IT’S EASY to forget that many of the headlines surrounding Donald Trump’s current campaign were strikingly foreshadowed. But a stroll down the past three decades of “Doonesbury” can read like a road map to the billionaire’s 2016 candidacy.
A Trump run for president? Check. “Doonesbury” first had that covered nearly 30 years ago.
Campaign references to Trump as sexual being? Double-check. The comic strip was dishing that satire back in the last millennium.
Trump University shenanigans? You betcha. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau was on the case more than a decade ago.
And Trudeau’s new book, “Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump” (Andrews McMeel), which arrives in early July, shows the degree to which The Donald himself has been telling us for decades what was on his long horizon.
In some cases, the Pulitzer-winning “Doonesbury” was responding through humor to the headlines of that time. In other cases, the left-leaning Trudeau was plying sardonic hyperbole that doesn’t feel quite so exaggerated now, as reality outpaces cartoon fiction. And in all cases, the main takeaway seems to be: Love it or hate it, embrace it or berate it, we all should have seen this coming.
In that vein, here are 15 “Doonesbury” comic strips from the past 29 years that can ring as either uncannily prescient or perfectly timed.
A TRUMP CANDIDACY
It was 1987 when Trump took out an ad — more precisely, a full-page “open letter from Donald J. Trump” — in several newspapers, including The Washington Post. The letter, for which he spent nearly six figures, said that “the world is laughing at American politicians.” Trump threw around words like “catastrophe” and “disaster” to describe what awaited the United States if the nation did not right its political course.
Trump was already floating political trial balloons. “I believe that if I did run for president, I’d win,” he told the New York Times that November, even as he denied a run.
By September of that year, Trudeau — who self-identifies as a member of “the ridicule industry” — was already satirizing Trump’s political journey.
The Donald has joked that “Trump: The Art of the Deal” is his second favorite book, after the Bible. And upon announcing his candidacy last June, he said, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
Trudeau views such utterances as “big, honking hubris” — which is why, in March 1989, he unspooled a storyline in which Trump hires a painter to render him as God-like. The result draws inspiration from the Sistine Chapel, but Trump wants his selfie masterpieces to hang instead over the toilets on his golden yacht.
In 1989, 15 years before “The Apprentice” debuted, “Doonesbury” had the real-estate mogul entering the world of reality TV and game shows. After this strip appeared, Trump would go on to work with beauty pageants in the ’90s and own the Miss Universe pageant by the middle of that decade.
THE NAME GAME
Just who is calling on Donald Trump’s behalf? The Washington Post reported last month that Trump used to masquerade as his own publicist, making calls on his own behalf using several pseudonyms. This 1990 “Doonesbury” strip has fun with the notion that it may or may not be The Donald at the other end of the line.
EYES ON THE SIZE
Trump’s rhetoric — be it about towers or fingers or poll numbers — is rather obsessed with measurement and proportion. That’s no “yuge” revelation. But it’s interesting to see that fact stated so directly back in 1997, and then again from the presidential stump just two years later.
Looking back, it seems inevitable now that Trump’s self-descriptions as a sexually dynamic being would make for much-repeated sound bites in the current campaign. Some things, we just can’t unhear.
“Never licensed as a school, Trump University was in reality a series of real estate workshops in hotel ballrooms around the country, not unlike many other for-profit self-help or motivational seminars,” The Washington Post wrote last September, as criticism of Trump University began to rear its capped head again. “Though short-lived, it remains a thorn in Trump’s side nearly five years after its operations ceased.”
Back in 2005, “Doonesbury” was already having fun at Trump U’s expense — making Trudeau one of the lucky ones who actually came out on the plus side of that educational transaction.
THE EGO HAS LANDED
The Washington Post reported this week that the Reagan White House dealt with Trump and his “large ego” rather warily. In 2007, “Doonesbury” imagined how Trump might try to engage another wary Republican White House for his own benefit.
POLLS VS. PAULS
Several months into his candidacy last summer, Trump was already knocking fellow GOP candidate Rand Paul about everything from his looks to his coffers to his golf game. Just four years earlier, in “Doonesbury,” Trump took a similar belittling tone toward papa Ron Paul.
This year, we’ve seen what it looks and sounds like to have former governor Sarah Palin stumping for Trump. Five years ago, “Doonesbury” offered a different take on the stagecraft of that same teaming.
THROWING HIS CAP IN THE RING
A year ago this month, Trump announced his presidential bid. About 10 weeks prior to that, a Sunday “Doonesbury” coyly teased that very Trump announcement.
So where will “Doonesbury” go next with Trump? We won’t have to wait long to find out: Check out how Trudeau spoofs Trump’s true and effective gift for politically sticky nicknames in this Sunday’s strip.