Were it not for the yellow hair and the blindingly white teeth, one might say Donald Trump is a force of nature.
It’s hard to see how Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the interrogators in Wednesday night’s “MSNBC Exclusive”—namely, a hastily scheduled town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, featuring the Republican frontrunner and counterprogrammed against CNN’s non-Trump town hall—could have contained the sheer relentlessness of Hurricane Trump as it spouted slogans and sentence fragments from the tape loop whirling wildly inside its fevered eye.
They tried. Brzezinski even called him “Mr. Trump,” a touch of stern formality, while Scarborough stuck with “Donald.” They even asked a quarrelsome question or two among the fuzzy softballs lobbed at the dark-suited, red-tied reality show billionaire by a dozen amazingly polite audience members rounded up for the occasion, in advance of the Feb. 20 South Carolina primary.
“I’m gonna make our country rich again, and then I’m gonna make our country great again!” Trump recited during the hour-long session—actually 47 minutes, not counting commercials (“It’s easy to love your laxative when that lax loves your body back”).
“I have a great temperament!” the candidate declared.
“I think I’m a much better business person and a better leader!”
“Believe me, I have a wonderful life! I have a wonderful company! I have a wonderful family!” (Interesting order of priorities there.)
“Waste, fraud, and abuse is massive in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid!”
“Jeb Bush raised $148 million! Total waste of money! You might as well throw it out the window! Wouldn’t it have been nice if instead of running a failed campaign, he gave it to the Wounded Warriors or gave it to somebody?”
“Jeb Bush is a sad case, OK? I’m just saying it’s sad! He’s a low-energy person!”
“Lindsey Graham... He’s an angry person. I see him on television, he’s like an insane person!”
“What would you have me do? Be nice and instead of having all those people getting out [of the nomination race], they’re still in and they’re still hammering me?”
Scarborough and Brzezinski sat knee to knee with Trump on a platform in what looked a blue-ish studio filled with 80-odd voters (including lovesick governor-turned-congressman Mark Sanford, he of the Appalachian Trail) for the pre-taped session.
No doubt conscious of public scrutiny of their alleged coziness with Trump—especially from media reporters at rival CNN—Scarborough and Brzezinski opened the show by telling Trump what a lousy job he did in last Saturday’s mudslinging CBS debate, in which he repeatedly accused Jeb Bush’s presidential brother, Bush 43, of lying about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and pretty much blamed Dubya for the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
And that was when Trump wasn’t calling Ted Cruz—who suddenly is beating him for first place in the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News national poll—“the single biggest liar. You probably are worse than Jeb Bush.”
“Disastrous,” Brzezinski opined about Trump’s performance Saturday.
“I thought it was terrible,” Scarborough echoed.
“I thought his head was gonna explode,” Brzezinski added.
“I thought I did great in that debate,” Trump corrected with a smile, looking unfazed and oddly relaxed and happy, as if he knew he was just being teased and his job was simply to take it with good cheer.
Try as they might—and Brzezinski and Scarborough did demand some policy specifics concerning Trump’s plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, cut taxes without blowing holes in the deficit, and other such staples of presidential campaigning—it was well nigh impossible to knock Trump off his talking points.
Trump’s presentation—in which he railed, as usual, against international trade agreements, claimed visionary status in his opposition to the Iraq war, and promised to force Mexico to pay for that darn wall—only seemed spontaneous because, unlike Marco Rubio, he spews his maxims without taking a breath and only rarely articulates them in complete, diagrammable sentences.
Taking questions from pre-selected members of the audience, Trump told an African-American small-businesswoman that he’ll be much better for the black community than Barack Obama—who was terrible, Trump said—because instead of the current president, he’ll “bring back the jobs from Mexico and China.”
Trump also vowed to try negotiating a peace deal, as president, between the Israelis and the Palestinians, “but it’s a very tough agreement to make... probably the toughest deal of all. But I’m gonna give it a shot... A lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal.”
Scarborough asked Trump if he’d consider naming disgraced four-star general David Petraeus his vice presidential running mate, and Trump said no.
“We can’t now—he’s been so badly hurt,” said the South Carolina frontrunner, adding that he hopes the Pentagon doesn’t take away any of Petraeus’s stars for being convicted of mishandling classified material by giving it to a mistress. “Leave General Petraeus alone. He’s suffered enough.”
Trump, who said he could have prevailed over Obama if only he had run in 2012, boasted that he could easily run the table and demolish Bernie Sanders, but “I think I’d rather run against Hillary, because I’d loooove to beat her.”