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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

 

Trump is The Greatest. Ask him.

by Tom Sullivan

At a campaign rally in Nevada on Sunday, Bernie Sanders mocked Donald Trump for proclaiming himself "the greatest" at pretty much everything. The best this, the best that, the best whatever. At Raw Story, Sarah Burris posted a clip from the rally, writing:

Just the mention of Trump’s name brought boos from the crowd of Sanders supporters, despite the senator’s attempts to quell them. “We know that Donald Trump is the greatest everything in the world,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “There is nothing that this man is not ‘the greatest’ at.”

There is no word on whether Trump ever consulted Muhammad Ali about that.

Sanders reminded the crowd that Trump’s presumed “greatness” extends to his knowledge of science, which includes climate change. “And one of his major scientific contributions in recent years has been to proclaim that climate change is a hoax. Now, for Republican candidates, this is not an unusual idea, but [Trump] added something to it, being the brilliant scientist that he is: That this hoax was created by the Chinese!”

This turn is a good move on Sanders' part. The shouting gets tiresome. Voters like to see candidates have a healthy sense of humor. It humanizes them, the way the clip of Sanders shooting baskets did last week. Plus, it signals that they don't take themselves too seriously. On the left or right, loss of the ability to laugh at yourself is the first warning sign of fundamentalism. Maybe that's why Republicans so suck at humor.

Contrasted in 1960 with the dour Richard Nixon, Jack Kennedy's coolness and humor won over American audiences. Sanders' smile lights up the room when he deploys it. He ought to more often. When Donald Trump smiles, he looks supremely self-satisfied (his natural state). When Ted Cruz smiles, he out-smirks George W. Bush.

A little humor goes a long way. Perhaps while on Saturday Night Live, Sanders received some coaching from Larry David. He is going to need it. Because musing the other day about how Sanders would handle Trump in a debate, I had this concern.

In a "debate" – after the Republicans' performance on Saturday, we use that term loosely – between a democratic socialist and a demagogue, winning might simply come down to who gets whose goat. Bernie Sanders is an old-school liberal who takes the issues he cares about very, very seriously. They mean something to him. Trump, on the other hand, just wants to demonstrate to an audience that he is the alpha dog on the stage. I worried that should Sanders face Trump one-on-one, mockery and flippant remarks from Trump might so infuriate Bernie the serious candidate that he loses it, and thus loses the debate, if not more. If I were Trump, getting Bernie Sanders to lose his cool would be a key objective.

At Netroots Nation in Phoenix last summer, I was there when Sanders lost his cool and left the stage after being interrupted by a group of Black Lives Matter protesters. He quickly adjusted and has improved in the intervening months. It's good to see he has loosened up on the campaign trail. Facing down Trump, a smile and a pithy one-liner from Sanders might be his best counter-punch.