All Trumped up: tales from the American campaign trail

I’m in a roomful of media waiting for a press conference in Hampton, New Hampshire. The date is Aug. 14, 2015.

I’m in a roomful of media waiting for a press conference in Hampton, New Hampshire. The date is Aug. 14, 2015. My birthday a week later has come early. I’m freelancing for an American political commentary website after a stint running a paper in Ontario, and it’s brought me to the Granite state. Tough-looking security guards appear speaking into hand-mics just like in the movies, followed by loud cheers from the hallway outside.

A tall man with a halo of golden hair prances in.

“Wow, great crowd, great crowd,” intones Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump about his fans in the hallway as he steps to the press conference podium and slams the Bush family, Hillary Clinton, the mayor of Boston, ALS ice bucket challenges, his Republican opponents, free trade, the Iraq war and a number of other policies, politicians and public figures.

It’s a long way from the Cowichan Valley, where I grew up.

The reporter next to me from Paris Match draws Trump’s disapproval as his extravagant musical phone ringtone sounds off several times (“You OK over there!? You done yet?” Trump asks sarcastically). I sense the chance to ask a question and come up with something about Trump’s opinion on the Democratic contest. He easily runs with it to castigate Clinton for her classified e-mail scandal.

In person Trump is much more serious and poised than comes across onscreen. He seems ultra-focused on his messaging and repeating key phrases to dodge and emphasize.

He doesn’t appear to be enjoying himself so much as obsessed with winning (so much so that he overcame his dislike of shaking hands to run for president). During the ebola outbreak in 2014 Trump had speculated that one potential positive was nobody would shake hands anymore, but this hope did not come to pass, so grinning supporters still hold out hands and Trump still shakes them and poses for selfies.

There’s a price to pay to get your paws on the presidency.

Hands and fingers more recently have become a much larger (or smaller?) hot-button issue in the Republican race, but the topic of how the future of the free world came down to mockery of hand and finger size and palming off middle school insults to crowds in Palm Beach is another matter altogether.

I’d been covering rallies in New Hampshire for a few weeks, everyone from Marco Rubio to Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders to Clinton, but the energy in the Trump auditorium was on another level.

The Trump speech facility was also in top shape, whereas the campaign trail is often less glamorous than people envision. Ultra-rich former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, for example, had to walk up sagging steps into an old Veterans of Foreign Wars hall (equivalent of the Canadian Legion) and speak beside a glass Budweiser lampshade over the pool table, and Paul shared speaking room with a row of dormant exercise bikes and weight racks as he spoke at a community centre (with a chainsaw on top of stacks of paper representing the federal tax code behind him).

At the Trump speech, people of all ages shouted loud support, holding up flags and pumping their fists, sort of like the atmosphere of a wrestling match on steroids. The crowd was constantly rising for standing ovations as Trump slammed the mainstream left and right wings for failing working Americans, presenting bad education policy and supporting unnecessary foreign wars. Trump, of course, claimed he would make things better: In fact, so much better that people would get “tired of winning.”

“You hear that sucking sound!? You know what that sucking sound is!?” he bellowed to the audience.

“Jobs!” shouted several people in the crowd.

“That means jobs. That means money,” Trump agreed.

He went on to promise “so many victories” and avowed perfection of everything from health care to foreign policy, plus a strong crackdown on illegal immigration.

“You don’t want a politically correct president!” he said, as the crowd of around 1,000 rose to its feet with deafening cheers. His standard denunciation of the media was met with howls of approval.

Since then Trump has gone further than political incorrectness, advocating war crimes (numerous other presidents and leaders have actually done and ordered them, so it’s a saying versus doing thing), a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, playing off suspicion of refugees, retweeting white supremacists online, mocking disabled reporters and steadily eliminating opponent after opponent as he drills down on their perceived or actual policy weaknesses and personal insecurities.

Now poised to become the Republican nominee, Trump supporters are ready for the greatest reality show on earth, while opponents are scrambling to support an alternative among a flawed field of Republican candidates (someone who doesn’t want to “carpet bomb” or start World War III would be a good start) and Democrats continue to split along supporting the ethically challenged Clinton or socialist Sanders.

In any case, I can always say I was there when this whole political volcano erupted. Plus, when people ask why my hair is so good I’ll have an easily flowing answer: My hair isn’t having a bad hair day, it’s in a comb-a.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but it’s safe to say that worldwide and south of the border the winds of change are blowing at gale force enough to disrupt even Trump’s hair. Business-as-usual has been fired.

Paul Brian is a journalist from the Cowichan Valley who has been working as a travelling freelancer. He is currently calling the Citizen home.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP detachments across B.C. are now flying Pride flags. (Submitted photo)
New Pride flag outside Cowichan RCMP detachment demonstrates commitment to inclusion

Pride flag flying outside North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment

NIFA’s Danni Dawson moves the ball past centre during last Sunday’s match against Gorge at Shawnigan Lake School. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
NIFA Pacific opens Div. 3 season

Debut match for new soccer club a loss to Gorge

Kerry Park Islanders players celebrate a goal in a game earlier this season. (Citizen file)
Three-goal first propels Kerry Park Islanders to win over Wolves

Monteith makes 40-plus saves for second straight game

Pilot Kevin Maher participated in a flyover of a ceremony at the Cobble Hill cenotaph on Oct. 22 in a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cobble Hill remembers lost military members with ceremony, flyover

Annual event commemorates those who died in non-combat roles

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Most Read