Donald Trump, live

`By Mike Eldon

It was 166 days to the American election and my daughter, her friend and I drove from Los Angeles to Anaheim, the town that hosts California’s Disneyland. Our destination, however, was the adjacent Anaheim Convention Centre, where Donald Trump was to hold a rally. For me the opportunity to see this awful fellow up close and live was too good to miss, and happily I was able to persuade my Clinton-supporting companions that they too should grab the opportunity to study “the other”.

From the heavy police presence, including on horseback, it was clear that plenty of demonstrators would be on parade, and soon they were alongside us, not unreasonably imagining that as we were headed to the rally we had to be Trump supporters. “Hitler wanted to make Germany great again!” screamed one agitated American flag-waving man at us, little realising we were just curious onlookers.

On the way from the car park we came across vendors selling Trump memorabilia, and also protestors with banners, including one that read “Make Your Hair Great Again” and another asking: “A Bully, Vulgar, 3 X Married, 4 X Bankrupt: Role Model for Your Children?”

As we entered the vast auditorium Trump was of course being introduced as “The Next President of the United States”. We found seats at the side of the vast auditorium, with a good view over the scene from The Donald himself to the media platform to the thousands of his adoring supporters.

“This is a lovefest, packed, packed,” opened our man, and quickly got going on his winning streak. “There were seventeen of us. Then one dropped out, and another, then six, seven, eight. Now it’s just me and Hillary, Crooked Hillary, crooked as they come. Or I could be running against Crazy Bernie. OK, I like crazy people. But he says the system is rigged against him…”

At this point a protester started agitating, so Trump called on the security people not to hurt him, even though he was “a bad person”. “I say that for the television cameras,” he added, and then: “Is there any place to be other than at a Trump rally? I love doing this. It’s never happened before, making such an impact. I knocked ’em all out. They put out 60,000 ads, all negative, all false – well, some with a little truth. I was hit by everyone. In Florida I had a landslide though. In New Hampshire. In South Carolina – not Trump territory. The Evangelicals are strong there, and the army. I love the Evangelicals, and I love the army. In New York there was a cry of “Latinos for Trump”. I love that. Believe me. You all have houses and jobs, and you don’t want them to be taken away by folks coming across the border. I’ll create jobs, so I’ll do well with the Hispanics. I do that easily, naturally, creating jobs. And the African-Americans will be among the great beneficiaries. They’re being treated very unfairly – 59% of them are unemployed. We’re gonna have a lotta good things in this country.”

Suddenly the showman referred to his famous hair. “Yes it’s my hair. Love it or hate it, it’s my hair.” Then straight back to his run of wins. “In New York I won 62% of the vote, even though some of the pundits said I couldn’t. Such dishonest people; they’re the most dishonest. We just go and we win and we keep on winning.”

Next he had a good go at Hillary. “Such bad judgement, horribly bad – even crazy Bernie said so – in Iraq, in Libya. If she wins, you better get ready, you’ll have four more years like Obama, and you can’t take that. She talked about what would happen at four in the morning. But when Benghazi happened she was asleep. Asleep! They couldn’t wake her up. She was just sleeping. But me I don’t sleep much.”

Having slated his likely opponent, he turned to his famous wall. To great cheers he told the faithful, “We’re gonna have the wall.” “Build that wall,” they chanted, “Build that wall.” He then described how he’s been speaking to the border patrol people. “They’re great people, they know more about the border than anyone else. I love those people. And they’ve endorsed me, 16,000 of them. These agents have never endorsed anyone before. And they tell me the wall is very important, the most important tool. It’s absolutely vital.”

“Build that wall.” Again, repeated, with claps. Trump joined in, with the chant and with the clap. Yes, he was really enjoying himself, and so was everyone else. Except the three of us. “Who is going to pay for the wall? The Mexicans! By the way, the Mexican people are great. I love the Mexican people. I love them. We want to have people come into the country. But they must come in legally.”

After 45 minutes we’d had enough of this Trumpery and walked away, reflecting on what it all added up to. Well, mainly no surprises, just reinforcement of the disgust we had always felt for this vulgar, ill-behaved man and the disappointment that millions of Americans support his arrogant, divisive views and his obnoxious style, ignoring – actually loving – the way he is indifferent to facts; sneers at, mocks and insults anyone with whom he disagrees; and boasts of how smart and successful he is in an endless trail of loosely connected sound-bites.

Much of his time was spent persuading us that his winning streak is unstoppable, so surely we should be part of his success, a scenario that looks increasingly possible, as his bombast and bluster find no match in his serious, policy-wonk opponent Hillary Clinton. She’s struggling, not only against him but also against her Democratic opponent Sanders. The media love it all, analyse everything to death, update their predictions each day, in this most unprecedented and unpredictable of battles – which still has five wretched months to run.

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