February 22nd, 2024


Did Trump ditch his campaign manager to appease evangelical Christians?

Kathleen Parker

By Kathleen Parker

Published June 22, 2016

If you turned on cable TV news Monday, chances are good that you caught Corey Lewandowski fibbing that he doesn't have a clue why Donald Trump fired him as his campaign manager.

Of course he knows.

In a series of interviews on several shows, Lewandowski dodged every question, including from CNN's Dana Bash on whether Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband had anything to do with his dismissal.

Tensions among them were well-known to campaign followers, but Lewandowski shrugged off such concerns as typical of all campaigns.

No doubt. But Lewandowski was a special case — he looked and acted more like a bodyguard or bouncer than a campaign manager.

At one Trump event, he was accused of assaulting a female reporter. On Monday night, however, there was no evidence of the tough guy. Rather, Lewandowski portrayed a humble, thoughtful, soft-spoken, gee-whiz guy who only wants to do the right thing for his country and get Trump elected.

Naturally, people wondered: How big is his golden parachute? And speculators wagered: He must have signed a confidentiality agreement. This is highly probable.

Usually, when high-profile employees are escorted from the building, as Lewandowski was, they tend to leave with two things: a check and a promise never to speak ill of the company.

And Trump is the company.

There's no disagreement that Lewandowski had become a liability. His brash style, which reflected that of his employer, rubbed many the wrong way. Moreover, Trump's campaign is in dire straits. His poll numbers are slipping and are below any candidate's, Democrat or Republican, in the past three election cycles.

Adding to his travails, Trump's campaign cupboard is relatively bare, with just $1.3 million compared with Hillary Clinton's $42 million. Something had to change, and somebody had to take the fall.

Or so the obvious theories have gone.

Another plausible theory is far more cynical and seems more Trumpian. It wasn't money or campaign discord — at least not exclusively — that got Lewandowski the boot. He was fired as a sacrifice to one of the few constituencies Trump hasn't thus far insulted directly, and one he desperately needs: evangelical Christians.

Could it be mere coincidence that just one day later — on Tuesday — Trump was scheduled to meet in New York with a congregation of about 900 Christian leaders to sort things out in advance of likely endorsements? That's a rhetorical question.

Those gathered wanted to know more about the "real" Trump, to find a way to support him despite his un-Christian behaviors and attitudes. And Trump's purpose was to assure them that he's really a good guy who loves the Lord, "believe me," and just wants to make America great again.

The meeting was closed to media, especially The Washington Post, which Trump has banished from all events. It seems he doesn't like the way the paper is covering him. Richard Nixon felt the same way.

But one imagines that his metamorphosis mirrors Lewandowski's. Remember Lewandowski, the humble, soft-spoken, gee-whiz-I-just-love-my-country fellow? Just add "and-Jesus" after "country" and you'll have a fair idea of how a new, improved Trump might appear. Not so much presidential as born-again.

This is how I imagine Trump's handling of the meeting: "Look, I never meant any of those things I said, not really. Sure, we need to secure our borders and be smarter about immigration, but this doesn't mean I dislike Mexicans or think they're rapists, even though, I assume, some of them are.

"I just get carried away sometimes because I'm so passionate about making this country great again. G0D willing. Plus, to be perfectly honest, I was getting some really bad advice from my campaign manager and that's why I had to let him go."

Bada bing.

Lewandowski, not Trump, was the problem all along, you see. He told Trump to act like a raging misogynistic xenophobic racist. Cleansed of Lewandowski's influence, he's liberated to be his presidential self. And, in this new light, the evangelical community can justify supporting this unlikely bearer of civilization's torch. Christians love the penitent sinner who has sought forgiveness and been reborn.

Not all will buy Trump's reinvention, no matter what sort of incantations transpired Tuesday. Indeed, just across town on the same evening, another group of faith leaders gathered for dinner with members of Better for America, a new organization aimed at finding and funding an alternative to Trump and Clinton.

Barring divine intervention, they're probably too late. Then again, miracles can happen. A penitent, born-again Trump would certainly be one.

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Kathleen Parker won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Now one of America's most popular opinion columnists, she's appeared in JWR since 1999.