Who’d a thunk it?
When celebrity billionaire and television reality star Donald Trump first announced his bid to run for the GOP candidacy for president of the United States back in June of last year, most pundits and “serious” political thinkers wrote him off as a joke.
And the media had a heyday publishing his every gaffe and political faux pas, painting him as a buffoon and showcasing him as the harlequin of the primary races (which meant that Trump dominated the headlines and television airtime).
For the first two months after he announced his candidacy, the Huffington Post even relegated all coverage of his campaign to its entertainment section.
Granted, Trump — who is not known for being demure and mincing words when it comes to speaking his mind — offered up plenty of outrageous rhetoric and downright offensive commentaries as fodder for his detractors, but in the end, the condescending attitude of the Republican establishment and the mainstream media only served to make Trump’s supporters all the more committed to him.
That was made abundantly clear earlier this week when Trump decimated his last remaining GOP opponents Ted Cruz and John Kasich in the Indiana primary with a resounding victory.
Both Cruz and Kasich recognized the Hoosier State polling as their last hurray and bowed out of the race, leaving Trump as the last man standing for the Republican presidential nomination.
And Trump, in an uncharacteristic moment of tact and decorum, used his victory speech to extend an olive branch to Cruz — who just hours earlier he had called “Lyin’Ted” — by praising the Texas senator and promising to work to reunite the party which he had been so instrumental in splintering.
Whether the GOP establishment and the mainstream press like it or not, Trump is now the presumptive party nominee, and it is time to take him seriously, for better or for worse.
In a one-on-one televised interview with NBC news anchor Lester Holt broadcast from Trump Tower Wednesday night, Trump was asked if he would be as belligerent and antagonistic in his race with Hillary Clinton as he had been against his GOP opponents now that it seems that the Nov. 8 race for the White House is down to just two candidates.
Trump responded by saying that he would engage Clinton and her team in the same way that she engages him, adding that he would prefer to have a clean campaign based on serious debate over issues rather than below-the-belt insults.
“If they treat me properly, I’m going to treat them properly,” he said.
“It would be a beautiful thing to see.”
Backyard name-calling and sucker-punch bullying are turfs where Trump is king, and his improbable rise to the GOP nomination is clear evidence of that.
If Clinton tries to engage Trump on that terrain, she is likely to lose ground on her campaign.
But since Trump has so far not shown himself to be particularly versed on national and global issues, it would behoove Clinton (and the media) to take him up on his offer to focus on substantive campaign platforms instead of the barrage of mud-slinging slurs and personal insults that have become the bread and butter of this year’s campaigns.
In that arena, Clinton would easily outshine the blustering showman Trump, and the U.S. presidential campaign would, hopefully, become a serious forum for political debate, rather than the farcical travesty we have witnessed over the last 10 months.
And that, indeed, would be “a beautiful thing to see.”
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at email@example.com.