Opinion » Viewpoint

Addicted to Trump

His genius is in keeping us interested and outraged — day after day.


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Paris — I awake to brilliant sunshine. It is a glorious day here on the Left Bank, a short walk from the storied cafe Les Deux Magots, where I'm told Hemingway has preceded me.

What shall I do today? There is a wonderful exhibition of Picasso sculptures at the Picasso Museum and one of contemporary Chinese art at the Louis Vuitton Foundation and, right downstairs, a beckoning breakfast of succulent croissants and butter and coffee made just as I like it.

Oui, oui, so Parisian, but all that must wait. I fire up my laptop. I wonder what Donald Trump has been up to? Ah, he has questioned Hillary Clinton's mental health. This is a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black — n'est-ce pas? — but it is precisely what I need in the morning, my Trump fix.

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With a sinking feeling, I have come to a horrible conclusion: I am addicted to Donald Trump. Wherever I am in the world, I awake to news about Trump. What has he said while I was asleep? What will he say as the day goes on? I travel with a laptop, an iPad, a smartphone. I am constantly checking on Trump, running up huge bills for data or whatever, consuming gigabytes (whatever they are) that will bust me in the long run. I will squander my fortune, leave nothing for my son and some worthy charities, all because of this addiction. I need a 10-step program, maybe even 12 steps.

I stop. I walk a bit to the cafe and then stop and check my phone: What has he done now? You have to admit that Trump is endlessly creative. He has insulted the disabled, the dead, the parents of the dead, women, Mexicans, Muslims, Asians, African Americans, former POWs, the media, and, to get just a bit more specific, my employer, The Washington Post.

And then he says he did not say what you just heard him say. This is a version of the old Chico Marx line: "Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" Or he says he was just joking. Or being sarcastic. He is an immense word flow, a human mudslide that comes at you, engulfs you, moves on, and then insists it didn't happen. When cornered, he commits intellectual bankruptcy: Wipe the slate clean.

What's next? Now that it seems that Trump will lose and Clinton, as a result, will win, I have come to appreciate him for his entertainment value. To tell you the truth, I was not looking forward to yet another presidential campaign in which nothing extemporaneous ever happened.

Imagine Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton! Where's the remote?

I long ago tired of politicians who never say anything, adhere to their talking points, and avoid all controversy. They employ the word "frankly," which is a "tell" that a lie is coming. "Frankly, I don't look at the polls. The only poll that matters, frankly, is the one they hold on Election Day." They frequently avoid answering a question by invoking "the American people" — as in, "I don't think the American people care that I lied about going to college."

Frankly, they do. But never mind. It has become commonplace to call Trump a reality TV star. That is said as an aspersion, the way Ronald Reagan was called an actor. But Reagan's acting experience, his ability to talk to the camera and not yell to the hall, is what helped make him such a good politician.

It is the same with Trump. Just as every installment of a reality television show must have conflict, so does almost every one of his campaign days produce a shocking moment. His genius is being able to keep them coming. So I obsessively pay attention. I know that I can turn my back on Clinton and not miss anything much. She will stick to the script, talk the talking points, and maybe make a misstep or two, but they are nothing compared with what Trump is likely to say on even a slow day. I am hooked.

It is a lovely day in Paris. I am with the woman I love, and we are sitting in our favorite cafe for breakfast. I have a croissant and coffee, but the tension is building. Suddenly, my phone twitches with news. Did Trump really just call Clinton "Hillary Rotten Clinton"?

Yes. I am at peace.

Richard Cohen writes for the Washington Post Writers Group.

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