Look, I know my way around wonderland. For a good chunk of my adult life, my entire brand centered around a rabbit. I enjoy a mad tea party, I can handle a caterpillar’s question, and I know which ones make you bigger and which ones make you smaller. So, I’ve lived here for long enough to know a wonderland when I see it. I know how it can feel like an entertaining adventure, but ultimately it’s a land where you can’t find your footing, a land where you don’t know which way is up.
I think we’re there, friends. A lot of the coverage of the recent Trump campaign “shake-up” has triggered wonderland musings in me. For example, remember when we were all up in arms because Cory Lewandowski, Trump’s then campaign manager, had put his hands on a member of the press? That member of the press was Michelle Fields, and she used to work for Breitbart News, the fringe right wing news site chaired by Steve Bannon, Trump’s new campaign chief. She used to work for the guy who is now replacing her manhandler? That feels a little too wonderlandy for me.
And then there’s this issue of the great pivot. The pitch seems to be that the time has come for Trump to “pivot” from empty rhetoric into actual policy, as if that’s what will unify the party. But are the fervent Trump supporters really looking for policy initiatives? Are they analyzing his immigration policies as much as the pundits think they are? I mean, aren’t they just good with the rhetoric? When they’re shouting “Build the wall,” and “Lock her up,” I really don’t get the sense that they’re about to unleash a “But also give us a detailed policy initiative that doesn’t contradict the rhetoric that gets us so riled up!”
Take it from an expert; we’re in wonderland, and it’s time to start making some zany friends. One of my favorite such friends is CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He most assuredly possesses the wonderland road map, but he hides this knowledge behind a smile and a giggle. He is our Cheshire Cat.
I love watching my little Cheshire Cat Anderson question and control his resident wondercrew, but this week he took it a step further with a one-on-one with the big guy himself. Now, make no mistake; Donald is not a cuddly wondercharacter. He’s not from around here. Although he has undercurrents of “Off with her head,” I think of him more as a visiting giant. He’s not even from this story. He climbed down from his beanstalk and turned an already struggling village into a character-driven side show. And his chat with Anderson was when I realized we had fully fallen into wonderland, because it’s one thing to hear bombastic talk in a stump speech, but it’s quite another to hear it presented as dialogue. So, join me down this rabbit hole for a minute.
First of all, I really wanted to say, “This week Anderson Cooper sat down with Donald Trump.” That’s how newscasters say it. But here’s the thing: we’re in wonderland. They weren’t even sitting. They were standing in what looked like my abandoned high school auditorium, but I have to hand it to my little Cheshire Cat. That lighting was on point. It made Trump’s hair look like the fake yellow straw you’d use in a children’s theatre production of Rumplestiltskin….which may, in fact, be what we’re watching.
Donald talked about his new immigration policy with plans that involved “tunnel technology” and the ability to uncover all the “bad dudes.” He later talked about Hillary Clinton’s allegedly poor treatment of minorities, stating that she was “selling them down the tubes,” which sounds dangerously close to “totally tubular,” which makes me think that part of his campaign “shake-up” involved reaching across species lines and hiring Michelangelo to write his talking points. (And that should also settle the whole question of bigotry once and for all. But also maybe raise some child labor law questions…..they were TEENAGE Mutant Ninja Turtles….remember?)
By his confident, orange glow, Donald thought he was spinning Anderson some gold, but really he was just spinning us all around in a giant tea cup.
“We know where they are,” he said menacingly about the illegal immigrants.
“So, you’re going to deport them?” stone cold Cheshire Cat Cooper asked.
“Listen,” Trump followed, “it’s a process. First, you have to find them. We don’t even know where they are.”
10-second turn-around is pretty impressive.
But I feel like wonderTrump can do better. And he did when Anderson pointed out that his current immigration policy sounds a lot like the one Jeb Bush had presented during the primaries.
“I don’t know anything about Jeb Bush. I was with him for a long time.”
Either Donald Trump is painting Jeb Bush as the mysterious type, or he managed to contradict himself within a single thought.
At one point Donald even held his hand up to silence an already silent, staring, silver fox Cooper. “And one other thing,” Donald protested.
Oh, Anderson wasn’t interrupting you! He wasn’t doing anything. He was just going to let you spin, round and round in a tea cup built for one, while he watched the ride from 2 feet away where the lighting was better.
So, all of this had me convinced that Donald Trump had taken us down to wonderland. He was able to stand one-on-one with a Cheshire Cat and provide back-to-back sentences that contradicted each other.
But today, August 27, in Des Moines he outdid himself. He often says things that don’t make sense or that aren’t true. But today he offered this particular fiction about Hillary Clinton:
“She lost badly to Barack Obama when she won, and I think she’s going to lose badly to Donald Trump when she wins. Believe me.”
I can’t believe you there, sir, because that doesn’t make any sense.
But this, friends, this is my favorite. This is the moment where Donald explained it all, where he gave us the three simple words that told us everything we need to know about him and his ability to accurately lead and unite our country:
“Empowering people begins with three simple words, and you know what those words are: our economy is going to soar, we are going to make our country so strong and so powerful, and we need the power, because other people are not gonna wanna mess with the United States of America, remember that. Wages will rise. We will make new friends abroad, and we will achieve like we haven’t achieved before. And we will achieve a lasting peace through strength. We will be a country of laws and a country of great great success. Our cities will be safe, sound, and secure. Our government will be honest and ethical and responsive. Rule by special interest will be over over over. The rule of the American people will begin, so let’s get out and vote on November 8 and create the future our children deserve together. We will make America strong again. Together, we will make America wealthy again, which we have to do. Together, we will make America united again. We will make America safe again. We will make America great again, greater than ever before. Thank you. Thank you all.”
Which three words, Donald? WHICH THREE WORDS? I listened, I typed, I inserted grammar where I could, because I kept waiting for the three words. “Build a wall?” “Lock her up?” Those are three words! Those I don’t like, but at least they make sense as three words! The only 3-word phrase or sentence you gave me was at the very end: “thank you all.”
And really, aren’t those the three words to summarize Donald’s campaign? He isn’t going to make America great again, however flawed that notion may be. He isn’t going to make America united again. He isn’t going to make America safe again. He isn’t even going to build that wall. But he does thank you all. That much is true. Without you, the white backs of heads at his rally, none of this would be possible. Without you, the giant would be climbing back up the beanstalk, defeated and done. Without you, we wouldn’t be in wonderland at all. So, that may be the most sincere and true sentiment in his rhetoric: thank you all.