Trump supporters are deluded if they think Trump keeps them safe.
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The 2024 election is being characterized as a “shootout at the OK Corral” — between two aging cowboys.
Of course, if that’s how you see the probable nominees — and what you prioritize when choosing your president — neither looks too great.
Donald Trump fans, though, as I discussed recently, imagine their man as a tough guy saving America and American values from a weakling fronting for “coastal elites.”
Of course, it’s hard to miss the unhinged side of Trump. Indeed, more than a few Trumpsters actually acknowledge it — but regard childish volatility and reckless bravado as an asset that they believe would scare off foreign countries who might otherwise mess with the US.
That’s an interesting analysis, given how Trump has actually appeased pretty much every potential enemy of the US, including Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
It’s also a novel approach, albeit one that few of us would take in our own lives: “I deliberately married a maniac because he keeps me on my toes… I hired an ex-Mafia hitman to keep an eye on my kids… If other drivers see me careening all over the road, they’ll stay out of my way!”
Now, let’s consider some of the qualities of that orange-haired quick-draw. His behavior conjures up less John Wayne or Clint Eastwood than Mr. Magoo, the near-sighted cartoon character of long ago. Overall, he doesn’t appear to know what he is shooting at or threatening to bomb, and doesn’t distinguish genuine threats from obvious feints and bluffs. He just makes a hash of… everything.
As has been reported, Trump frequently misspeaks, but his gaffes reveal something far more serious than Joe Biden’s tabloid-fodder boo-boos. For example, at a White House meeting, Trump chastised the leaders of the frigid Baltic states way up north (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) for starting wars — which actually took place in the balmy Mediterranean-adjacent Balkans and which led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. (A curious confusion, since his own wife, Melania, hails from one of those Balkan states.)
By comparison, Biden has long demonstrated a steel-trap grasp of both domestic and global realities. Plus, there’s a critical difference between occasionally stuttering or verbally stumbling and actually being clueless.
Some things, like Trump announcing he just had a call from the president of “North Korea” when it was actually the president of South Korea, could just be a case of misspeaking. Especially given that he seems to consider both the cloistered, fanatical dictatorship and the flourishing democracy as friends of his and of the US.
But his informing the Indian prime minister that India does not share a border with China, when it actually does — indeed, a 2,520 mile border? That is something quite different from a verbal gaffe. Given that these are by far the two most populous countries in the world, and among the most powerful, that’s like the sheriff drinking himself crosseyed before he swaggers out to meet the outlaw.
Back home, as part of his crowd-pleasing saber-rattling, Trump famously pledged to build a “beautiful border wall” between “Colorado and Mexico.”
Rocky Mountain Colorado of course does not share a border with Mexico; not even close. Even giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, it’s a doozy to figure out where that one came from: mixing up Colorado with New Mexico and then New Mexico with Mexico? To invoke the late singer John Denver, it seems Trump may have been suffering a Rocky Mountain high.
The fact is, we have always tended to confuse presidents with mythical heroes, or at least movie stars. And to be sure, part of their job is to look and act the part, to inspire public enthusiasm and the confidence of markets and allies alike. To project strength when it’s needed, and to at least appear ready and able to fend off threats, both domestic and foreign.
But hardly any foreign leader is actually intimidated by Trump; they’re more likely worried by his instability. And we should all be appalled by the characters in Trump’s retinue.
You don’t really want nuclear weapons in the hands of Vivek Ramaswamy, do you? Or Sarah Huckabee Sanders strategizing on how to handle the next pandemic? Marjorie Taylor Greene setting policy on federal executions? As Trump explained (in a typically loopy word salad):
We are an institute in a powerful death penalty. We will put this on.
For those who say they haven’t made up their minds between the two candidates — one is left to wonder where qualities like competence, calm, rationality, strategy, vision, sound judgment, ethical standards, and mental and emotional health fit into the picture.
The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Donald Trump caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED), Joe Biden caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0 DEED), hat (puuikibeach / Flickr – CC BY 2.0 DEED), hat (Brett Sayles / Pexels), Tomestone (Roman Eugeniusz / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED), body (Carol M. Highsmith / LOC), seal (The White House / Wikimedia), gun (The U.S. National Archives / Flickr), and belt (InExtremiss / Flickr – CC BY 2.0 DEED).