Campaign 2016: The Return of Lt. Frank Drebin
This morning, something utterly shocking and disheartening happened. I was perusing Twitter when I came upon a political tweet left by uber-liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes that I actually (I'm sorry to say) agreed with.
Beyond just agreeing with what he said, I even felt the point he made was fairly astute:
Trump seems like he'll agree w any crazy idea suggested to him: "Should we nuke Brussels?" "It's gotta be done. Just good management."
It's true. One of the things that has made Donald Trump a popular candidate is his amazing knack for saying utterly ridiculous, outrageous things with such confidence and conviction that they actually resonate with people who are hungry for something other than generic political-speak. He understands the value in appearing as though he knows what he's talking about, even when his words demonstrably prove otherwise.
In this sense, he reminds me of a more angry (and more orange) version of Lt. Frank Drebin, the character made famous by Leslie Nielsen in the Police Squad! series and Naked Gun movies. Trump is the bumbling fool who's oblivious to the turmoil he creates, but his self-assured demeanor earns him admiration in the eyes of the unobservant.
What's even more interesting, regarding Trump, is how many of his supposedly principled stances have been concocted from acts of pure improvisation. A lot of them have come from responding offhandedly to unexpected (sometimes off-kilter) questions or suggestions put forth by reporters, interviewers, and even random participants in town hall events.
In some cases, Trump's policy ideas have materialized as a direct result of him being pressured for days (sometimes weeks) by the media to substantiate his clearly off-the-cuff, baseless rhetoric. Perhaps the most notable example of this was his claim that Mexico would pay for a border wall. This came in response to concerns over the fiscal feasibility of the wall, at a time when Trump was vilifying the Mexican government with the assertion that officials were dumping their rapists in our country.
Back in September, Trump was asked by a man in New Hampshire how we can get rid of Muslims who are living in America. Rather than shoot down the notion, Trump lent it legitimacy.
“We’re going to be looking into a lot of different things," said Trump. "A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying a lot of bad things are happening out there. We’ll be looking at that and a lot of other things."
Trump's camp later suggested that the candidate hadn't heard the question properly, though supporters sitting directly behind him at the event clearly did, as is obvious from the video. When given opportunities to address Muslims living in the United States a couple of times this week, in the context of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Trump again got lured into co-opting some new stances.
On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Trump was asked if he would support shutting down American mosques that are deemed radical. Trump said that we should strongly consider it, and he doubled-down on the assertion later at a pre-rally press conference in Massachusetts, where he called the idea "common sense."
Later in the week, a reporter presented the idea to Trump of setting up a national database to register and track all Muslims living in the United States. Again, Trump bit.
"I would certainly implement that. Absolutely," said Trump. "There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems."
Donald Trump and I don't have a whole lot in common, but I'm willing to bet that one thing we do share is that neither of us know what's about to come out of Donald Trump's mouth at any given moment. The man speaks definitively on topics he clearly hasn't put any thought into, as exemplified early on by his inclination to mock American POWs for being captured, just because he was mad at John McCain.
Of course, this would all be hilarious if it were part of a David Zucker film, with Donald Trump playing the Drebin-like lead, and co-star Hillary Clinton declaring that Muslims "have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism" while terrorists cheer her on in the background, screaming, "Allahu Akbar." Hell, why not have Bernie Sanders lobbying ISIS on solar-powered weaponry?
But this isn't a movie. It's the future of our country. Let's leave the slapstick where it belongs, and start taking this thing seriously.