Top of the Ticket Political commentary from David Horsey

Pugnacious Trump should be in a wrestling ring, not the White House

Donald Trump missed his calling. He should have had a career in professional wrestling. The macho theatrics, loud boasts, crude threats and puerile insults that are the mainstay of the silly sport are his specialty.

Instead, he is president of the United States (or, at least, he plays a president on TV), but that has not stopped him from acting like a doughy caricature of Hulk Hogan or Stone Cold Steve Austin.

This week, the pugilistic president picked a fight with the National Football League. He told a campaign audience in Alabama that any NFL football player who engages in a silent protest by kneeling during the pre-game performance of the national anthem is a “son-of-a-bitch” who should be run out of the league. He followed up those comments with a series of tweets that continued his attack. One of the most recent said, “Tremendous backlash against the NFL and its players for disrespect of our country.”

Actually, polls indicate that a majority of Americans support the free speech rights of players. And the NFL is hardly intimidated by Trump’s taunts. In defiance of the president, every team playing on Sunday took part in demonstrations of solidarity, from linking arms to staying in the locker room during the anthem. They had the backing of coaches, many owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

When he wasn’t maligning football players, Trump was tearing into his fellow Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the chief recipient of the slams. The president called McConnell “weak” for his inability to repeal Obamacare — this from a man who has repeatedly displayed almost complete ignorance of the details of healthcare legislation and no ability to round up votes. Privately, it is reported, Trump has been making fun of McConnell and Arizona Sen. John McCain by mimicking their physical traits. That is such a crass thing to do, especially in the case of McCain whose physical limitations resulted from five years of torture in the Hanoi Hilton

Like any street corner bully, Trump is always looking for weaknesses in his opponents, but on Wednesday he revealed a weakness of his own. The tweeter-in-chief removed the tweets he sent out endorsing Alabama Sen. Luther Strange after Strange was trounced in Tuesday’s special election by a right wing zealot, Judge Roy Moore. Apparently he was trying to erase reminders that his endorsement of Strange was as ineffectual as his huffing and puffing about the NFL.

Trump is desperate to sustain the tough-guy image he has tried to project since he was pushing other kids around in military school. Unfortunately, he is a weak man’s idea of a strong man. In a silly spat with pro football players, that is of no consequence. In a fight with his own party leaders, he only undercuts himself. But, when he took his alpha male act to the United Nations last week, he embarrassed his country and edged closer to war with North Korea.

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," Trump said. "Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

This passage in the UN speech prompted a response from the rocket man, himself, North Korea’s loony leader, Kim Jong Un. He called Trump “a frightened dog” and promised to “tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” (Dotard, by the way, means senile old man — can’t wait for Trump to fling that one at McConnell and McCain!)

Trump responded by tweeting that Kim “will be tested like never before,” which was rather restrained, compared to past comments that threatened “a major, major conflict” and “fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Apparently, Trump has never heard Theodore Roosevelt’s admonition to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Trump loves to speak as loudly and belligerently as possible and he cannot shut up long enough to consider the consequences. While that may be entertaining in a wrestling ring, it is wildly irresponsible in a confrontation where hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives could be sacrificed if an impulsive war of words turns into a real war of missiles.

David.Horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter

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