Trump’s Final Foxwashing
Acquiescence, co-option, appeasement? It’s hard to tell what’s been going on between Donald Trump and the American right since he became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Tuesday saw Trump’s final Foxwashing, the end of the feud between the candidate and Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly. The war between Fox and Trump – in the first GOP debate, she asked him about calling women ‘fat pigs’; he later implied to an interviewer that she’d been menstruating, and retweeted his followers’ sexist comments about her – had never been more than partial. He skipped the January Fox News debate in Iowa because of Kelly’s presence, but returned to another to tell her she was ‘looking well’, and he’s consistently received friendly treatment from such presenters as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, and been indulged on the morning show Fox & Friends to the point of spreading the National Enquirer fiction that Ted Cruz’s father was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Tuesday’s interview, which aired on Fox’s national broadcast network rather than its more rabid misinfotainment cable channel, revealed that the Trump-Kelly feud had all along been an exercise in mutually assured celebrity enhancement. As Gabriel Sherman has reported, the call to make up with Trump came down from Rupert Murdoch, who’d also given the order for the confrontation in the first debate. ‘He doesn’t like people to be snobs and treat Trump like a clown,’ a source told Sherman. Kelly treated him this week like an occasionally vengeful but ultimately benign demigod. ‘You are so powerful,’ she said, asking whether his style wasn’t a bit too bullying, setting a bad example for the nation’s children. Had he ever been emotionally wounded? ‘When I’m wounded,’ he replied, ‘I go after people hard and I try to unwound myself.’
His proposed mass deportations of undocumented migrants and ban on Muslims entering the United States didn’t come up. Hillary Clinton didn’t come up. From the start Kelly treated Trump more like a president-elect than a presumptive nominee. They laughed, they joked, Kelly said she’d given Trump her mobile number and he promised not to use it for ‘evil’. ‘I do feel like America first,’ Trump said at one point –a non-sequitur – and Kelly wasn’t about to ask if he was aware of the phrase’s connection to the anti-Semitic, Nazi-sympathising movement, led by Charles Lindbergh, to stay out of the Second World War. Her last question was: ‘If you don’t become president, would this all have been for nothing or would you have changed America?’
‘If I don’t go all the way and I don’t win,’ Trump said, ‘I will consider it a total waste of time, energy and money’ (and not just for him! you want to scream), but before that he mentioned a ‘great writer’ who’d called him and congratulated him for doing something that had never been done before. Who could it have been? Chances are it wasn’t Philip Roth.
In the more or less liberal quarters of the US press there has been a failure to predict Trump’s march to the nomination and a general dumbfoundedness now that it’s happened. Even Fox News wasn’t entirely behind him. No longer. Trump has always had gusts from the shadow world of AM talk radio at his back: a zone largely ignored by journalists and given over to ranting about immigration, phantom domestic terrorism threats, and the real enemy within –political correctness, especially in universities. Are Trump voters idiots? Racists? Or just opposed to mass immigration?
The rest of the week for Trump was a typical mix of accommodation to GOP norms and the standard freak show. He released a list of judges he might appoint to replace the late Antonin Scalia, and his awkward way of reading out the names on Hannity’s Fox News show was a sign that the list was boilerplate sourced from right-wing think tanks. Chris Collins, a Buffalo congressman and Trump surrogate, said that Trump’s border wall would be ‘virtual’ and his mass deportations ‘rhetorical’. This echoed his earlier line, later rolled back, that his tax plan was just a ‘suggestion’. Trump is used to having his suggestions turned down. Buzzfeed reported that NBC in 2005 nixed his pitch for a race war version of The Apprentice. ‘Whether people like that idea or not, it is somewhat reflective of our very vicious world,’ he said at the time.
Unlike Richard Nixon, Donald Trump doesn’t drink. As he told Kelly, his older brother died in his forties of alcoholism, and he’s never had a glass of alcohol. Politico noticed that his teetotalling has taken hold among the Trump Youth. According to their (admittedly uncheckable) online message board sampling, many of his supporters have kicked booze, marijuana, even heroin with Trump’s inspiration. Others have just discovered more ‘energy’:
30 years old here and have been following politics since I was 12. For the first time in my life I feel like I'm supporting a GOD DAMN AMERICAN PATRIOT for President.
I'm so fucking sick of political correctness that has stifled this country. I've supported Donald since the beginning, but it was only 2 weeks ago that I took off the child gloves and started putting the LOW ENERGY LIBERAL LOSERS in their place. I was at a friends birthday party last week and finally stood up to the idiots spewing their propaganda. Classic Trump is racist bs that none of them could back up. I verbally destroyed a wanna be commie to the point where she was in tears and people wanted me leave. It was a truly great night.
A national self-help programme of clean-living and unwounding yourself on ‘commies’. Kelly too is becoming a self-help guru. At the end of her show she announced her new book, Settle for More:
my life motto, ever since I was an unhappy lawyer years ago. The book shows how I did just that—with some tears and laughs along the way. And yes, for the first time I will speak openly about my year with Donald Trump. You can pre-order it now wherever books are sold. It hits stores November 15th.
Seven days after the election – can’t wait!