Donald Trump has pledged never to let another Oreo pass his lips.
“I’m not eating any more Oreos,” he promised on Monday afternoon.
He made the declaration while speaking with reporters in the back of the jury assembly room at Manhattan Supreme Court. He was waiting to learn if he would be picked to serve on a panel, and he passed the time chatting about a wide range of subjects. That included the recent decision by Mondelez International, the parent of Nabisco, to move some of its Chicago operations to Mexico.
“It’s such an American company,” he said.
He said the move would cost 2,000 American jobs. The actual number seems to be closer to 600, but what would count to his supporters would be the no-more-Oreos pledge. He was asked if he ate Oreos in the first place.
“More than I should,” he said.
His answer was a touch hollow, leaving you wondering if he in fact ate any Oreos. He sounded almost like a politician, which he is quick to tell you he is not. He had written down “real estate” as his occupation on the juror questionnaire.
“I figured I might as well put that,” he said. “I refused to say ‘politician.’”
He noted that he had considerable difficulty ensuring that the “Make America Great Again” baseball hats he sports while campaigning and hawks on his website are U.S.-made.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said.
He expounded on the hat’s message.
“We don’t have victories anymore,” he said.
He made another pledge.
“They’ll have lots of victories with me,” he said. “Lots of victories.”
At one point, he took out some Tic Tacs.
“You guys want any?” he asked. “Made in Mexico.”
He realized the reporters might not understand that this was a bit of Trump humor. He examined the small plastic container.
“It’s American-made,” he confirmed.
At one point, the talk turned to the recent GOP debate and his response to Megyn Kelly’s question about the ways he had described women in the past. He took renewed pleasure in his response that he had only talked that way about Rosie O’Donnell.
“Totally threw Megyn Kelly off her game,” he said. ”I never thought Rosie would be good for me.”
He made no mention of his subsequent remark that Kelly had been so angry she had blood coming out her eyes and “wherever.” And though he joked that his jury room gab was “the world’s longest press conference,” his chat with the reporters was just that and in circumstances where a certain decorum was required. Nobody brought up what many had taken to be a menstrual reference.
Not that all the bad press about the remark seemed to have hurt Trump very much. He marveled at the power of Twitter, saying that in earlier times he had been forced just to take it when the press took whacks at him. Now, with social media, he was able to reach millions with no middleman.
“It’s like owning a newspaper without the losses,” he said.
Then, because he is Trump, he added, “It’s like owning a huge newspaper.”
He repeated a line about him being the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters. He allowed that he does not always tweet his own tweets.
“Sometimes I dictate them,” he said.
He had gone right to Twitter when Rand Paul slammed him.
“I hit him back hard,” Trump said.
Lindsey Graham had also gone after Trump and was now at zero in the polls.
“How is it possible?” Trump asked.
He said of Jeb Bush. “Jeb lacks energy. There is a lot of energy missing.”
A reporter asked Trump why he had scheduled a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Wednesday at the same hour as the one Bush was holding there. Trump said he figured it would be a good time for him to get out a crowd.
“Because Bush draws so poorly,” he said.
The one hitch could have come if his name was picked out of the wooden drum used to select jurors randomly should any be needed that particular day.
“If I get picked, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do,” he said. “Tell 7,000 people I was just kidding?”
He figured that he had already won a far more important lottery.
“My greatest lottery was the Vietnam lottery,” he said.
He meant the draft lottery that had been held after the end of student exemptions during the Vietnam War. He seems still to take pleasure in having gotten a low enough number to save him from being called up. He is apparently counting on those who presently serve to help deliver those lots of victories.
He might have been spared even the jury lottery due to a crisis that arose shortly before he arrived on the courthouse on Monday morning. A court officer learned that the water was out in the whole building.
“If there’s no water, then we got to shut the building down,” a court official said.
The court officer checked on his radio to confirm there was no water on all floors.
“That’s affirmative,” a voice responded. “It’s the whole building.”
A call went out for the engineer. A supervisor arrived.
“Everything OK?” he asked.
“No,” a court officer replied, predicting, “A sh--t show. Literally.”
A court official imagined aloud what Trump would say if he arrived to find the building shut down.
“‘America’s broken, even the courthouse doesn’t have water!’”
But some unsung hero got the water going well enough so the toilets functioned and the courthouse remained open when a black stretch limousine pulled up. Trump stepped out in a blue suit and a blue-and-white striped tie and a white shirt. He had failed to respond to five previous summonses to jury duty, but he argued that they had been sent to an address other than his residence. He was now being given a chance to beat a $250 fine and avoid a political embarrassment by reporting.
“It’s my duty and I’m happy to do it,” he now said.
He ascended the courthouse steps between phalanxes of photographers held back by the twin railings running up the middle.
“This is the line,” a court officer by the main entrance told him. “Right over here.”
Trump joined the prospective jurors waiting to pass through the two metal detectors. He was asked how he felt to be doing his civic duty.
“Got to do it,” he said. “Got to do it.”
He was directed to an express lane for those who have no bag and nothing in their pockets. An unarmed retired city cop was there to act as a lone bodyguard as he took an elevator to the fourth floor and entered the Norman Goodman Jury Assembly Room. The other prospective jurors included Bobby Moynihan of Saturday Night Live fame.
Trump took a seat at the front of the room to the left, beneath a monitor that was playing a video about jury service. He began filing out the questionnaire in which he gave his profession as real estate, not politician.
If our politics did bring the best of us to the fore, then we would have candidates who are like Irene Laracuenta, the longtime supervising jury clerk of New York County. She now took the microphone to instruct prospective jurors on what was expected of them and what they could expect.
