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Commentary: Revisiting "Four Things" about Trump


When Trump was inaugurated I did a commentary on the three things we need to know about him, and soon added a fourth. It’s time to check how valid the four things still are.

  • He won’t change.
  • He doesn’t care what you think.
  • He’s not a Republican
  • Pay attention to what he does, not what he says.

He hasn’t changed. His brashness, even outrageousness, his New York City intimidating style, his lying (more than 33,000 times, and that’s just during his four years as president), his reality show-host persona, his complex relationship with the media – all got him elected and almost reelected. He couldn’t change if he wanted to. Which is a good thing for him, because he’d lose his base if he did.
He still doesn’t care what you think – unless you cross him, a member of his family, or one of his business interests. Then watch out. If you’re a Democrat, he’ll call you a colorful, demeaning name and trash you in the media. If you’re a Republican and cross him, he’ll see that you get an opponent in the primary with his endorsement and plenty of money. I keep looking for Luca Brasi to join him on stage at one of his rallies, and for a severed horse’s head to show up in Liz Cheney’s bed.

If you don’t like the vulgarity of his lifestyle, too bad. Anna Leonnig wrote in Zero Fail, her new and disturbing book about the Secret Service, that taxpayers spent $1.7 million to provide security:

  • For Melania and Baron to live in Trump Tower in Manhattan during the six months that Melania refused to live in the White House while she renegotiated her pre-nup.
  • When Trump stayed and golfed at Bedminster, his New Jersey resort.
  • When Trump took his frequent weekends at Mar-a-Lago. 

As my dad would say, hide your wallet.
He ran as a Republican, and made the party part of Trump, Inc. in a hostile takeover. But for many years he was a registered Democrat. He gave lavishly to Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate campaign. Many of his positions on the issues are not remotely traditionally (that is, pre-2016) Republican. The Republican Party is, to use a nautical term, a flag of convenience for him.

During Trump’s 2016 campaign the journalist Salena Zito famously said “The press takes him literally but not seriously. His supporters take him seriously but not literally.” This formulation worked pretty well until the end of his presidency. On January 6 he told his supporters in D.C. to march on the Capitol and he would see them there. Of course he went straight to the White House to watch the insurrection on television while his supporters trashed the Capitol. I’m sure many of them were wondering where their leader was? By now we're taking him both seriously and literally. Paying the price, hundreds of them are facing serious jail time and one is dead. So I guess the rule is pay attention to what he says, not what he does. My bad.

Dr. Terry Smith is a Political Science Professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics.