Donald Trump

Donald Trump Is Exactly Who He Seems to Be

New campaign manager suggests the candidate's persona is an act.

|

Foter / Gage Skidmore

One of the recurring questions about Donald Trump over the last year is whether he has been essentially playing a carefully and intentionally crafted role, or whether he really is as abrasive as he often appears in his campaign.

On Thursday, Trump's new campaign manager, Paul Manafort, insisted to GOP officials that the former is true, and that Trump's demeanor so far has largely been an act. In a leaked recording obtained by The New York Times, Manafort said that Trump has been playing a part: "That's what's important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he's been playing is evolving." 

Manafort was attempting to reassure members of the Republican National Committee that the Trump we've seen so far won't be the Trump we see in the general election. "The negatives are going to come down," he said, "the image is going to change, but Clinton is still going to be crooked Hillary." 

Let's take Manafort at his word for a moment, and suppose his characterization is accurate in saying that Trump "gets it" and that the candidate has been playing a part all along. Essentially, Manafort is saying that his candidate has been pretending to be awful for strategic purposes. It's an attempt to excuse Trump's behavior by insisting that it is just a put-on, and in some ways it is worse than the alternative, because it implies that Trump knew better than to behave as he has but did it anyway. 

Manafort's position, basically, is that the candidate isn't actually an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk who excuses violence at his rallies—he's just cynically choosing to play an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk who excuses violence at his rallies in order to win the support of Republican party voters.

That this is the Trump campaign's defense of their candidate's comportment in the race suggests how difficult the candidate's behavior is to defend. (Obviously this does not reflect well on the portion of the GOP primary electorate that supports Trump either, regardless of whether or not Trump is really playing a part.)

In any case, Manafort's characterization of Trump as a savvy, strategic political actor is difficult to believe, given the evidence, which mostly suggests that Trump is basically who he seems to be: His misogyny has been well documented over many years, since long before his presidential run, and willingness to jump into high-stakes, high-profile situations with essentially no knowledge or preparation goes back to at least the 1980s, when he declared that he should be mediating nuclear arms negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and that he could do so with a mere 90 minutes of prep. The former director of a pro-Trump Super PAC recently wrote a tell-all letter saying flatly that when Trump entered the race, he didn't intend to win—he just wanted to assert himself in the public eye. Trump's rallies and speeches have mostly been improvised at length; it's not a persona that's on display, it's his personality.

There's little reason to believe that the Trump we've seen in the race so far is some carefully crafted persona cleverly designed from the outset to exploit the GOP; it's just who he is.

NEXT: Only Hindus Are Allowed to Chant, Assert Liberal Culture Enforcers on Campus

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “New campaign manager suggests the candidate’s persona is an act.”

    Not the first to do it, but the first to admit it.

    1. He’s at least as good an actor as Matt Damon.

  2. So Tump IS qualified to be president, then.

  3. An Oompa Loompa?

  4. My roommate bet me a case of beer that Trump gets the White House, pulls a 180, and turns full Ron Paul libertarian.

    1. He’s going to steal all your beer once you win.

      Did you specify the kind of beer?

    2. Your roommate will lose that bet.

      1. I think more concrete terms will have to be established first. How far along the libertarian spectrum does he expect him to go, etc.

        1. He won’t get to the second half of the bet, he’ll lose the first half.

        2. Yeah, I was going to say… your roommate could say, “See, he hasn’t started any unnecessary wars! = Ron Paul!”

          But Paul is right. Trump won’t win.

  5. Donald Trump is a hustler who will say whatever he needs to say to close the deal. And that won’t stop him from changing what he says after the deal is closed.

    1. Much like the current occupant of the office.

      1. Actually, expect Trump is way more honest than POTUS.

        1. Damn near everyone is more honest than either POTUS or Trump. That includes Bernie Madoff.

        2. Damn near everyone is more honest than either POTUS or Trump. That includes Bernie Madoff.

    2. It certainly is unprecedented in American politics.

    3. Donald Trump is a hustler who will say whatever he needs to say to close the deal. And that won’t stop him from changing what he says after the deal is closed.

      So you’re saying he is qualified?

  6. “because it implies that Trump knew better than to behave as he has but did it anyway.”

    It implies Trump “knew” (or at least thinks) that behaving worse gets votes. Which looks like it might be true, at least in the primary.

    1. “Manafort’s position, basically, is that the candidate isn’t actually an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk who excuses violence at his rallies?he’s just cynically choosing to play an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk who excuses violence at his rallies in order to win the support of Republican party voters.”

      I mean, it’s a statement more about the vileness of Republican voters much more than the vileness of Trump.

      1. Is it? Hasn’t it already been pointed out that Trump is doing well with crossover voters, winning primaries where they’re open, and worse where they’re closed to Republicans only?

        1. Cognitive dissidence strikes the better class of people mute when you point this out to them.

        2. Republicans are born cowards. They are terrified of anything that might change their lives in any way. To get their vote all you have to do is promise to go to “war” against whatever it is they fear. Drugs, terrorists, pornographers and anyone who enjoys sex.

