The New York Post’s editorial board has picked its man in the Republican primary. And to the surprise of pretty much no one who has seen one of its front pages this campaign, that man is Donald J. Trump.
The GOP front-runner, the paper writes, “reflects the best of ‘New York values’—and offers the best hope for all Americans who rightly feel betrayed by the political class. He has the potential—the skills, the know-how, the values—to live up to his campaign slogan: to make America great again.”
Despite those kinds words, though, the News Corp.–owned paper can’t seem to find a single Trump policy it agrees with. The 500-odd-word endorsement refers specifically to only three positions the billionaire has staked out and rejects each one in turn. It warns that his suggestion that Japan and South Korea might need their own nuclear weapons to defend themselves is “not remotely a good idea,” calls his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border “far too simplistic a policy for a nation of immigrants,” and suggests that Trump’s anti-trade tirades fail to consider “that trade means cheaper goods for the less well-off, and challenge U.S. industries to improve.” The paper, meanwhile, doesn’t even bother to address the celebrity businessman’s proposal to bar most Muslims from stepping foot on American soil, or his belief that the U.S. military should resume torturing enemy combatants and begin targeting terrorists’ families abroad.
Instead, the editorial board shrugs off everything it doesn’t like about its preferred Republican candidate as the result of “rookie mistakes” from a man new to the world of politics and even suggests that Trump will transform into an incredibly un-Trump-like figure should he reach the general election:
Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot—not just on the issues, but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential: better informed on policy, more self-disciplined and less thin-skinned. … Trump’s language, too, has too often been amateurish, divisive—and downright coarse. But what else to expect from someone who’s never been a professional politician and reflects common-man passions? … In the general election, we’d expect Trump to stay true to his voters—while reaching out to those he hasn’t won yet.
To put it simply, that makes no sense. Even if we leave policy out of it—under the highly questionable premise that Trump’s base won’t mind in the slightest if he does an about-face after winning the GOP nomination—the Post is trying to have it both ways when it comes to Trump’s posture. On one hand, the paper credits it for his success (“his political incorrectness is one of his great attractions”) and then on that very same hand says it will need to change (“Trump’s language, too, has too often been amateurish, divisive—and downright coarse”). The paper is failing to realize—or simply ignoring—that the Venn diagram of what Trump’s fans love about him and what Trump’s critics loathe about him looks an awful lot like a single circle. In that way, I suppose, the editorial board is just like the candidate it is endorsing.
Trump has had a long, fruitful, and—until he moved from the gossip pages to the political ones—somewhat comical relationship with the tabloids in his hometown. As the New York Times recently pointed out, it was New York City’s “boisterous tabloid culture that spawned and nurtured the outsize Trump personality now known the world over.” (The most Trumpian anecdote from that piece: Trump, then a divorcé, used to call tabloid reporters at home and ask them to rate women—who he presumably was considering dating—on a scale of 1 to 10.)
While those newspapers—like their broadsheet brethren—don’t have the same power they once did, they continue to enjoy a largely symbiotic relationship with Trump now that he’s taken his show out on the road. The Post—like the New York Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—has largely cozied up to Trump with friendly headlines, at least one of which weighed in in Trump’s favor on the pressing dick-measuring contest that briefly dominated the GOP race last month. The Daily News, meanwhile, has found success with the opposite approach, often scoring viral hits with Trump-mocking front pages that paint the reality TV star as a clown or the antichrist. The divide between the two approaches was neatly illustrated by the two papers the morning after Sarah Palin endorsed Trump with a heavy dose of post-apocalyptic slam poetry. The Post featured a photo of the two with the headline, “The Lady and the Trump”; the Daily News—which, it should be noted, has been on fire during its sit-downs with 2016 candidates—went the “I’m With Stupid!” route.