If the New York Times is to be believed — and it very often is — Donald Trump’s campaign for president is built entirely around instincts and grievances of an unpredictable candidate. Trump does not depend on people who ponder events. He shoots his mouth off.
Last Sunday he refused to take anything back that he said about Senator John McCain; in particular, his assertion that McCain is “not a war hero” because he was captured. Instead of apologizing, Trump said his speech was warmly received, touching off “the biggest standing ovation” of the day in Iowa.
He backed off somewhat on Monday in an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. He said he respected McCain, adding, “Certainly if there was misunderstanding, I would totally take that back.”
Veteran groups were perplexed. Paul Rieckhoff, of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Times, “Donald Trump is not a leader in veterans philanthropy, unless he’d donated a lot of money that nobody knows about.”
It is too early to say whether Trump hurt his standing in public opinion surveys with his remarks about McCain. But recent opinion polls put Trump among the top-rated Republican candidates.
Trump is campaigning part-time and spending little on planning or organization. But he has an undeniable talent for attracting attention. He may not want to be president anymore than most of us. But he surely wants that attention.
“I have a pulse to the ground,” he told the Times. “I think I know what’s wrong with the country, and I think I’ve been able to portray that in a way that people agree with.”
It’s too early to predict anything in the presidential election of 2016. But I’m not putting any money on Donald Trump.