I have been on my own roller-coaster of reactions to the Trump candidacy, as The Donald (his NYC nickname for many years) gyrates and gesticulates with characteristic bombast.
Like many people, I have found his outspoken and off-script comments to be a breath of fresh air after suffering through several decades of presidents and presidential candidates who tailor(ed) their every syllable to be in alignment with whatever their pollster-gurus were/are advising them.
But also like many people, I have been put off by many of his incendiary comments, particularly his personal attacks on various people (including many fellow Republicans) who provoked him in one way or another.
As his knee-jerk retaliations continue to pile up, it occurred to me that Donald Trump may be in danger of being too much like Sonny Corleone from the Godfather.
If you don’t remember the movie and this particular character (played brilliantly by James Caan), let me refresh your memory and my point will become quite obvious.
The Godfather, played by Marlon Brando, had three sons, and each one had a particular personality that informed the narrative arc in the movie: Michael (Al Pacino) was the favorite son and had a blend of smarts, naiveté, and earnest loyalty; Fredo (John Cazale) was the runt and had an obvious array of vulnerabilities; and Sonny (James Caan) was the hothead who was powerful and impulsive.
Sonny’s Downfall, or why a short fuse can lead to ruin
What worries me about Donald Trump’s tendency to fly into a rage of retaliation at the slightest provocation is that enemies (of which the world is chock full) can too easily gain the upper hand with such people, and Sonny’s fate in the movie is perhaps the most classic fictional depiction of this idea in action.
The synopsis is this (spoiler alert, though if you have never seen the Godfather, then something is wrong with you!!): members of a rival crime family plot to kill Sonny by staging a provocation — Sonny’s sister’s husband slaps her around to the point where she calls him in tears and anguish — that lures Sonny (in a rage) into his car and through a toll booth, at which he is machine-gunned to death.
The plot worked because every ounce of Sonny’s reaction and behavior was predictable: his rage, his immediate recourse (get in the car to speed to the rescue), and his route, and he delivered himself easily into the hands of his enemies.
The list of Trump’s knee-jerk (and then escalating) retaliations is long and the style and content of them reveal a loss of control that reminds me of Sonny to some degree.
Senator John McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “crazies”, and so Trump quickly declared that McCain is “not a war hero” and then later called him a “dummy” as the “feud” escalated. Similarly, Trump’s “feud” with Megyn Kelly of Fox News began with a string of insults that gained, not lost, steam.
Seeing Trump allowing himself to get hooked on these “feuds” is disheartening, to say the least. People fault Trump for taking controversial political views, such as building a wall along the southern border, but it is his demeanor in these petty spats with all manner of people that make me feel his is unfit for the office of the presidency.
Then again, Barack Obama has so sullied the office of the presidency there can be no further damage done to it.
In any event, Mr. Trump, listen to me now and believe me later: be less like Sonny Corleone and more like Michael, and you just might win the nomination and then the presidency. Check out this bit of news after Thanksgiving — the guy’s a contender for sure (Daily Caller, link):