If Charles Manson wrote an op-ed extolling the virtues of Donald Trump, the real estate billionaire and 2016 presidential contender would probably consider nominating the mass murderer for attorney general in his presidential administration.
If that’s an exaggeration, it’s only a small one. To understand the totally unnecessary controversy Trump created last weekend when he declared John McCain not to be a war hero, you have to understand Trump’s worldview. In the world of Donald Trump, there are heroes and losers. The main thing that distinguishes one from the other is how recently a person has praised or criticized Donald Trump.
McCain, of course, recently criticized Trump by saying his July 11 rally in Arizona appealed to “crazies.”
“This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me,” McCain told the New Yorker magazine last week. “Because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”
On Saturday, Trump attacked McCain at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said sarcastically. “I like people who weren’t captured, I hate to tell you.”
After hearing the boos, Trump dialed it back a notch.
“Perhaps he’s a war hero but right now he said some very bad things about a lot of people,” he said.
It’s doubtful Trump has profound views on who is and who is not a hero. Yes, John McCain spent five and half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Yes, John McCain was repeatedly tortured by his North Vietnamese captors. Yes, despite being tortured, John McCain refused an offer of early release in order to deny the enemy a propaganda victory. Those are probably small details to Trump. The most likely deciding factor for Trump in determining McCain’s hero status was the fact that the Arizona senator recently criticized The Donald.
Had McCain recently praised Trump instead of recently criticized him, Trump probably would have extolled McCain as the greatest hero America has ever had.
We see this often with Trump. When someone criticizes him, he goes after them hard, often disgustingly so (see O’Donnell, Rosie). When someone praises him, he rewards them by singing their virtues.
And he can easily flip, depending on what has been said about him lately. For instance, here’s Trump praising magicians Penn & Teller in 2013:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2013
Last week, Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller mildly criticized Trump’s candidacy and — surprise, surprise — Trump no longer thinks Jillette has any talent:
I hear @pennjillette show on Broadway is terrible. Not surprised, boring guy (Penn). Without The Apprentice, show would have died long ago.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2015
This is a great quality for an entertaining reality TV star. As Saturday’s performance once again so vividly demonstrated, it’s not such a great quality for a candidate to be president of the United States.