Laracuenta is a former court officer who has been in her present position for 19 years. She clearly still loves her job after performing this same ritual countless times. She spoke with great energy and seemed to be the very voice of true democracy.
“Nobody gets special treatment,” she said. “I happen to think you all get treated specially by me and my staff.”
A brief break came once the paperwork was done. Trump did get a modicum of special treatment from the court officers who blocked off an alcove while he talked on a cellphone. His lone security man brought him a can of Coke, a straw, and a napkin, but the break ended before he could take a sip.
As Trump started back to the jury room, a lawyer asked to take a selfie with him.
“Quick,” Trump said.
The quick selfie done, the lawyer said, “My wife will be happy. Happy wife, happy life.”
Upon his return to the room, Trump stood in the back, causing a small commotion among some of the others. Laracuenta took the microphone and was again the voice of democracy in an age of celebrity.
“I think we are all famous in our own right,” she said.
Trump then took a seat toward the back between two young women. The one on his left was occupied with a laptop. The one on his right was listening to music on her phone. Trump sat holding his paperwork and just gazed straight ahead.
Trump at rest was a showman without a show. He seemed at that moment a rich man bereft of inner workings, but he remained an object of such fascination that people whispered about his smallest movements.
“His eyes are closed,” a prospective juror whispered.
He had indeed closed them, but he then opened them and continued gazing ahead. Another prospective juror asked Trump how he was faring.
“It’s a little different,” Trump said.
The other prospective juror asked Trump what he would do to improve this jury selection process. Trump proved capable of praising one small bit of government in action.
“They do a good job here,” he said. “Very good.”
Just before 12:30, Laracuenta, the official who runs this praiseworthy operation, told the prospective jurors that they would soon be breaking for lunch.
“And then you’ll have two hours to do what you want to do,” she said. “We’re officially not supposed to tell you where to eat, but we can tell you where we eat.”
Trump was again media-mobbed as he went back down the steps to his limousine. He later said that he spent the break inspecting an office building at 40 Wall Street.
“Which I own,” he noted.
He said the building has a Duane Reade, which of course is “the biggest Duane Reade in America.” He tweeted as he returned to the courthouse.
“Listening to @rushlimbaugh on way back to Jury Duty. Fantastic show, terrific guy!”
A candidate who thinks Rush Limbaugh is a terrific guy with a fantastic show and who believes that we should just build a wall on the Mexican border and has said Iran supports ISIS was once more greeted like the man of the moment when he stepped from the limo. He again joined a line at the metal detectors. He proved to have nothing metal in his pockets but a single brass key to his apartment.
“I have to stay trim and slim,” he later said. “I don't need bulging pockets.”
His bodyguard this time held some newspapers so the boss would not be stuck without anything to read as he sat in the jury room, as before.
“That was a mistake,” Trump allowed after he took a seat at the back.
He read two articles in The Wall Street Journal that were about him. One was at the bottom of the front page.
“Hit the front page again,” he said. “It’s nice to be on the front page when you’re right. When you’re wrong, it’s not good.”
He seemed to have no doubt that he was right regarding just about everything as he began chatting with the reporters who sat around him. He was no longer Trump at rest. He was again a showman with a show.
The talk extended beyond the election to people he knows, such as football player Tom Brady, whom he called “a great guy.” He also spoke about people from his past such as the late Roy Cohn, a fixer lawyer whose myriad demonstrations of influence before his disbarment included helping get Trump’s sister a federal judgeship. The sister, Maryann Trump Barry, was subsequently appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
A reporter asked Trump about his late mother, the Scotch-born, Gaelic-speaking Mary Macleod Trump.
“A real beauty,” he said. “Very strong.”
He was asked what she would have thought of her son becoming the Republican front-runner for president.
“She wouldn't believe it,” he said.
He was asked if even he could believe it and he answered that he certainly could.
“People are so tired of incompetence,” he said. “They are tired of politicians.”
Nobody could deny the truth of that, which made the manifestly competent Laracuenta all the more remarkable as the day came to a close. She announced that no jurors had been needed but that the people in the room should not feel like they had been just wasting their time. She noted that cases are settled only because there are folks assembled and waiting to sit on a jury.
“The threat of you folks being at the ready to judge them,” she said.
She said they should hold off departing until their names were called and they were given a proof of service certificate excusing them for six years.
“For my experience, when you leave here it’s like your bodies are on fire,” she said.
She closed by saying, “That’s it. Thank you. I’ll see you in six years.”
Trump offered high praise for all the court officers and clerks, most particularly for Laracuenta.
“Very professional, enthusiastic,” he said, someone who well knows the importance and power of enthusiasm.
After his name was called, Trump prepared to depart. He paused to pose for photos with some of the court officers, including one whose hair was dyed a blue that she pointed out matched his tie.
“Let’s do it,” a court officer then said.
The court officer escorted Trump down the steps. Trump took the lead, pausing to speak to any number of media types. Several people heckled him about his immigration policies, but the overall tone was of people gone gaga over celebrity. A man held out a piece of cardboard on which he had taped two dollar bills, and Trump autographed one of them.
After all, what he represents to his supporters is not just straight talk but M-O-N-E-Y. He rode off in his limousine, having completed his jury service and now able to return to a campaign that would have amazed even his mother. He tweeted again within the hour.
“My official #MakeAmericaGreatAgain hat is now available online. To shop please visit http://www.DonaldJTrump.com—it is selling fast!”
Back at the courthouse, the clerks and officers were ending a day that could have begun in disaster with an absence of running water—but ended in a kind of triumph because of an abundance of competence and decency.
A victory, though not one given by Trump.
Laracuenta for President!