Donald Trump is a man who incites strong, contradictory opinions. One thing we should be able to agree on – he is not subtle.
This is evident in his Twitter feuds. After her measured criticism of him, he announced that Meryl Streep is “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood”. Streep is an actress who pretty much everyone seems to rate – Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice and so on. Even 2015 Trump admired her, choosing her second after Julia Roberts when asked to name the actresses he admired. The smart line of attack would be to admit she’s a good actress, but undermine her political expertise, maybe paint her as a ‘Hollywood liberal’. This is what pretty much every Trump supporter who we’ve seen react to Streep has done – none of his supporters are as unsubtle as the man himself. In Trump’s mind, it appears, a person being bad means that they are bad at everything.
His attack on John Lewis, an icon of the Civil Rights movement was similar. It’d be easy to praise his work fighting for African-American rights, point out that there’s no rock-solid evidence of Russian interference and that it’s very different from Lewis’ field of expertise, and come off looking the bigger man. Instead, Lewis is Trump’s enemy, so everything about him must be bad. The President Elect tweeted that Lewis represents a “district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart”, and is “all talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!” Lewis played a major part in organising the 1963 March on Washington, and had his skull cracked during a 1965 protest. Maybe Trump has higher standards, but to us that’s a pretty strong definition of ‘results’ and ‘action’.
Probably the most extreme example of this inability to see shades of grey was his criticism of John McCain (“I like people who weren’t captured.”) It wouldn’t take that much for him to claim to admire McCain’s service while disagreeing with his politics, but this was apparently beyond Trump.
He likes to put his name in huge letters on the things he owns, which has included at least 3 towers, a group of casinos, a fleet of planes, his own private jet, a ‘university’ and several golf courses. This would be fine, possibly even a character quirk, but it seems that his only approach to life is to instinctively go big.
His political opinions have been the same – going big and dramatic, skipping over important details. He’s argued that the American President was born abroad, without any supporting evidence. He’s promised to build a wall with Mexico, which Mexico will pay for, without saying how he’ll convince Mexico to go along with this. At one point he supported waterboarding, despite evidence that it does more harm than good. He has said that under him America will “start winning again” at “every level” so much that “you may even get tired of winning”. Without detailing in precise, measurable terms what ‘winning’ looks like. On Brexit he’s said that the UK was “so smart in getting out”, without explaining why he believes the UK will thrive outside the European Union or whether he believes the UK should try to remain in the European Economic Area. His response to being asked about his plans to replace the Affordable Care Act is impossible to parody – “We’re going to have great plans. They’re going to be much less expensive and they’re going to be much better because the Obama plan is unaffordable and it’s a disaster.”
It’s easy to see why Trump is popular – Gregory House, Tony Stark and Sherlock Holmes became pop-culture icons because of their sarcastic superiority. The difference is that those characters, between one-liners, show evidence of a deep and subtle understanding of the world and all of its nuances. As far as we’re aware, Donald Trump never has.