          Progressives are cowards too and to get their vote you have to promise to silence their critics. They are terrified of any non-progressive ideas. Actually, they are terrified of thought itself.

          Fear rules in the US these days.

          Promise people the freedom to live their lives as they choose and you get 4% of the vote. Ask Rand Paul about that.

  7. Is Natty Boh good? I’m on a mission to find it since it eludes me here, even at alcohol superstores. Also I like the (shortened) name and the mascot. Hard-to-get really does increase interest!

    1. Like, he’s missing an eye, so he probably really does wear a monocle.

      Mr. Boh and Fetty Wap: libertarian heroes.

    2. Good not great. Where are you? It’s all over DC and Maryland.

      1. DPRCalifornia

        1. Ah. I’d check their website, I guess, but it’s really not worth going out of your way to find.

  8. Reason is showing that they still don’t get Trump. His opponents want someone who will punish their political enemies. This is big tent fascism. By engaging in fearful pearl clutching, and reinforcing the narrative that, yes, Trump will punish the people he says he will punish, Reason is advertising a feature of the Trump presidency his supporters are hoping for.

    1. It’s mostly Gillespie and Suderman. They’ve been doing the pearl-clutching routine over Trump for nearly a year now.

      1. It’s pretty much the #1 requirement at this time for any professional fake libertarian.

  9. “Manafort’s position, basically, is that the candidate isn’t actually an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk who excuses violence at his rallies”

    Yeah, I doubt Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, or Genghis Khan were the kind of guys you’d like to have over to watch the hockey game either.

    It takes a certain attitude to be good at certain things. When I used to work with pediatric heart surgeons (and such) in a hospital, you quickly catch on to the fact that the guy who easily brushes off losing a child on the operating table so that he can focus on his next surgery isn’t necessarily the kind of guy that’s fun to be around–but that’s the kind of personality that’s probably necessary to be able to do that kind of thing.

    You probably need that kind of attitude, too, if you’re a fighter pilot, an NFL quarterback . . . 80,000 screaming fans are going to boo you every time you make a mistake, you need to perform well despite their hate–and you’re supposed be a sensitive, nice guy, too?! You need that kind of attitude as a general in the military, I’m sure–if you’re gonna send red-blooded American kids to their deaths for some greater good.

    1. Trump continually whines about how the system is rigged and that he is a victim injustice. Does that sound like any fighter pilot you ever met? Any of your pediatric heart surgeons ever obsess over losing a patient by blaming the “rigged system” for the death of a child?

      Whining is the tool of passive/aggressive losers. When you remember how Trump’s businesses keep failing you begin to see that Trump is exactly what Suderman says he is – an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk.

  10. Yeah, the only people who want to be President are probably assholes. They’ve got some kind of character . . . I wouldn’t call it a flaw–because you probably need that asshole attitude in order to be a good President. Sometimes Presidents have to drop atomic bombs on people. Someday? I hope we get a President who lays off hundreds of thousands of federal workers–who have worked for the government all their lives and, hence, have very little hope of being seen as useful by any potential employers. Those laid off government workers may find themselves mired in poverty. Some will turn to substance abuse. Their spouses will leave some of them and take the kids. Some of them will commit suicide or may go on a shooting rampage. But I hope we get a President, someday, who, despite all that, lays off all those useless government employees anyway.

    . . . and I’m supposed to want him to be a nice guy, too?

    So Trump is an asshole. So what? Obama is an asshole, too. I bet every President we’ve had was an asshole.

    1. I just exploded in my pants after reading that paragraph.

      1. Sissy, duty, or something else?

    2. Lincoln was just a sad-bastard.

      Maybe Georgie Washington wasn’t such an asshole?

      All good points, btw.

      1. Washington was okay, but still a power-hungry asshole. John Adams knew he was overly ambitious and considered it a character flaw, so I guess he gets partial credit.

    3. Anyone who wants to become president and has a reasonable shot of doing so is a power-hungry narcissist too dangerous to be given that position.

      1. Nuts.

        *kicks dirt*

        1. “Reasonable shot of doing so,” Mustang.

          I admire your moxie, though. Like watching the kid with no legs ride a skateboard.

          1. I saw that kid on the subway on the first day I moved to NYC. Well, all grown up.

          2. More like a one legged kid on a skateboard. At least the kid with no legs can use his hands to move.

      2. Don’t forget the attendant deep-rooted insecurity and daddy issues.

        Here’s a song about wannabe politicians

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5sUfV1Mi7w

    4. I hate to admit that I wouldn’t mind running for President someday and that I am an asshole. I don’t see anything in your paragraph that would make me an asshole. I suppose that’s what makes me an asshole.

    5. LBJ was a giant asshole, and he ramped up the warfare / welfare state. Jimmy Carter, not so much, and he deregulated the airlines.

      Nixon was big asshole and did a lot of evil things as president. Ford, not so much, and he was an ineffective boob.

      I think presidents who are terrible people in their personal lives do terrible things when they become president.

