President WIlliam Henry Harrison’s only inaugural speech lasted an hour and fifty-five minutes. It killed him.
Not politically. Or even intellectually. Quite literally, it did kill him.
On March 4, 1841, after winning a landslide election on a campaign slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,” the Whig gave his speech on a cold, wet Thursday in Washington D.C. As the war hero of Tippecanoe, who defeated the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and beat the British at the Battle of the Thames, Harrison declined an overcoat or gloves while he read his 8,445-word screed. Shortly afterward, he contracted pneumonia and died on April 4.
Harrison truly talked himself to death, and as such has set the bar quite high for Donald Trump, who is trying with all his might to reach it.
I attended the Macon, Georgia Trump campaign rally Monday night, and listened to its central personality prattle on for an hour and fifteen minutes, saying practically nothing at all. Since I was penned up in the media corral, I couldn’t leave like much of the crowd, so I recorded most of the blithering tedium while attempting to take notes.
Trump started off by talking up his endorsement by a few African-American pastors. Bruce LeVell, an Atlanta area pastor who flew down from New York with Trump after his “love-fest” meeting at the Trump Tower with nearly 100 black evangelicals, joined him at the podium to assure the crowd that Trump was not a racist.
“It was a really terrific day,” Trump said (ABC News reported). That was the most coherent part of his speech.
I’ve been in business for over a quarter of a century, and I’ve heard some bombastic, self-loving narcissists in that time. But I’ve never, ever, heard someone more in love with the sound of their own voice than Donald Trump. Now many people tell me that this isn’t the “real” Trump, that it’s only him when the cameras are on, that it’s only a persona.
But wow, if that’s a persona, Trump should win a Tony Award and an Oscar for best actor, because he plays it perfectly. He plays it better than Heath Ledger played The Joker (and that killed Ledger). He plays it better than the accusations of “pathological” he throws at Ben Carson.
And speaking of Ben Carson, Trump made sure he sang the entire hit parade of every candidate. He misquoted Carson as saying he had a “pathological disease,” then spent five minutes lambasting Gov. Chris Christy, [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ] (why?), and Rick Perry (who is, at this time, not even running, and only rumored he may possibly return to the race). Then, he went after [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ], because “there’s only one way to get to the top and it’s all through Trump.”
Finally, he backhanded [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], saying how Cruz is always so supportive, before conceding that Cruz, “sadly,” one day is “going to have to hit me.” Because all roads go through Trump town.
Trump tried to bait the press, shredding CNN, and daring the media to “pan the cameras” over the crowd, which was substantial. About 5,000 people turned out, nearly filling the Macon Coliseum, to hear Trump blather. By the time Trump hit 45 minutes of nonstop stream-of-consciousness, there were lines headed for the exits.
The self-selected core who remained were the hard-core supporters or just people who realized they weren’t going to beat the traffic jam leaving the arena (as media, they forced me to stay to the end). I had several political friends who were at the event, including a few “staff” for Trump. I asked one of them if he was volunteering with the Trump campaign. “No,” he said, he was friends with one of the state campaign staffers, who personally asked him for help. Such as it was with most of the volunteers I knew.
The only “staff” who seemed to get something out of noise so unintelligible that SETI couldn’t classify it as life is my friend who handled the stage lights. The Trump campaign, for the first time, approved the use of “moving lights” like a concert, as the billionaire ascended the stage to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I heard Donald liked the ballyhoo lighting effect, so we may see more of that, and my lighting buddy will be forever etched in Trump’s corner office wall, or something like that.
Many in the crowd were there just because they were curious. It’s not often that a billionaire graces Macon, and generally political candidates keep their visits short, confined to the airport, or both. The curious were lost about the time Trump spent 15 minutes detailing how he would give $5 million to Wounded Warriors if CNN would pay him to be in a debate (that drew applause).
Somewhere around 38 minutes into the “speech,” Trump finally talked about Obamacare, and how Obama will be seen by historians (“He was a horrible president. He didn’t know what the hell he was doing. He’s the most divisive human being I have ever seen.”) All true, but too little too late, and it was just more words in the Trump-O-Matic word salad.
It was like listening to my crazy uncle talk about buying his Mercedes with paper bags filled with cash, except more boring. I won’t even go into the other stuff Trump said, most of which fell into the “just plain stupid” category.
Well, I’ll hit the low points: doubling down on his despicable mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski; praising CNBC, then repeating his debunked claim that he single-handedly caused them to shorten their debate by an hour; and inexplicably launching into a canonization of General George S. Patton as a “horrendous human being, but he’s great!”
After subjecting myself to this cacophony fusion of jazz and funk (“junk”) politics, I have come to the same conclusion I believe Cruz arrived at six months ago (because unlike Trump, who calls himself “really smart,” Cruz is, in fact, brilliant). The best way to stop Trump is to let him go the way of Tippecanoe. Just let him talk, and very soon, Trump will just talk himself to death.
Hail King Blather.
Oh, and if you don’t believe me, watch the speech for yourself.
(crossposted from sgberman.com)