Time to get serious, America. Donald Trump has enjoyed his substance-free campaign for president (as have a third of the Republican Party), but now he’s ready to get down to business. In a wide-ranging interview with "60 Minutes" last night, Trump was peppered with questions from Scott Pelley about the specifics of his America-enhancing plans. To put it charitably, the result was about what you’d expect.
I’ve been skeptical of Trump’s intentions from the beginning. I still believe his campaign is a bizarre and uniquely American farce, a reminder of the absurdity of our process. But it appears that, somewhere along the way, Trump may have forgotten that he was only pretending to run for president. Maybe he just succumbed to his own bullshit, as megalomaniacs often do. Or maybe he underestimated the credulity of the conservative base (which seems impossible at this point).
In any event, if his performance on "60 Minutes" last night is any indication, even a serious Donald Trump is still impossibly full of shit. Here he was, on one of America’s most prestigious programs, ready to talk policy, and all we got were platitudinous non-responses. Below are just a few of the highlights. They’re incredibly stupid, but together they offer a glimpse of Trump’s big (and very specific) plan to make America great again:
On singlehandedly reversing the process of globalization: “We’re gonna grow the economy so much…If the economy grows the way it should grow, if I bring jobs back from China, from Japan, from Mexico, from so many countries, everybody’s taking our jobs.”
On immigration and deporting over 10 million Mexicans: “We’re rounding them up in a very humane way, a very nice way. They’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. I know it doesn’t sound nice, but not everything is nice.”
On fixing health care without paying for it: “Obamacare’s going to be repealed and replaced. Obamacare is a disaster…Everybody’s got to be covered…I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes…They’re going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people…The government’s gonna pay for it…But for the most part it’s going to be a private plan.”
On Mexicans, free trade and NAFTA: “I don’t want to tax anything. I’m talking about a fair war. I’m talking about also, I have the smartest people on Wall Street lined up already. They’re going to represent us on Japan, on Mexico…I love the Mexican people. They’re great people. But the leadership is too smart for our country…There shouldn’t be [a North American Free Trade Agreement]. It’s a disaster. We will either renegotiate it or we will break it. Because, you know, every agreement has an end.”
On letting ISIS take over another country before allowing Russia to deal with it: “I would end ISIS forcefully…Now let me just say this, ISIS in Syria, Assad in Syria, Assad and ISIS are mortal enemies…Why aren’t we letting ISIS go and fight Assad and then we pick up the remnants?...We’re fighting ISIS and Assad has to be saying to himself, ‘They have the nicest and dumbest people that I’ve ever imagined’…Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let ‘em get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?”
There’s no point in explaining why none of that makes any sense. If that isn’t obvious to you, I’m not sure what is. What’s more interesting is that Trump is still a Republican frontrunner despite having literally nothing to say. Again, this was serious Donald Trump who was on a serious program to talk about his serious ideas – and this is what they look like. And I’ve no doubt that his supporters will love every insanely idiotic thing he said, not because of what it means (or doesn’t mean) but because of how cocksuredly he said it. That it’s not realistic or practical won’t matter one bit – why would it at this point?
It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that Trump is the most perfect expression we’ve seen of the modern Republican Party. Why else would his shtick resonate so powerfully with the right-wing of the GOP? Years ago Stephen Colbert created a character to lampoon the most hysterical pathologies of the right: the braggadocio, the blinkered thinking, the nativism, the love of truth without the facts. This is exactly what Donald Trump represents.
Trump is the perfect hero for the new right. He’s “John Galt” for people who read the first thirty pages of Ayn Rand’s god-awful novel, Atlas Shrugged. He’s rich, deceptively self-made, and an unapologetic asshole. Most importantly, he makes empty promises to people who have only the ears to hear what they want – and nothing besides.
So yes, Donald Trump embarrassed himself last night, but that doesn’t matter. The Republicans who love him love him precisely because he says what they think, only he says it in a better suit and on a bigger stage – and that, it seems, is enough.