And so it becomes necessary for Trump to destroy his campaign to save it. How fitting that this madman would redeploy the catastrophic logic of a half-century-old misadventure. And yet, he has little choice. Call it the Trump Paradox: It is necessary for him to discard (temporarily; more later) his old strategy of multiple train wrecks and instead behave more like a traditional, party-unifying presidential candidate — to embrace, that is, the wicked "establishment" — even though his revised behavior risks devastating much of the anti-establishment support he has.
On the stump, Trump is now stiffly reading from notes and woodenly throwing in the towel in his domination struggle with "elitist" pols and mechanically praising the likes of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the GOP saint of autopsies and inclusiveness. He is — yawn — applauding "the wisdom of Ronald Reagan's big tent within the party. Big, big tent. Remember?"
Such as seating for Democrats. Hey boys and girls of Wisconsin, how many of you are out there tonight? — which he asked last night. I was watching, and I heard or rather didn't hear what the NY Times didn't hear: "Hardly anyone made a sound. Mr. Trump, looking unimpressed, offered that he did not need Democrats anyway."
Well, so much for that tack. This is why comedy plays tour the backwater provinces before opening on Broadway. If a joke flops, it gets stricken from the script.
As for merely unifying Wisconsin Republicans? There was another sort of comedy awaiting Trump. In an open letter to his fellow GOPers, the speaker of the state's House of Representatives announced that he's "embarrassed that [Trump is] leading our ticket." The speaker was, from there, even more aggressive in his disapproval. "As Donald Trump has said stupid things and been rude to so many people over the past year, I usually chalked it up to inexperience and the spotlight of an incredibly hostile press. But since the convention, his lack of judgment has got to concern even the most ardent Trump supporters."
Party unity was also looking a bit shaky in Ohio. Just as Wisconsin's speaker and the U.S. speaker were hoping that Trump "doesn't keep doing things like this" — meaning acting like Trump — Gov. John Kasich was telling CNN "that he was considering voting Democratic for the first time." Well hell, if Republican Kasich had been at Trump's Wisconsin rally, he could have hooted and raised his hand when the nominee asked how many Democrats were out there.
Still, the real key to GOP unity, as we all know (and as Trump has had to be reminded), is a scorched-earth campaign against the diabolical Hillary Clinton. And there, Trump laid it on as thick as his brain. Yesterday his pop guns were blazing, charging that Clinton is "pretty close to unhinged," she is "unbalanced," she is "unstable," she is "dangerous," she is a "pathological liar," as president she would destroy "this country from within," she is "death, destruction, chaos and weakness" themselves.
And (my favorite) in an Obama-Derangement redux, The Donald charged that Hillary would be a powerful tyrant of insufferable impotence: "In one way she's a monster. In another way she's a weak person. She's actually not strong enough to be president."
But here's the thing. Such is the rancid raw meat so loved by the base. Yet Trump, in Wisconsin, was reading this garbage from his notes — carefully, slowly, studiously. This just wasn't the old Donald. Earlier in the day there was the occasional "Kill her!" or "Lock her up!" at his Iowa rally, however Trump's Wisconsin audience last night seemed — sounded — oddly subdued, disappointed no doubt that the Swaggartlike madman they once loved was morphing into a rather conventional Episcopalian pastor. The obligatory hatred of Pure Clintonesque Satanism was there; the animated passion was not.And it was absent by design. To save his campaign, it had become necessary for Trump to destroy it. The upside? I am profoundly skeptical that Trump can sustain his restraint. Within days, he'll be back to saving his campaign by destroying it the old way. Because he just can't help himself.