Mr. Trump, this is from me, an old middle class white guy watching from the sidelines here in Dallas. You said if they took the nomination away from you at the convention, “I think you'd have riots. I'm representing many, many millions of people.”
I’m looking at your people, Mr. Trump. I don’t see it.
In my life I have watched riots and covered them as a reporter. I don’t mean this as a criticism. It’s probably more a good thing, but I just don’t see rioting in your people’s future. Or in their past, for that matter.
I see a bunch of middle-aged to older suburban white-breads. No, listen to me: no insults here. Your people all look like me. I would probably get along great with them if we were to meet over a 6-pound plate of pasta at the Olive Garden.
I’m just saying I don’t see the Olive Garden crowd out in the street getting their heads clocked by the Cleveland cops. Maybe for about two seconds at the most, and then there would be a panicked retreat back to the Travelodge. Look, I’d beat them back there, so don’t take this like I’m challenging somebody’s manhood.
While we're in the manhood area, we do need to talk, Mr. T. For your own good. You keep saying things like, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Listen, word to the wise here. It has fallen to my lot, because of my work, to be around a certain number of people who actually do punch people in the face. They never ever say they’d like to punch people in the face. I wish they would. It might give some warning. But they never do. They just punch people in the face.
Please. Everybody else is all angry at you about this. That’s not where I’m coming from at all. I’m more embarrassed.
Example: You say things like you’ll pay the legal fees for people who punch people in the face for you. Worse, when asked about it, you say, “I've actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.”
Mr. Trump, tough guys don’t have their “people look into it” for them. As a local reporter, I have spent more time than I ever wanted to in police stations and jails and courthouses listening to all manner of tough guys and tough women talk, and I have never heard a single one of them say, “I've actually instructed my people to look into it.”
Hey, maybe now I will. You’re a huge hit, Mr. T, you know that. Maybe you’ve started something. But now that we’re on the topic, I guess I have to mention something else that also seems embarrassing to me: We all saw you do that huge flinch on stage when you thought somebody was coming after you. I am not criticizing. I hate to think what kind of a flinch I might have done.
Here’s the thing: Ever since the big flinch, you’ve had all these guys standing around you on stage who look like young rich kids trying to look tough. It’s the optics of the thing, sir. You can’t do the big flinch, and then the next time we see you you’ve got all these young guys ringed around you trying to do their private-school mean-faces.
It all adds up, and this may be entirely unfair. I’m not even going to try to say it’s a true thing, just a very unfortunate combined impression. But the impression is that you’re sort of an older rich guy, maybe not in the most terrific shape physically (sorry), who probably hasn’t been in a real fight since … uh .. I’m thinking elementary school, right?
Without even being aware of it, not deliberately, just because of how you grew up and how you’ve lived your life, you talk about toughness and people getting beat up and things like that in a way that makes you sound less like a real tough guy than like a rich golfer with a drink in his hand. It’s like you’re sending the grounds crew over to deal with a homeless person.
“Sometimes we talk a little bit tough,” you said. “When I see somebody out swinging his fists, I say, ‘Get ’em the hell out of here.’ We’re a little rough.”
We’re a little rough? We’re a little rough? Please don’t say that in public again, sir. It’s very unconvincing. Worse, it could be misconstrued. I’m trying to think of a guy on the street coming up to me and telling me, “I’m a little rough.” My first thought would be he’s looking for a date.
Also, the tomato thing. You said, “If you get hit in the face with a tomato, let me tell you, with somebody with a strong arm, at least, let me tell you, it can be very damaging.”
For all I know, that could be true. I just never heard of it. Maybe there’s an amazing history of tomato injuries. But my impression is that you’ve brought this up a few times – the danger of tomatoes – and frankly it begins to sound less like a real thing than a phobia.
Tomatoes are weird, no question about it. People are all over the map on tomatoes. Some people love them. I also know people who can’t stand them. But that’s about eating them. Getting injured by a tomato, that’s sort of a new one on me.
I’m originally from Detroit, so the big one I remember is the 1967 Detroit Riot. That was a five-day gun battle. Forty-three people were killed. Hundreds were seriously injured. A thousand buildings burned.
Another riot I remember well, even though I was not there myself, was the antiwar riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Tens of thousands of antiwar protesters clashed with 11,900 Chicago police officers, 7,500 Army troops, 7,500 Illinois National guard troops and 1,000 Secret Service officers.
The police arrested 589 people. Injuries were sustained by 100 protesters, 119 police, many members of the press and many innocent bystanders. A grand jury later indicted eight police and eight protesters. You know all this already, of course, so I’m not wagging my finger at you or trying to warn you how bad riots can be. I wouldn’t insult your intelligence, sir.
But I look at your people, no matter how many millions there may be. I look at them on TV. I look at them here in Dallas when you visit. I have gone out as a reporter and mingled among them. As a matter of fact, living where I do and being who I am, I suspect I may be surrounded by many of your people every time I go to a wedding. As you might say yourself, they’re wonderful people. Wonderful!
But riots? I don’t think so, sir. I really do not. I don’t think it’s their thing. I just can’t visualize. Think about it. What are they going to do, surround the Quicken Loans Arena on their riding lawnmowers? Pelt police with the mini-shampoos they swiped from the Travelodge? Try to make police jealous by showing off their watches?
In fact, if such an event were to occur, I would predict very minimal violence based on physical stamina alone. I know there have been instances of violence at some of your rallies, like the old guy who ran down some steps and punched a guy who was already being carried out anyway. But that’s not what I think of when I think of violence at a riot.
You know what that one reminded me of a lot? I used to have loved ones in a nursing home – a lovely place – and sadly there were a few incidents just like that one. At the nursing home they called that “acting out.”
Try to picture your people – wonderful people, lovely people – on one side of a street, with 11,900 cops in helmets and vests lined up against them on the other side of the street. Then comes the moment of truth, the jump-off point.
You know, I saw that moment once in Detroit. It was what history now calls the Livernois-Fenkell Riot in 1975. We can talk about the cause another time. The late Coleman Young, the city’s first black mayor, had been in office two years.
The rioting had already gone on for a couple nights. But on that one night, the one I remember so well, I look when I get there and there must be a thousand would-be rioters lined up on one side of a major boulevard, hungry for battle. Me and my photographer buddy Al Kamuda, two white guys, almost get clocked with pipes trying to walk through the crowd. We get the hell out of the crowd.
We go over to the other side of the street, which is solid cops. “Coleman,” as everyone in the city knows him, shows up and sizes up the situation. The cops have been using a bullhorn to warn people they are engaged in an illegal assembly or some other legalese nonsense. The people across the street are laughing.
Next thing I know, Coleman grabs the bullhorn. The cop is sort fighting him for it, but Coleman gets it away from him and starts climbing up with it onto the roof of a patrol car. The cops are trying to pull him down, but he’s not going to be stopped.
I forget his exact words. Basically, he tells the people across the street they know who he is. They do. He's Coleman. Coleman tells them to look at the cops. They do. There are cops as far as you can see. They look like the Soviet Army.
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Coleman tells them he’s going to count down or give them so many seconds, I can’t remember, and if they’re still there he’s going to tell the cops to go kick their asses. Then he tells them to get the hell out of there.
I have never seen so many people evaporate so fast in all my life. It's like there are a thousand people across the street, and you blink, and then there is nobody. It is so over, so quickly! Coleman gets back in the limo and goes home. It is amaaazing.
That’s a tough guy, Mr. T. He could sell it. You can’t.