Rolling Stone is out this month with a big Donald Trump profile. It's titled, "Trump Seriously."
In it, the writer makes a solid case that Trump is a man in possession of some particularly timely political gifts. In other words: Trump and his candidacy should not be so readily dismissed. In the same profile, though, Trump himself goes pretty far to remind us why so many people who know anything about modern politics have a hard time remembering that.
Now, I write the following without one bit of irony. And because my mother raised me right, I will add nothing more than the facts to the section that immediately follows.
After some passing talk about the scourge of heroin addiction, trade deals and claw-backs, tax policy and health care -- but before Trump passed on a package of Oreos aboard his private plane -- Trump had some things to say about Carly Fiorina, the former HP executive who is ascendant (but still trails significantly) in the GOP primary.
More specifically, Trump had some things to say about Fiorina's face.
Here's the key passage:
When the [TV] anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump's momentum, Trump's expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. "Look at that face!" he cries. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
And there, in a nutshell, is Trump's blessing and his curse: He can't seem to quit while he's ahead. The instincts that carried him out to a lead and have kept him far above the captious field are the same ones that landed him in ugly stews with ex-wives, business partners, networks, supermodels and many, many other famous women.
In Trump's world, or at least the one that exists aboard his private 757, it seems that women must be pleasing to the eye and at all times and at all costs pleasant. In Trump's world, without both, nothing else a woman -- or more specifically, a female presidential candidate -- says or thinks truly matters, has merit or meaning.
If you rank among those who doubt that or see Trump's comments above as no different than the litany of zingers about "low energy," short stature and limited personal resources that Trump has directed at his male opponents, you are, of course, within your rights. I would, however, direct you to the long and extended legacy of Trump's public comments about women made -- almost always -- after someone said something about his business acumen or his ideas that he didn't like.
Now Fiorina's face makes her unsuitable for the presidency?
The United States is in the midst of all kinds of roiling social and economic change. The country's labor force has edged back towards full employment for the first time since the Great Recession, but for some groups of workers that declaration of victory continues to have deeply limited meaning. Despite a recent downturn in productivity, the long-term trend is indisputably upward bound.
Still, wages for all but a very limited slice of workers at the very top have remained stagnant. The nation's students produced the worst scores on college entrance exams in decades despite more than a decade of school reform and blame pointed in every direction. And a full 14.3 percent of Americans regularly run short of food or the money needed to buy food that supports human health. The nation is grappling with the Herculean tasks of balancing security with liberty and uniformly applying the democratic values and human rights it promotes abroad with consistency at home.
Those are just a few of the issues that belong to the checklist of the next president. It's quite unclear how a face pleasing to Trump or anyone else will aid in that.
And perhaps Trump himself has come to realize this. As my colleague Jose DelReal wrote today, the alternative explanation for Trump's comments about Fiorina's face has already emerged.
On Fox News Thursday morning, Trump dismissed the notion that he was talking about Fiorina's physical appearance.
"Probably I did say something like that about Carly," Trump said. "I'm talking about persona. I'm not talking about looks."
Silly us. To think that a man who suggested on camera that a contestant on his business-themed reality TV show would look better on her knees, who sent a note to a New York Times columnist telling her she had the face of a dog -- among all manner of other comments about women's looks that surfaced thanks to Megyn Kelly -- might have been making reference to a woman's appearance. Well, that is apparently absurd.
In fairness, Trump did offer some other, more-substantial criticisms of Fiorina mentioned in a different section of the same Rolling Stone piece. Fiorina's leadership and the terms of her departure from Hewlett-Packard are nothing to boast about, according to Trump. Her failed Senate bid fits in the same category too, according to Trump.
But if we start to really focus on track records here, to look hard at the world according to Trump, it's Trump's Thursday-morning take-back that really falls apart.