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by Mitchell Abidor
THROUGHOUT the campaign, the question has been posed, “What does Trump really believe?” He makes a statement, retracts it, then unretracts it. Which is the real stand? Fired up by adoring crowds, Trump goes down roads he hadn’t started out on and that clearly only appeared to him as he took his first steps down them. For nearly a year and a half we’ve been assaulted with his bullshit and bluster, but outside his egotism and racism, what does he really think?
The tape released on Friday answers that. Listening to Trump’s tone, we can hear a real voice, one that is perhaps playing to his audience-of-one on the bus, but which at least moves at the pace, tone, and level of a person in conversation. His recounting of his failed “move,” of his going after women’s “pussies,” of what’s permitted when you’re famous, all spoken in the even tones of a man at ease, is finally the real voice, the real man, shorn of the Mussolinian hysteria of his public performances. It is the voice of sincerity. These are Trump’s core beliefs. Power, wealth, and celebrity=entitlement. The rest is dross.
So sincere is he that he even does something Trump never does: He admits failure. Bankruptcies and billion-dollar losses were opportunities for him to show that he is a good businessman, not failures. But for once, on the tape, he admits unabashedly to failure. He admits his failure to “fuck” a married woman while his own wife is pregnant. He admits it not just to himself, but to another person. Now we know the issue that really touches his heart.
On a larger scale, Trump’s demagogic campaign has been an attempt at seduction, at fucking America, and he has come within an ace of doing it. As in Elia Kazan’s film A Face in the Crowd, the demagogue whose gift of gab got him so far, has been laid low by a hot mic. In a sense it was inevitable, for the thing about demagogues is they don’t know when to shut up.
THIS EPISODE has provided what might be the funniest headline in American political history. As Politico reported, “Tic-Tac Denounces Trump.” How degraded have we become that not one, but two candies have felt forced to make statements during a presidential campaign, Skittles and Tic-Tacs? Is Big candy in the pocket of the Clintons? And why have M&Ms remained silent? What do they have to hide?
Mitchell Abidor, our contributing writer, is the author of many volumes of translation. His translations of the poet Benjamin Fondane can be found in the collection Cinepoems, published by New York Review Books.
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.