There used to be this restaurant in San Francisco called Sam Wo’s, a Chinese place constantly packed with both locals and tourists, not because the food was so great, though it was OK, but because it supposedly had the world’s rudest waiter, one Edsel Ford Fung, who’d insult your looks, manner, and menu choices as he took your order, if he deigned to do so at all. People couldn’t get enough of it, and the worse he behaved, the harder everyone laughed.
Mr. Fung, may he rest in peace, came to mind Tuesday night amid the political stylings of Donald Trump at the Maryland Republican Party’s annual Red, White & Blue fundraising dinner. Like the waiter who wouldn’t wait, Trump is a presidential hopeful who doesn’t, it seems, really hope to govern.
As he arrived at the dinner, held at the B.W.I. Marriott near the airport, three young men in shorts moved in to have their photos taken with him. “Make it fast,” he told each of them, posing for just a second and then moving on to the next. Only, he either didn’t notice that it was the same guys, over and over, or he did notice and didn’t care. When he strode past the lobby bar and threw a hand in the air in greeting, everybody grinned as big as if he’d called, “Drinks on me!” Then, during a V.I.P. reception photo line, one Marylander after another got to smile, shake hands, and tell him, “You’re fired!”
“That’s a good one,” he told one man. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that tonight.”
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In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, he was asked about the rioting in nearby Baltimore that followed the April death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose spine snapped while in police custody. (At the time, Trump had tweeted a series of degrading messages: “Our great African American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!” He also slammed the Baltimore cops, though not on Gray’s behalf: “Now that the ineffective Baltimore Police have allowed the city to be destroyed, are the U.S. taxpayers expected to rebuild it (again)?”)
So what would he do as president to address the city’s problems? He’d bring back manufacturing, he said, and blamed President Barack Obama for failing to do that and more:
“Baltimore is a very, very special case, and it’s a very sad thing that’s happening there. And I know Baltimore … and I love Baltimore, and I love what it represents, and where it’s gone, and now you look at what happened in one night, just in one night. I mean, other nights were a disaster but one night was catastrophic for Baltimore. You have to create spirit, you have to create jobs, you have to get people working, they have to want to work. And the other thing is, when President Obama got elected, I said look, one thing he’s going to be a cheerleader for the country … and in actuality, he’s just the opposite. And if you look at black and African-you just take a look-and if you look at black and African-American youth, I mean to a point where they’ve just about never done more poorly; there’s no spirit, there’s killings on an hourly basis, virtually, in places like Baltimore and Chicago, certain sections of Chicago, and many other places … Baltimore needs jobs, and it needs spirit. It’s got no spirit, none.”
Then, he had dinner – chicken, rice, and green beans – and told the audience that “all due respect,” he hadn’t really wanted to come, but had done so as a favor. That didn’t keep him from speaking for 52 minutes – a State of the Union-length talk, but not so much a political speech as a score-settling march through a list of those against whom he has grievances, including Neil Young, Karl Rove, Cher, Chuck Todd, someone with the Club for Growth whose name he can’t remember – “David something; I’m falling asleep and he’s talking about growth.” He accused former George W. Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino of sucking up to him to get him to tweet something favorable about her book, then turning on him on Fox News: “And her book did OK. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly ‘Gone With the Wind.’” But then, what is?
His recent comments about Mexico were actually far more favorable than reported, he said: “I love Mexico. I love the Mexican people, but I said we need a strong border. We need a wall.” Here’s why: “So I’m at a wedding at one of my clubs, and I always try to go by and say what a beautiful bride, and they’re happy as they pay me $600 or $700 a head, and after about two minutes I’m bored stiff, and I met two border guards, and I said, ‘What border? We have a border?’” And what they told him, he said, is that the people crossing the border, not just from Mexico, aren’t people we want here. “They said, ‘They’re killers, they’re rapists, they’re drug dealers.’” Yet somehow, he said, the part about how much he loves Mexico never gets quoted: “I said I love Mexico, and they said I don’t love Mexico.”
He also, he said, had a love-hate reaction to a new Suffolk University poll that has him running second, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in New Hampshire: “And I can’t believe Bush is in first place. This guy can’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag. So, I’m in second place to Bush. I hate it!”
After his remarks, some Republicans left not just laughing but thinking of voting for him. “He’s had his ups and downs and bankruptcies,” said Realtor Gloria Farrar, “but he knows how to make things work.” Her friend Francine Speaker mostly “found him amusing,” she said. But “a non-politician politician might be fun for once.”
Melinda Henneberger writes for Bloomberg Politics.