A year after his election, Trump haters are out baying at the sky like a pack of Iditarod sled dogs. For others, it hasn’t fully sunk in that Donald Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, is actually president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world. So in the Age of the Tweet, and in a nation with the attention span of a hummingbird, some review is definitely in order.
Like Howard Beale in “Network,” Trump got the revelation that “you’re on television, dummy,” and the tycoon thrived in that medium. Filmmaker Joel Gilbert has now put together the president’s greatest hits in “Trump: The Art of the Insult,” jostling with NeverTrump characters who were no slouches in the put-down department.
Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ presidential candidate in 2012, did not exactly throw down with incumbent Democrat opponent Barack Obama. On the other hand, in 2016 when he wasn’t running, Romney called Trump a “phony” and “a fraud.” For Trump, Romney was not only a “failed candidate” but “a total stiff. He’s a dope.”
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry said Trump was putting on a “carnival act.” Trump countered that the newly bespectacled candidate should take an IQ test before the debate. Perry’s campaign went nowhere, even though previous Texas governor, George W. Bush, had become president.
George W.’s brother Jeb sought to be the third member of the family to occupy the White House, a sort of “All in the Family” show.
Jeb called Trump, who had never held public office, a “jerk” and not a “true” conservative. Trump fired back that Jeb was a “low energy person” and “a stiff,” and, citing 9/11, the New Yorker challenged the idea that Jeb’s brother kept Americans safe. Jeb called Trump a “loser” but his own campaign went nowhere, despite an endorsement from his mother Barbara Bush.
“Worse than Jeb Bush,” as Trump said, was “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, a “choke artist,” and a “liar.” As Trump noted, when Cruz had no mathematical chance to win he named a running mate, Carly Fiorina. Trump made some unflattering comments about her face, but he also went after Fiorina’s record at Hewlett-Packard, and the facts were on his side. Fiorina’s campaign went nowhere, same for Marco Rubio, John Kasich and the whole NeverTrump squad, which included former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Art of the Insult shows Hillary Clinton calling Trump followers “deplorables,” racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and so on. These are politically correct incantations that Leftist Democrats deploy in lieu of arguments, and they generally send Republicans running for cover. Not so candidate Trump, who “speaks his mind,” as Megyn Kelly says in the early going.
As an entrepreneur, Trump said he would relish a race against “Communist” and “Socialist,” Bernie Sanders. As Trump said, and as Donna Brazile recently confirmed, Sanders would have been the Democrats’ candidate but Hillary Clinton rigged the primaries and took over the DNC.
Trump called her “Crooked Hillary,” but he knew the facts on the emails she destroyed, and how she lied about it. In case anyone has forgotten, the film helpfully includes Hillary’s “what difference at this point does it make?” line about the four American deaths at Benghazi, and the quip about wiping her email server with a cloth. Bill Clinton makes a brief appearance and the strident Elizabeth Warren plays “Pocahontas,” a fake Indian.
Trump ramped up attacks on the “fake news” outlets packed with “lying disgusting people.” They counterattacked with all their might, but it didn’t matter. “I’m president and they’re not,” Trump says at the end, and that also applied to Hillary Clinton and the whole NeverTrump crew. Trump’s willingness to fire back with both barrels surely played a major role in his victory.
As Ben Carson said in the film, “real nice gets you nowhere,” which might be the instructive back story of “Trump: The Art of the Insult.” You can’t make up this stuff, and cinéma vérité sure beats howling at the moon.