There’s an ancient chestnut of a joke that everybody above a certain age has known for years. It goes something like this:
Lone Ranger: “Well, Tonto, there are Indians everywhere. Looks like we’re surrounded.”
Tonto: “What you mean ‘we,’ white man?”
That joke came to mind the other day when Donald Trump was reported to have endorsed Mitt Romney for president. The Donald’s comments on the occasion of this political coronation included his assurance that a President Romney is “not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country we all love.”
The “we” who love this country is a rightly inclusive pronoun -- more inclusive, sadly, than the politics of the “If you’re against us you’re against America” era generally concedes.
One of the most gratifying things about the last presidential election night was listening to John McCain, in defeat, and Barack Obama, in victory, credit one another with an unquestioned love of country. Everything else might be fair game, but loyalty to the United States of America was a given.
That seems like a long time ago.
The looming question is just who “we” are in the mind of a Donald Trump. “We” very well might not have the same idea about those “bad things” The Donald tells us “continue to happen.”
Don’t misunderstand: There is no credible reason to resent either his free speech right to opine or his free enterprise right to amass wealth. Foundational American principles, both of them. If I can be forgiven a cliché, some of my best friends are rich -- I just wish they were more numerous and richer. I’d love to be among their number, although that’s sure as heck not going to happen in this job.
(Still, I can’t shake a line from “Citizen Kane” when Everett Sloane as the kindly old Mr. Bernstein tells the reporter, “There’s no great trick to making a lot of money -- if all you want to do is make a lot of money.”)
What I can’t figure out about Trump is why anybody listens.
I confess to having once, in a column years ago, referred to Trump as a “worthless moneyed lizard,” an epithet I regret now. Such a class-action insult to the reptile world was totally uncalled for.
None of this makes me think less of Romney, who doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He comes off as a basically decent man who has taken some mostly unfair, though politically predictable, hits. Certainly Trump’s bankroll will help Romney campaign against an Obama war chest that is said to be pretty daunting, especially by Democratic standards. I don’t believe he’s uncaring about the poor -- naïve, yes -- and the real scandal in the income tax thing has more to do with our grotesquely regressive and politically corrupted tax code than with Mitt Romney.
The only two things I really have against Romney are his shameless hypocrisy on health care and his classless withdrawal from the presidential race four years ago, when he basically said a Democratic win would be a victory for America’s enemies. Honestly, if the Republican Party ever gets around to purging that repulsive McCarthyite strain from its institutional DNA once and for all, I’ll start voting for more of its candidates.
I’m certainly going to vote for Romney in the primary, because even the remotest possibility of Newt Gingrich getting anywhere near the White House except as a tourist or by invitation is unspeakable, and even the latter gives me the fantods.
All in all, I really wish The Donald had endorsed Gingrich. Those two deserve each other.