Oh, for the rhetorical elegance of Tricky Dick, circa 1952.
In a press conference this morning, Donald Trump delivered his first Checkers speech — the first, be assured, of many to come; but rather than a smooth shellacking of his critics, Trump's was a characteristically vicious, vastly contradictory, and utterly vertiginous public meltdown.
It was hard to watch, impossible to apprehend, and evocative of almost any clinical paranoid except Tricky Dick, whose self-defensive artistry I now miss.
Trump's Checkers conference was an absolute disaster. Its pitiable gist, in Trump's words, was that Trump would get nothing but good press if the press would just stop giving him bad press, which was a galloping and I daresay downright awesome tautology.
The press is "so dishonest, so unfair," he said, in asking questions about, for instance, mysterious veterans donations. (Without the mystery, there would have been no questions.) He called ABC reporter Tom Llamas "sleazy," a "sleaze," among other insults leveled at those charged with covering his "presidential" campaign. Smart.
The legal system, too, is out to get him. The judge overseeing the Trump University lawsuit, he said, has been "very very unfair." The press, wouldn't you know it, has been unclear about this.
Trump also maintained — brace for a titanic mind-bender — that "I didn't want to have [take] credit" for raising millions of dollars (either $4 million, or $5 million, or $6 million, depending on … whatever) for veterans groups; that he had preferred that all of this be "private." These would be the millions that Trump raised in a debate-alternative publicity stunt on national television last January.
In addition (there was so much more, so "very very" much more), Trump spent considerable time punching down — at little Billy Kristol — which artful Tricky Dick knew never to do. He also spent more time trashing his fellow Republicans: Mitt Romney, again, was a "fool," and Gov. Susana Martinez was "not nice."
Trump also labeled Sen. Sanders "crazy Bernie" — which is a peculiar thing to say about a pol whose followers Trump wishes to acquire.
This was one bizarre press conference, even for Donald Trump. All it lacked was "I am not a crook"; well that, and every other bit of Nixon's paranoid artistry.
Five more months of this and even Mississippi will turn blue.