      1. Clinton was an asshole and was not as damaging a president as GWB, who was by all accounts a nice guy.

        1. Yeah. How about Coolidge?

          I think there really isn’t any correlation.

        2. Clinton was an asshole and was not as damaging a president as GWB,

          Tough call, to me, but probably right. Clinton had the great good fortune to be President during an unusually long period devoid of economic or foreign policy catastrophes, which is a running start on not being a disaster.

    6. federal workers–who have worked for the government all their lives and, hence, have very little hope of being seen as useful by any potential employers.

      Seriously, is that true? Such experience counts for nothing? Doesn’t it at least indicate a high degree of tolerance? Or at least of persistence?

  11. There’s little reason to believe that the Trump we’ve seen in the race so far is some carefully crafted persona cleverly designed from the outset to exploit the GOP; it’s just who he is.

    That’s who he is when he comes to negotiating, nothing new there. But you hear mostly praise from his employees and he has a good relationship with all his kids. Even his ex-wife’s don’t say many bad things about him. All these hysterics about Trump being a narcissistic, authoritarian monster are just ridiculous.

  12. “Donald Trump Is Exactly Who He Seems to Be”

    A total fucking alpha who will make America Great Again?

    1. Yeah, seems to be to whom? Cuckservatives???! Fie and feh!

  13. So he is actually Hitler????

    After he is President will he still make those cool Youtube videos where he starts off calm, then gets angry then gets all calm and wise?

    1. Re: DJF,

      So he is actually Hitler?

      Depends. Is he building an autobahn?

      Oh, he’s building a wall. Then, no.

      1. Yeah, Hitler was the opposite. He tried to bring everyone and every-where into the fold. Very cosmo. Trumpalump wants to keep everyone and everything out! More yokel.

    2. Didn’t the left categorically declare, circa 2009, that only Hitler is Hitler and all statements that the occupant of the Oval Office is Hitler are outside of the bounds of civil discourse? I guess we’ll be lifting that moratorium soon….

      1. You should stop listening to this ‘the left’ guy. He sounds like a rambling babbling incoherent tripping smelly loon in Sproul Plaza. You should just go around him and get to class.

      2. What’s that? He’s your professor?

        lol

  14. Essentially, Manafort is saying that his candidate has been pretending to be awful for strategic purposes.

    Kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Or Janus, the ancient God of two faces?

    […] [Trump is] just cynically choosing to play an obnoxious, offensive, know-nothing jerk who excuses violence at his rallies in order to win the support of Republican party voters.

    I think he’s got it! I think he’s got it!

    ?
    I’m going to dance all night!
    I’m going to dance all night! ?

    1. Then you have to dance On the Street Where You Live.

  15. This might be the first time I’ve ever seen a sub-headline that directly contradicts the main headline.

    1. Re: Domestic Dissident,

      But he made you look, didn’t he?

      Ha, ha!

  16. At this point, I put Trump’s and Hillary’s chances of winning the general election at about even.

  17. In a leaked recording obtained by The New York Times, Manafort said that Trump has been playing a part: “That’s what’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving.”

    A “leaked” recording. Manafort is a hot steaming pile of shit, so I don’t have to think very hard about who leaked it. But remember, Ben Carson endorsed Trump, saying Trump in private is far different than his public persona, as have some people who know Trump. I find it much easier to believe Carson in private was seeing the fake Trump, but in either case there’s good evidence that Trump is not “authentic” in some settings – and his “authenticism” is supposed to be a big selling point for him.

    Not that it matters – Trumpalos gonna Trumpalo no matter what their little gilded god says or does – so this is phase 2 of the con where we’re told Trump’s Trumpism is just a song-and-dance routine for the hicks and the rubes, but you guys, you guys aren’t hicks and rubes are you? so we’re going to give you smarter guys a wink to let you know that we know you’re too smart to be taken in by a con job like those hicks and rubes and let you get a peek behind the curtain. I’d grab my fucking wallet if I were you.

  18. Yep a pompous windbag with fake hair and a spray on tan. But still the lesser of all the other evils running for President.

    http://www.Web-Privacy.tk

  19. There’s little reason to believe that the Trump we’ve seen in the race so far is some carefully crafted persona cleverly designed from the outset to exploit the GOP; it’s just who he is.

    Yes, but we’ll soon be able to ignore that, because that’s not who he’s going to pretend to be.

    What is politics about? We’re all demanding, collectively at least, that candidates play roles. It’s an audition for the part.

  20. God save us all from another Suderman post about Trump. Shackford or bust.

  21. Want to meet a girl? Welcome to http://goo.gl/mxiosK
    the Best adult Dating site!

  22. So basically he has been lying to voters to get votes? Pretending to be something you are not is a lie and for a guy who loves to claim Cruz is a liar this is funny. From day one, anyone with a brain knew Trump is a fraud. His record demonstrates he is a liberal Republican at best, but more likely a moderate Democrat. Second, what motivation does Trump have to blow up the current, corrupt political system when it has made him billions? Trump is a shyster salesman no different than any other crook and establishment hack.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.