Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

This morning, Donald Trump let us all in on the joke

OK, I think I finally get it now.

As you probably know, Donald Trump spent the previous two days driving home the preposterous argument that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the literal co-founders of ISIS, a group that has its origins in the "Al Qaeda in Iraq" movement that grew out of our 2003 invasion.

And when Trump was offered several chances in the last two days to back away from the charge, he emphatically declined.

"He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely," Trump said on CNBC. "Is there something wrong with saying that? Why? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS?"

"I know what you meant," talk radio host Hugh Hewitt told Trump in an interview, trying to open the door back to sanity so that his guest could walk through it. "You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace."

"No," Trump said firmly. "I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do."

So this morning we awake to this:

(For the cognoscenti of Trump twitters, it was posted via Android, which means it came from Trump's personal device, not from his staff.)

I think we have now been given the Rosetta Stone of the Trump campaign, the secret code by which it can now be understood. The entire campaign, you see, is an exercise in sarcasm, a joke. The talk about the wall is sarcasm, because really, who could believe such nonsense in the first place? And Mexico would build it? Come on. You took that seriously?

Likewise, the anti-immigrant schtick, the flirtatious eye-batting with Putin, his toying with Republican leaders until they surrendered every last shred of personal dignity, his "I, alone" braggadocio, his refusal to build a ground game or undertake any of the minimal steps needed to build a viable campaign.

Once you understand that it has been a bizarre piece of performance art all along, doesn't it suddenly make a lot more sense, every little bit of it?

And while we've all been the suckers in this joke, those who have supported Trump and have taken him seriously through all this, those who embraced him as their messiah figure who would restore this country to its proper owners -- sorry, folks, but you are the biggest suckers of us all. You saw this as a serious campaign for the presidency, with the fate of the country on the line; Trump saw it as a chance to grab the spotlight and be worshipped as a folk hero by the gullible. Guess who was right.

Look at the Hugh Hewitt interview:

When Hewitt suggested that the "founder of ISIS" stuff might be a mistake, Trump insisted otherwise. "No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it."

When Hewitt suggested that personally, he would have used different language, Trump again stuck to his guns.

"But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?"

It certainly explains his refusal to change his campaign style despite overwhelming evidence in the polls that what worked in the GOP primaries has been a disaster in the general election. He can't be bothered to change because really, he just doesn't care enough. If he takes half the Republican Party down to defeat with him, again, he really doesn't give a damn because he has nothing invested in the party or those people anyway.

As he put it Thursday, "At the end it's either going to work or I'm going to, you know, I'm going to have a very, very nice long vacation....it's OK. I go back to a very good way of life."

That is not the language of a man dedicated to fighting for a cause and for his people.  That's not how Bernie Sanders left the battlefield. Nor are those the words of someone who feels any sense of obligation to the millions who have invested their hearts, souls and checking accounts in his success. They are the words of a spoiled brat who has been treating this whole thing as a lark, and who treats his supporters as nothing more than sources for the adulation that he craves, and that he extracts from them so easily.

It's just been a joke.




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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.