Magazine article The Spectator

Christopher Buckley: Donald Trump and the Republican Cabaret Show

Magazine article The Spectator

Christopher Buckley: Donald Trump and the Republican Cabaret Show

Article excerpt

Washington DC

A friend of mine asked his father, aged 82: 'Dad, at this stage of life, what do you enjoy most?' Dad replied: 'Voting Republican and being left alone by your mother.' Surely an unimproveable definition of bliss.

My friend told me this in the 1980s, long before the Republican nomination contest turned into reality TV. Would his dad still enjoy voting Republican? Look what choices he'd have -- from among nearly 20 candidates, a veritable embarrassment of riches. Or is it best that Dad has since gone to his eternal rest and has been spared seeing what has happened to his once-beloved GOP?

In Paris last week, chatting with a journalist friend esteemed for his deep knowledge of American politics, I asked a bit warily, 'Er, what are you all saying about M. Trump over here?' I braced for an elegant excoriation. But Philippe only shrugged, beautifully, as only the French can, and said mildly, 'Well, we think it's...' here he may have inserted a slight puh, '...a bit strange.'

D'accord. I told him that many of us, aussi , are finding it all a bit fruity, even as one must stipulate that it makes for good theatre. It wasn't so long ago that a rerun of the movie Casablanca would garner quadruple the ratings of a political debate. Now we can barely wait for the next one, to see if M. Trump will remark on the prodigious output of Senator Rubio's sweat glands; or the commentator's menstrual cycle; or Ms. Fiorina's putative facial resemblance to a horse.

Of course, it's possible that we're paying such close attention in order learn where the candidates stand on immigration, on China's new passion for creating islands out of reefs in the South China Sea, and on whether we should arm kindergarten teachers with AK-47s or Glock 9s. Well, only a year to go until the election. How quickly it's gone by! What have we learned on the Republican side?

Should we have been surprised that M. Trump would consume all the oxygen in every room? Spy magazine got it perfectly back in the 1980s when it dubbed him a 'short-fingered vulgarian.' What more need be said? But yes, it was bracing to hear him denigrate the war record of John McCain, America's pre-eminent war hero. And who'd have predicted he would declare that Megyn Kelly should have stayed in her red tent instead of moderating the first debate?

What was surprising was that he should have attained frontrunner status. This development left the punditariat to huff that Trump's base consisted of -- to put it as demographically as they could -- 'non-college-educated white males', this being punditariat-speak for 'troglodyte' and 'prole'. And to shrug -- if less elegantly than Philippe -- on the Sunday-morning TV shows and tell everyone to relax; that Donald Trump would not be the nominee of the Republican Party. It would pass, like an outbreak of herpes.

And yet The Donald is very much with us. He has not passed. He is a very persistent case of herpes. The Sabbath gasbags can only offer another bit of cold comfort, that (finally!) the short-fingered vulgarian has been overtaken by... oh dear... Dr Carson, the somnolent but sweet-natured neurosurgeon who doesn't believe in evolution. Or abortion. Or gun control. Or... but look, everyone relax. Ben Carson is not going to be the nominee of the Republican party. …

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