Pinch yourself. Slap yourself. Go howl at the moon.
It’s not a dream. Donald J. Trump is in the White House.
Say what you will, but no other candidate in our nation’s history has overcome such daunting obstacles on his way to winning the presidency.
Never has a human personality seemed more ill-fitted for political campaigning — a bombastic, thin-skinned egomaniac, incapable of humility, grace, or introspection.
Hardly any journalists, myself included, thought he could pull it off. His quest seemed doomed by the weight of multiple character defects.
The surprise triumph of the Big Orange Trumpster is very much a story of hope. The message is simple: These days, anybody — absolutely anybody — can become president.
You don’t need facts. You don’t need experience. You just need a good act.
Many past candidates had been born into wealth, but almost always they’d made an effort at public service. Not Trump.
He bragged about being rich and getting richer. He bragged about his hotels and golf courses. He bragged about his cheesy beauty pageants and reality shows. He even bragged about his bankruptcies.
Any other candidate with such motley credentials would have been laughed off the stage way back in Iowa. Not Trump.
As a hot-button issue he chose immigration reform, characterizing Mexicans who illegally cross the border as rapists and criminals. The cruel slur offended many Hispanic voters throughout the country, and it could have been fatal to any other campaign.
Trump, unapologetic, marched on.
He publicly belittled Sen. John McCain for getting captured in Vietnam — an audacious insult from a man who’d ducked war duty by claiming “bone spurs” in his foot, an injury that didn’t keep him off the tennis courts while McCain was being beaten in a POW camp.
Again, any other candidate would have been repudiated for doubting the senator’s heroism. Not Trump.
After a disabled reporter asked a question Trump didn’t like, Trump made fun of him with savage mimicry. And after Megyn Kelly of Fox News asked a question he didn’t like, Trump retaliated with an interview suggesting she was menstruating.
Jeb Bush wouldn’t have gotten away with that. Nor would Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or any of the other men running for president.
True, they would never in a million years have said such a thing. No stable, half-sensible person would.
But that illustrates the magnitude of what Trump had to overcome — an almost uncontrollable impulse to spew (or tweet) the most offensive thoughts that popped into his twitchy brainpan.
Every time you thought he’d hit a new low, he’d go lower. Top Republicans abandoned him, and the imminent demise of his campaign was predicted on a weekly basis.
Name one other candidate who could have survived telling black Americans to vote for him because their schools and neighborhoods are so awful that they’ve got nothing to lose.
Name one other candidate who could have survived the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape, in which the recently married Trump boasted lewdly about groping women. He made Gary Hart look like a Franciscan monk.
Name one other candidate who could have proclaimed a man-crush on Vladimir Putin, and still swept the primaries.
No presidential contender has ever done more than Trump to damage his own image, and still won. No other candidate has so casually demeaned so many key voter segments, and still won.
What Trump accomplished was amazing. Evangelicals stampeded to cast their ballots for a self-proclaimed p—y grabber. Lots of women did, too.
This big-city billionaire who pays no income taxes somehow convinced rural working-class Americans that he felt their pain. Today some people still think there’s going to be a giant wall along our southern border, and that Mexico will pay for it.
I’m serious. They really believe this.
It’s a tribute to Trump’s stage skills. Never have American voters been inspired to overlook so many startling deficiencies in a presidential nominee. Even his own staff expected him to lose.
Although he fell almost 3 million votes short of Hillary Clinton, Trump won enough states to seat himself in the Oval Office. The fact that his popularity ratings are higher in Moscow than here at home shouldn’t diminish the significance of his electoral upset.
Imagine how many votes he might have gotten if he’d behaved like a grownup.
IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque