I remember the moment I knew that Sen. John McCain was going to lose to Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. It was during a televised town hall meeting in Minnesota when McCain responded to a woman who called Obama "an Arab" with: "He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."
That was when I realized that McCain wasn't going to drag himself through the mudslinging of lies, name-calling, and innuendo that have become part and parcel of conservative Republican politics as they lose any sense of policy that a majority of the American people can get behind — which is why I knew he was going to lose. That's all they had that could possibly get them over the hump in that election. In that moment, McCain showed himself to be a decent man who wanted to keep the focus on the issues.
And then there's Donald Trump.
Trump's sense of political theater is grandiose, and he's used it to capture the public eye from the moment he officially announced his candidacy. That's the speech where he carried on about the rapists sneaking over our border from Mexico. Then, with self-righteous outrage, he doubled down on his trumped-up assertion. The media loves it, and his pouty sneer has graced numerous television newscasts and newspaper front pages in recent weeks marveling over his trumped-up trash.
He insulted McCain with the words, "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, I hate to tell you."
Having broken the commandment that "thou shalt not speak badly of another Republican," the party establishment came down on Trump with a fury that didn't exist when he was just ripping into Mexicans. Lindsey Graham called him a "jackass."
Trump responded by calling Graham an "idiot" during a rally in South Carolina, and gave out Graham's personal cellphone number.
The whole thing is well ... indecent. Trump has insulted Rick Perry and Jeb Bush, in addition to President Obama and others as he struts through his campaign pointing his finger and telling it like it is from his point of view.
When you "trump up" something, it means that it's fraudulently devised or fabricated. That seems to fit perfectly with many of Trump's claims in which he finds others to be not intelligent or criminal. They seem devised and fabricated. The shame is that he delivers them so naturally that it seems Trump actually believes most of what he says. They're the sorts of things I imagine that people in the 1 percent club say when they're sitting around together with no one to challenge their ideas, no one to say that they are not entitled to what they have.
Once in a while one of them slips and tells the truth as believed by the 1 percent. That's what happened when Leona Helmsley so famously said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
Now Trump — who probably doesn't pay much in taxes if any — has let fly more of the trumped-up truth believed by he and his ilk. More trumped-up stuff like the "birther" claim that Obama is not an American. They're rich enough to hide behind such foolishness and claim that they just don't believe the solid proof that they've offered.
Trump is a barker standing in front of a clip joint trying to entice marks into the shady establishment. He's an entertainer who has strayed into the political arena because it strokes his ego and advances his brand. He believes the trumped-up claims that businessmen are better suited to run this world than politicians. But that's all he has. Not a word of real policy has escaped his lips.
Recent history has shown us that those from the entertainment world can make the leap to winning elections. Sonny Bono, Jesse Ventura, and Al Franken are among them, though Ronald Reagan is the only one who took it all the way to the White House. Trump has been seen on television for years on various permutations of The Apprentice telling guest after guest "you're fired." Now he wants us to tell him "you're hired."
The truth is that Trump was born to riches. He's managed to bluster his way to more riches, although his companies have suffered four bankruptcies. But that's how the rich do it. They run up their bills and then a convenient bankruptcy gets them off the hook. They take government subsidies and whine about the poor and their entitlements.
Trump claims to have $10 billion, but that could well be trumped up too. Trawlers who combed through his financial disclosure forms couldn't detail him as having any more than $1.4 billion, and Forbes recently pegged him as having $4.1 billion. The Forbes headline read: "Trump Exaggerating His Net Worth (By 100%) In Presidential Bid" — but when your name is Trump you can't help it.
One thing that's true, he's got more money than anyone else in the race and doesn't have to bow to anybody else's deep pockets.
He brings new meaning to the term "trumped up." Let's hope he doesn't manage to pull the wool over enough eyes to become president. Then he'll just bankrupt the country and leave us holding the bag.
Where is the decency in that?
Larry Gabriel writes the Stir It Up and Higher Ground columns for the Detroit Metro Times and is editor of The American Cultivator.