Opinion: Trump is a political superbug

Posted at 5:33 AM, Jun 02, 2016

Public health officials were alarmed last month when an international superbug was discovered in a Pennsylvania patient, its first appearance in the U.S.

The superbug is a strain of E.coli bacteria that contains a gene identified as mcr-1 that is resistant to colistin, the mother of all antibiotics. The mcr-1 gene is easily spread to other types of bacteria, so its appearance in the U.S. increases the looming threat of superbugs that will be resistant to all antibiotics and treatments.

The threat of an antibiotic resistant superbug, while scary, is less immediate than the danger posed by a new strain of sanity-resistant political bacteria. As far as political officials know, just one individual, a real estate developer and celebrity from New York City named Donald Trump, carries this civic superbug. If a cure isn’t found by November, it will be too late.

The billion-dollar question in politics this year is obviously about Trump’s resistance to political punishment for pathologies that would and have killed all other known candidates almost instantly. How can he survive? Most of the world is incredulous.

Several months ago I wrote that it would take a village to defeat Donald Trump. My main point was that Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party lack the credibility, moral standing, public trust and charisma to effectively defang this Dracula. Other, unconventional agents – new antibiotics – were going to be needed for this creature that must carry the political equivalent of the mcr-1 gene.

When I wrote that, it was already clear that the other candidates for the Republican nomination were impotent against the Trump bacteria.

To be fair to the American “village,” many other communities have tried to fight off Trump.

A real #NeverTrump movement within the GOP did coalesce after the early primaries. It was led by the Our Principles PAC and raised some serious money, which was then used to inject traditional medication into the campaign: negative advertising. Trump was immune.

Eventually, a small cadre of Republican leaders topped by Mitt Romney tried to attack Trump from the high ground, with more statesmanlike rhetoric and moral tone. Trump was immune.

Whatever opposition to Trump remains in the Republican Party is passive, quiet and repressed: the silence of the past presidents Bush; the strange striptease act of Paul Ryan; the flip-flops of former enemies such as Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. Clearly, Trump is immune to such mild tonics.

A large number of conservative polemicists, policy experts and activists – from radio talkers to Times columnists – have not given up, to their great credit. The volume and quality of anti-Trump argument has been impressive, but ineffective. Trump is immune.

All that is left in the medicine cabinet of politics is Big Media. Television is the medium that spawned Trump. He flourishes there, regardless of form, content and context. Airtime of any kind nourishes Trump.

Trump also has survived a good deal of investigative digging; perhaps not as much as his long, flamboyant, litigious, philandering and bankruptcy-laden resume deserves, but there is more to come, one would hope. This week, newly released court documents have brought a big spotlight back to the accusations of fraud and sleaze against Trump University. The cable networks seem to care about it – today. Some think this is the scandal that will stick. Count me skeptical. Thus far, Trump has been immune.

What’s next? Will an effective anti-Trump treatment be discovered before November? I have no predictions, but a few thoughts.

The volume of artillery gunning for Trump is guaranteed to increase, but there are no guarantees for its accuracy and lethality. That is especially true of negative advertising, which his GOP opponents used sparingly by modern standards. There will be more investigative reporting. But there will be less incoming from “fellow” Republicans. No one has emerged as an effective prosecutor of Trump – not Hillary, not Elizabeth Warren, not President Obama and not even Pope Francis.

Ronald Reagan was nicknamed the “Teflon president” because scandals and attacks never seemed to stick to him. This drove Democrats nuts for eight years and more.

Slick Willie was Bill Clinton’s nickname for much the same reason. It drove Republicans bonkers that he escaped two confirmed sex scandals, but it wasn’t for lack of GOP effort. Clinton faced a volume of formal inquisitions that has to be a historical record: two special prosecutors, numerous standing committees in Congress, the Senate Special Whitewater Committee and several agency investigations.

If there was scandal smoke around Slick Willie, the Donald is a Trump Tower Inferno.

So far, Trump has been swaddled in a comb-over of Teflon, slicky slime and asbestos.

There are, however, other ways to die in battle besides enemy fire.

It may be that when the whole country gets to vote in a general election, Trump’s support is more limited than what early polls and primaries suggest.

Counting on that would be complacent and negligent. The search for a cure must continue.

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