Ezra Klein writes about what we’ve learned for the thousandth time this week about Donald Trump:
The problem isn’t that Trump is cruel, though he is. The problem isn’t that Trump is boorish, though he is. The problem isn’t that Trump is undisciplined, though he is.
The problem is that Trump is predictable and controllable…His behavior, though unusual, is quite predictable—a fact the [Clinton] campaign proved by predicting it. His actions, though beyond the control ofhis allies, can be controlled by his enemies—a fact they proved by controlling them.
…Donald Trump can be forgiven for being caught off-guard [at Monday’s debate]. His presidency-disqualifying sin came in the hours after the debate. The Clinton campaign released a slickly produced video featuring Machado. The Guardian and Cosmopolitan rushed pre-planned Machado profiles to publication. Hillary Clinton did everything but spraypaint “THIS IS A TRAP” on the side of Trump Tower.
And still Trump fell for it. And fell for it. And fell for it. Six days later, he’s still falling for it.
All of this is precisely true. As Klein says, what Hillary Clinton did was so obvious, and so ploddingly executed, that it’s almost wrong to call it a trap. Any half-witted high school debater could have swatted it away contemptuously. But the Clinton camp knew Trump would fall for it anyway, and he did. His lizard-brain approach to life is that predictable.
But the funny thing is that there’s a completely different way that Trump’s biggest problem is that he’s predictable and controllable. In fact, it’s what I expected Klein’s post to be about when I read that line.
For months, liberals have been afraid that Trump might be smarter than he seems. Once the primary was over, he’d be able to remake himself as a normal person for a few consecutive months, and that might be enough to convince fence-sitters that he was presidential material. And for a while, after he brought Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway on board, it looked like that might happen. Trump calmed down and allowed his team to guide him. He started picking up a few points in the polls. Democrats were getting scared.
If he had kept that up, this might have turned into a real nail-biter of an election. And that was the real fear. Trump can, in fact, be predictable and controllable in a good way, and if he had managed to keep up that facade from Labor Day to Election Day, he might have fooled a fair number of people into voting for him. Fortunately, he couldn’t keep up the act, and within a few weeks he once again became predictable and controllable in a bad way.
In the end, Trump’s inability to play a role for even a few weeks in a row might be the only thing that saves us from a Trump presidency. That’s a little too close for comfort.