible:
This is obviously speculative, but my suspicion is that Trump was so careful last night, adding very little to his prepared text, that it left him uncomfortable. The Republican nominee had so much craziness he was eager to add to his speech, but everyone told him to stick to the script, and he reluctantly agreed. But now that the convention is over, Trump no longer feels constrained, and he can return to the craziness that he kept bottled up for one whole day.
Even though I think Trump’s convention speech was pitched mostly to voters already likely to vote for him, one could take the position that his restraint last night suggests that some kind of pivoting is possible, that if he continues to do as he is told, he could begin to say things that appeal to a wider audience. I mean, it’s possible.
If, however, Benen is right, last night was a one shot deal and Trump will continue to shoot from the lip to say the kinds of things that make most people very uncomfortable with the thought of him anywhere near the Oval Office. Put another way, Donald Trump spent all the ego strength he had last night repressing that destructive id of his, and he won’t be able to help himself from here on out.
As difficult as it was to watch him such spew hatred and appeal to voters’ baser instincts, there was a focus to it that if continued could be effective. I’m wagering that he is simply not capable.
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