Last hope for the Republicans: Declare Donald Trump the winner at the convention in Cleveland next month, and then persuade him to go home.
This admittedly would be a delicate maneuver. Nothing like it has happened before. It could work, though, if, as many have believed all along, Trump does not really want to be president.
He wants to be elected, sure, but does he want to serve? He wants to be respected as the champion, but does he want the prize? If this were a beauty pageant, Trump would want the crown and the adoration but not the mandatory year of appearances at charity events and visits to the troops.
Trump himself has talked about how much he is sacrificing, what a good life he is giving up, to take on this quest. He understands that Camp David is no Mar-a-Lago.
He seems to have no interest in doing the things that most candidates, and up until now all presidents, have had to do. Listen to advisers, for example. Have advisers. Read policy papers. Read anything but his own reviews.
Certainly there seems to be nothing that he particularly believes in as he campaigns for the White House . This is a man who admires Hillary Clinton one year, and considers her crooked the next; swears fealty to the National Rifle Association one month, and challenges its dogma the next; wants to punish women who have abortions one hour, and pardons them the next.
He believes in . . . Trump. But is it fair or logical to force him to attend four years of NATO summit meetings just to have his faith in himself vindicated?
This would have to be a voluntary and mutual pact, of course. On the Republican side, the calculation is easy. Republicans running for Senate are gasping and thrashing like hooked fish, knowing that they are doomed if they endorse Trump and doomed if they do not. The party last week tumbled to its lowest standing since Bloomberg began polling in 2009, Bloomberg Politics reported.
Persuading Trump to acknowledge what, deep down, he may know to be true might be trickier.
A financial inducement might help. Because the candidate will not release his tax returns or other relevant documents, we don’t know to what extent his candidacy may have been motivated by business troubles — by a desire to run up the value of his brand. But surely there is room for creativity in designing some long-term contracts between the Republican Party and Trump Hotels, Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka.
Some ceding of captives also could be arranged. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who already allowed himself to be taken hostage, could be handed over permanently to serve as Trump’s consiglieri. The GOP could toss into the deal its chairman, Reince “Winning is the antidote to lots of things” Priebus, one of Trump’s earliest and most enthusiastic enablers. Priebus might suit as butler at Mar-a-Lago, to replace the longtime manservant who inconveniently posted vile threats against President Obama on his Facebook page.
But none of that would be enough. Anyone who has watched the candidate at a rally understands that what this campaign has really brought Trump is what he craves most: an audience. Finally, after years of feeling that his wisdom and humor were not receiving their due, Trump has people listening to him hour after hour, day after day, millions upon millions.
The GOP would have to crown Trump not just the winner, but also the Greatest Winner in the Land. The Winner in Chief. The Champion to End All Champions.
And then it would have to find some way to guarantee him an audience for the next four years. Partly that might just involve showing him the ratings for the president’s Saturday morning radio address. Partly it might require giving him his own radio or television show. In fact, Rupert Murdoch might have to give him a television network.
It would require, in other words, some sacrifices all around. It would not be easy to pull off. But it seems worth a try. Looked at from the point of view of Trump, the party and the nation, it would be a win-win-win.
Or, as we might have to call it, a WIN-win-win.
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