There’s a university professor in Canada who is teaching an introductory journalism course, unique because it focuses on Donald Trump’s ability to keep the media and everyone else off-balance. (“From Tocqueville to Trump,” by Joel Stein, Vanity Fair, Feb. 2019, pgs. 36-37.) The topic seems worth studying. Never, in my long lifetime, has an American President or any politician shown a greater ability to dominate the media. Franklin Delano Roosevelt broadcast his weekly fireside chats over the radio to talk to the country. In our darkest hours, he gave us hope and reassured us that what we needed to fear most was fear itself. Television loved John F. Kennedy’s handsome face, his eloquence and his Irish humor.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a talent for taping into our reptilian brain. Whether he’s talking to supporters or opponents, whenever he mounts his bully pulpit, the objective appears to be to sow seeds of distrust. Like Nero at his fiddle, our President delights in his Roman Circus, deriving not only entertainment from it, but also positioning himself as master of the maelstrom.
Despite his lies, his lascivious behavior, and his malice toward all, he retains loyal followers. Why? The only answer I can muster is one a labor leader gave years ago when he backed a politician whose sanity was in question. “He may not have all his marbles, but his elevator stops on my floor.”
Mitt Romney, newly elected senator from Utah, appears to be undeterred by pragmatism. He insists our current President has failed to rise to the mantle of his office. Few would dispute that. But Trump has given the wealthy massive tax cuts; deregulated industries; and rewarded his base with two ultra conservative U. S. Supreme Court judges. In sum, he has kept his perverse promises.
Because Trump’s elevator stops at the right floors, Romney’s complaint has met with silence among his cohorts. In fact, they may be wary of the Senator’s criticism, knowing his ambition. Having accepted Trump’s endorsement during his bid for the Senate, he seems to be positioning himself as Trump’s challenger in the 2020 Republican primary. (“Romney: Why he dared to criticize Trump,” The Week, January 18, 2019, pg. 16.)
The question is, will naked ambition tarnish Romney’s image? Or has he taken a page from Trump’s play book and decided a little hypocrisy can do no harm? Perhaps, he’s studied his would-be opponent enough to believe in the value in fomenting division. Should Robert Mueller’s pending report on Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election bode ill for the President, Romney is in an enviable position to reap the harvest of the chaos that will follow.