As a columnist, I am trained to look for the little thing — the (Sherlock) Holmesian clue that will illuminate the larger picture. When it comes to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign (somewhat promised, definitely threatened), my clue to his entire character is the fact that he will not shake hands. This is the hallmark of the paranoid-germaphobic-neurasthenic with bad hair — or what Freud, in a moment of searing clarity, called a meshugana. I will now elucidate.
There have been 44 presidents of the United States. These are men who spent a lifetime shaking hands, and yet not a one of them, according to my experts (Google), died of the sniffles. In fact, most of our presidents lived to a very old age. Take just the recent ones: Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, both 93, George H.W. Bush still kicking (if not sky diving) at 86 and Jimmy Carter, still mirthful at 86. For the most part, the presidents who died young were assassinated or, as with the relatively young (53) James K. Polk, succumbed to cholera, irrelevant to Trump’s phobia, unless Polk happened to shake hands with a sewer.
If Trump gets to the White House, we will have the Purel Presidency. The chief executive will stand around with his hands in his pockets, and the Secret Service will be armed both with Uzis and bottles of hand sanitizers. I can assure my readers, however, that this will not come to pass. The little tic that I have noted, the one that leads to the larger character flaw, shows that Trump is a conspiracy nut, germs of course being the ultimate conspirators — unseen yet lethal, as in the manner of Muslim terrorists, bed bugs in hotel rooms and death panels, tucked into Obamacare legislation and written in invisible ink. Now we have the matter of Barack Obama not being a natural-born citizen of the United States.
Obama claims to have been born in Hawaii. The slim evidence for that is only the account of his family, the recollections and snapshots of numerous friends, newspaper accounts about the arrival of Barack Hussein Obama (possibly placed by Angela Lansbury, creating “The Hawaiian Candidate”) and a birth certificate on file with the state authorities. This, though, is offset by a fraudulently edited taped interview with his then-86-year-old Kenyan grandmother. As edited, it suggests that Obama was born in Kenya and thus would be constitutionally ineligible to be president. The entire interview, though, says no such thing. When the interviewer asks the grandmother if she is saying that Obama was born in Kenya, she repeatedly says “Hawaii.” I am checking to see if Hawaii is the Swahili word for Kenya.
Still, Trump preservers. He says he has dispatched private investigators to Hawaii (“Hawaii Trump-O”) and elsewhere to ferret out the truth. If it turns out that Obama was not born in Hawaii — or, I shudder to think — not born at all, then a monstrous constitutional crime has been committed and a non-natural born (synthetic?) American is occupying the Oval Office. In which case, the Supreme Court would make John McCain president and Sarah Palin vice president and me, in no time at all, an expatriate.
I can think or nothing worse than a president who is a not a natural-born citizen — unless it is a president who will not shake hands. Can you imagine our commander in chief waiting at the portico of the White House for the arrival of some foreign dignitary — say, the emperor of Japan or, heaven forefends, Kate Middleton? He or she extends a hand. He offers a weak smile. The visitor tries again and he shoves his hand in his pocket. Middleton bursts into tears. The emperor screams something from a John Wayne movie and . . . I cannot bring myself to write what comes to mind.
This little quirk in this great man’s otherwise sterling character is the sort of little thing I am trained to spot. I should add for the record that Trump now says that if he campaigns for president, he will abandon his old ways and shake hands with the voters. I’d like to take him at his word, but he is, after all, a real estate developer. I suggest a test: Let’s shake on it.