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Friday, October 20, 2017

Did he say anything?

I had been interviewing a source, and I couldn’t take my cellphone out of my pocket every time it buzzed. So for 20 minutes, I was cut off from the outside world. I was cut off from him; I was cut off from my Trump fix.

No Twitter. No texts. No websites. No cable TV.

My palms were sweaty. My heart was pounding. Anything could have happened.

So I fired up my iPhone and checked Twitter.

The New York Times had the scoop: “Donald Trump Fires Corey Lewandowski, His Campaign Manager.”

Then there was this attack tweet from Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson: “Polls drop. Trump dumps mgr. S. Beckett: ‘There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.”

“S. Beckett” refers to Samuel Beckett, an Irish playwright and Nobel Prize winner who is currently dead. The quotation came from Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot,” which debuted in 1953. In it, people sit around and talk and talk while accomplishing virtually nothing.

The play is, in other words, a metaphor for modern presidential campaigning.

The Trump campaign said in a statement, “The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”

This is standard pol-speak for: “Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out, and if you try to steal any Sharpies, you will be arrested and beaten.”

The Politico story said a senior Trump aide faulted “Lewandowski for not getting along with the Republican National Committee and for Trump’s operation falling behind Hillary Clinton from an infrastructure perspective.” The story continued, “There was recognition, the aide said, that Lewandowski was no longer up to the job.”

In addition, there must have been a heck of a lot of Sharpies missing.

The story dominated cable news, with CNN reporting that Ivanka Trump, Donald’s eldest daughter, had a one-on-one meeting with her father over the weekend and demanded that Lewandowski be dumped.

Given the choice of picking a new campaign manager or picking a new eldest daughter, Trump went with Ivanka.

But getting rid of Lewandowski did serve one positive purpose. It changed the Trump “story of the day” — there always has to be at least one — away from a speech Trump gave in which he said, “Belgium is a beautiful city.”

It is not. And I don’t need some Irish Nobel laureate to tell me that. All I need is a map of Europe. Belgium is a country. Brussels, its capital, is a city. Both begin with the letter “B,” which is why Trump ran into trouble. He majored in screwing other people on bad deals, not geography.

So dumping Lewandowski, embarrassing as it was, gave the media something else to write about — like how embarrassing Trump’s running mate is going to be. Take Newt Gingrich. Please.

Rick Tyler, a former Ted Cruz spokesman who was fired in February for posting fake tweets and Facebook entries about Marco Rubio — are you following all this? — said recently: “I don’t know two other people who can command more media attention than Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump. … Keeping your enemies constantly on defense, constantly off balance, constantly explaining themselves — Newt knows how to do that.”

Newt also knows how to make news — for example, when he advocated building a permanent base on the moon by the end of his second presidential term, which would have been in 2021, and using the base for manned flights to Mars.

This is exactly the kind of vice president Trump needs. It would let him say, “I might be nuts, but Newt is bat-poo crazy. So don’t even dream of impeaching me.”

What Clinton needs to learn from all this is how to go on the offense against Trump. She has to be proactive instead of reactive. She has to make people say, “Did she say anything? Did I miss anything Hillary said?”

And there are signs she is beginning to get it. A few weeks ago, Clinton jumped all over Trump.

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different. They are dangerously incoherent,” Clinton said. “They’re not really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

Trump reacted with typical aplomb — which is to say he went into a series of bizarre rants.

“I have a strong temperament, and it’s a very good temperament, and it’s a very in-control temperament, or I wouldn’t have built this unbelievable company. I wouldn’t have built all of the things that I’ve been able to do in life,” he spluttered. “I mean, No. 1 best-sellers, one of the best-selling books of all time, tremendous television success. … Uh, television, ‘The Apprentice,’ which is, forget it. I mean, NBC came to me. They wanted to renew so badly you have no idea.”

Yes, we have no idea.

On Wednesday, Trump will fly to Scotland and then to Ireland to show off his golf courses there. He is scheduled to return to America on Saturday.

Which leaves us with one big question: Should we let him back in?

 

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski speaks with an unidentified aide after a demonstrator was detained at a rally at the Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio March 12, 2016. REUTERS/William Philpott 

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