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OPED: Trump abandons short-lived makeover
Before it ever really got started, the makeover of Donald Trump from amateur political outsider to a controlled and controllable presidential candidate has now been ditched — by the Republican nominee himself.
His Gotta Be Me declaration on Wisconsin television signaled the predicable end to the effort by veteran operative Paul Manafort to "pivot" the crude and free-swinging winner of the 2016 Republican primaries away from the style with which he rolled over a bunch of weak sisters. "I am who I am," Trump said, and "I don't want to change."
The shakeup saw Manafort resign on Friday, leaving the campaign without any semblance of professionalism as it copes with its most politically challenging phase. Trump now faces a much broader campaign landscape than the Republican primaries he handily dominated with his nativist and nationalist ranting.Such a pivot never was in the cards or in the makeup this self-delusional egomaniacal bullyboy. He has now surrounded himself with even more enablers pushing the notion that what got Trump to third base this year will bring him the rest of the way home on Nov. 8.
But to cover the remaining 90 feet to home plate, Trump now needs much more than bombast and boisterous campaign rallies, drawn by his wildly irresponsible stoking of public anger at Washington.
At this point in the election calendar, the press and the public have begun to examine more closely Trump's qualifications to run the country beyond empty cheerleading. In the few weeks since the nominations, he has pointedly provided more and more evidence of his instability and willful ignorance of the serious problems facing the nation.
His ludicrous observation that President Obama was the "founder of ISIS" and Hillary Clinton its "MVP," referring to the Islamic State, a terror organization that grew out of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, is alone sufficient to disqualify Trump. Other zany comments are reducing Trump and his campaign to a national joke and embarrassment.
In bringing to the leadership of his campaign staff Stephen Bannon, head of the ultraconservative Breitbart website, and longtime right-wing publicist Kellyanne Conway, Trump has announced all restraints removed in his effort to reverse his campaign's downward plunge since his July convention nomination.
Furthermore, he is being outgunned by the Clinton campaign in fund-raising and foot soldiers in the most critical key states for November, and Trump's ability to convert huge rallies into grass-roots politicking and voter turnout across the land is yet to be tested.
Also looming are the presidential debates, the first of which is slated for Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island. The debate could be the critical opportunity for Trump to confront Clinton directly, after describing her as "crooked Hillary" and claiming she is the beneficiary of "a rigged system." But there's some speculation that Trump might boycott the debates, as he dodged one Fox News debate in the primaries.
In any event, letting Donald be Donald the rest of the way in this most heated political campaign in memory may guarantee an even wilder, more divisive and altogether more deplorable American election. In the course of promising to make America great again, Trump may be ushering in the presidency of the first woman, who insists merely that America is already great and that she intends to keep it that way by denying Trump the keys to the Oval Office.
— Jules Witcover's latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power," published by Smithsonian Books.