Confidence is America's favorite perfume, and Donald Trump wears buckets of the stuff. If Trump survived a plane crash in the Alps, he'd be the guy who'd step forward and say "we're going this way," and your choices would be to leave the group or try to hit him over the head with a stick.
Yesterday, Lindsey Graham—a military hawk who has been in the Air Force for 33 years—tried to hit Trump over the head with a stick by calling him a jackass. In response, Trump doxxed him. About an hour ago, during a televised event in South Carolina, Trump read Graham's private cell phone number to the crowd, called him, and then got Graham's voicemail. It's at the 2:07 mark.
That's next-level trolling. That's Alpha-trolling. I mean, right now there is new video of Rand Paul burning and wood-chipping and chainsawing the tax code. Three years ago that would have been seen by some as a transparent plea for attention and by others as a show of alpha badassery. Today, nobody cares because Trump is a walking blowtorch chainsaw wood chipper. Do you even lift, Paul?
Last night Bill O'Reilly brought Trump onto "the Factor" to show Trump that nobody's more Alpha than Papa. O'Reilly framed the discussion as an opportunity for Trump to apologize to America for (1) saying that John McCain wasn't a war hero, and (2) denying that he called John McCain anything less than a war hero. Trump wouldn't do it.
If he did apologize, that would mean O'Reilly was somehow bigger and better and more right than Trump, but how could that be true? Even after O'Reilly admitted that he's buddies with Trump (and that, by extension, he's trying to use his influence over the minds of millions of Americans in order to save Trump's ass in the polls) still Trump maintained that he didn't need to apologize. Trump said that McCain was a war hero more times than he said McCain wasn't a war hero: What doesn't O'Reilly get about that math?
And, from his perspective—and the perspective of an American culture that values money and equates it with accomplishment—Trump is right. Apologizing would be akin to admitting failure, and Trump doesn't fail. How could anyone that wealthy have ever failed? Apologizing would mean that Trump exists in a shared reality with other humans. Apologizing would deflate the tension that would kill mere mortals like you or me or other politicians who are beholden to a standard—however low—of respectability. Trump is beyond. All he has to do to stay relevant and participate in the upcoming debates is get in the news and stay there. Not hard to do when you're a 6' 3" rooster who builds golden hotels.
The wonks over at fivethirtyeight keep scratching their heads and wondering why Trump doesn't seem subject to the "discovery, scrutiny, and decline" model that described the course of Herman Cain's and Newt Gingrich's candidacies. What they fail to account for in their fancy graphs is Trump's beyondness. Even Cain and Gingrich played by the rules of the political sandbox. Trump is playing by a different set of rules. He's playing by the rules of the reality TV show, of the pageant. He's seeing the primary campaign as the shallow spectacle that it is, and nobody knows how to put on a shallow spectacle more than the Donald.