“Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.“—Jeremiah 13:23
lmost exactly four years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Etch A Romney.” It played off the admission by Eric Fehrnstrom, who was Mittens’ top aide and senior adviser, that the Romney whom voters were seeing and hearing in the primary election wasn’t the real deal. After he wrapped up the nomination, a better, more palatable, candidate would emerge. Fehrnstrom smugly told CNN:
Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.
Except he couldn’t start over again. Romney had said too much, some of it behind closed doors, to simply take it all back and reinvent himself. And his opponents in that primary campaign had also said too much. It was Texas governor Rick Perry who labeled him a “vulture capitalist.” It was Newt Gingrich who said the business model for Romney’s Bain Capital “undermined capitalism” and was “indefensible,” themes the Obama campaign amplified throughout the spring and summer that year, before Romney could be crowned at his party’s convention.
Thus, one would think, given Romney’s ultimate defeat in 2012, that cynically playing primary voters for fools—shaking it up and starting all over when the nomination is secured—would not be a strategy the 2016 Republican front-runner would want to employ, let alone admit to employing. Except, here we go again.
Paul Manafort—whose campaign experience goes back to Gerald Ford and includes Reagan and Bush I—is now Drumpf’s top aide. Drumpf brought him in to professionally navigate the complicated waters of finally securing enough delegates to win the nomination and then transitioning to the general election campaign. But Manafort may be a little rusty. Thinking he was speaking behind closed doors—why do people these days still think there are closed doors?—Manafort told RNC bigwigs that Drumpf “gets it.” Gets what? Oh:
…the part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for because he had to first feed the first phase.
So, up until now, Drumpf has just been an act? Yep:
When he’s sitting in a room, he’s talking business. He’s talking politics in a private room. It’s a different persona. When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.
If I were a fan of the man with the tiny hands, I think I would resent the notion that I was a Drumpkin bumpkin, a simpleton who bought the whole I’m-gonna-build-the-wall-and-Mexico’s-gonna-pay-for-it shtick like it was something real, not something the reality star was “projecting” just to win my simpleton ass over. But I’m not a Drumpkin bumpkin. I don’t really know how such people will process this utter admission of fraud because it’s not like it hasn’t been out there before. It’s not like Drumpf hasn’t hinted at it now and then. It’s not like we didn’t learn in February:
The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump, who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views.
Despite calls from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for Drumpf to give the paper permission to release the transcript of that interview, Drumpf wouldn’t do it. Yet his throngs kept coming to his rallies and kept salivating over his bigotry and kept punching people who dared to protest him. So, who knows what the Drumpkins will do now, now that they know beyond a doubt that their beloved is a grifter and his campaign has been a hustle. Here’s how “Lyin’ Ted” put it to right-wing radio nut Mark Levin:
Donald is a New York liberal who is pretending to be a conservative, to try to fool Republican primary voters. And, you know, the amazing thing, Mark, all of us are frustrated with politicians lying to us. I’m actually going to give Trump a little bit of credit here. He’s being candid. He’s telling us he’s lying to us.
That’s pretty clever of “Lyin’ Ted” to give Drumpf credit for lying, don’t ya think?
In any case, what other choice does Drumpf have but to change his spots—after he has convinced enough Drumpkins to give him the nomination? An avid poll watcher, Drumpf knows how unpopular he is among non-goobers. He has to pivot toward palatability. And he has the advantage of knowing that some of the press will pivot right along with him, so that they can set up an epic, ratings-rich battle in November.
It’s already happening, as I have previously noted. This morning MSBNC’s Morning Joe, which has been a platform for advising Drumpf on how to be a better candidate, featured a discussion in which the Etch A Drumpf strategy was seen as a good move, one that, in the words of panelist Donnie Deutsch, could make it possible for the bigot to beat Hillary Clinton.
Well, if he does get the nomination, and if he does beat Hillary Clinton in November, it won’t be because people ignored as showbiz all the bigoted buffoonery they have witnessed since last June. It will be because they embraced it. And if they do, that will say a helluva lot more about them than about Drumpf.