Donald Trump is OK with 'whining.' Is it his superpower?

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was extremely pro-whine during TV appearances Tuesday morning. His comments can be seen as a microcosm of his approach to politics in general.

John Minchillo/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first GOP presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena, in Cleveland, Aug. 6, 2015.

Is whining Donald Trump’s superpower? We ask that, only partly in jest, because Mr. Trump was extremely pro-whine during a blitz of morning news-show appearances Tuesday.

Oddly enough, foreign policy was the context. CNN host Chris Cuomo quoted critics to the effect that Trump, if sitting across from world leaders like Vladimir Putin, would whine and “become snippy with them” if they said something he didn’t like.

Trump agreed. “I am the most fabulous whiner,” he said, according to a Federal News Service transcript of the encounter. “I do whine because I want to win. And I’m not happy if I’m not winning.”

Mr. Cuomo went with this framework and asked whether whiners were, in fact, winners. Trump, warming to the subject, opined that they are.

“I’m a whiner, and I keep whining and whining until I win,” he said. “And I’m going to win for the country, and I’m going to make our country great again.”

Suddenly it all makes sense. The rise in the polls, the feud with Fox News personalities, the ability to say absolutely anything yet still get lengthy cable news interviews. It’s all due to Trump’s self-referential airing of grievances! These are entertaining and introduce an element of conflict into virtually all questions.

The media can’t look away. A certain percentage of voters then relate to his not-so-pent-up anger. Result: first place in polls of the split GOP field.

Trump’s reference to whining (next book: “Art of the Whinge”) in fact is a microcosm of his entire approach to politics, points out The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips.

If you’re part of the approximately 70 percent of American voters who think he’s a blot on US politics, you’re probably face-palming and saying something like, “Does he have no sense of shame?”

If you’re part of the 25 percent of voters who think he’s OK, you’re probably saying the same thing, only approvingly. “He has no sense of shame!” It’s just another way in which Trump expresses his contempt for the US political powers that be.

Trump is “a man who only seems to get stronger when he breaks conventional political rules,” Ms. Phillips writes.

Perhaps that’s how he can perform strongly in GOP polls while at the same time talking approvingly of single-payer health systems and saying he does not oppose abortions under any circumstance. Those positions are supposed to be heresies as far as Republican primary voters are concerned. Yet he appears unconcerned about their potential electoral impact.

In another revealing passage from his CNN appearance, Trump dismissed the concerns of friends and advisers who want him to focus on more substantive details.

“They want me to come up with a 10-point plan, a 14-point plan, a 20-point plan. It doesn’t necessarily work that way,” said Trump.

So far for The Donald at least, that’s true. And that’s why he’s a populist candidate, writes historian Walter Russell Mead, in the classic sense of the word.

Trump isn’t a man of the people. He doesn’t pretend to relate to the common voter. He doesn’t espouse class grievances or specific economic populist policies. But he’s making the establishment squirm, and for many folks, that’s fun to see.

“By flouting PC norms, reducing opponents and journalists to sputtering outrage as he trashes the conventions of political discourse, and dismissing his critics with airy put-downs, he is living the life that – at least some of the time – a lot of people wish they had either the courage or the resources to live,” writes Mr. Mead.

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