Donald Trump’s America is no place for weaklings.
Impotent lawmakers, chokers and politicians who hug and kiss are out; real men – tough, mean and nasty – will be in if the real estate mogul takes the Oval Office.
That’s the picture of the brash new nation that Trump promises in the machismo-laden speeches on which he’s building his unorthodox campaign.
So far, The Donald’s bullish image is the key to his appeal among voters who are sick of the evasions of conventional politicians and who lap up his barked vows to bulldoze political correctness and get something done.
In the long run, the fate of Trump’s stunning poll-topping presidential campaign could rest on whether a broader swath of Americans tire of the constant braggadocio and deem it unfitting in a future commander-in-chief.
The billionaire businessman is warning that times are so tough for America, that they require tough leaders to cope.
“I think we have had very weak people. I think we have very weak people even running. I am not saying they are not good people (but) I think it is time to have tough, smart people,” Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt on his show on Wednesday.
“If you look at China, if you look at some of these countries that are eating our lunch, they have tough, smart people. It’s time that we have tough, smart people.”
But Trump also pledged that if elected he would not grasp for more power than the presidency commands and become an authoritarian leader and said he would abide by the Constitution.
“I do play by the rules. I will play by the rules, too.”
Trump has previously said he will “tone it down” if elected president, but there was no sign of that in recent days, as he insulted Mexicans, waged war with Fox News over star anchor Megyn Kelly and kicked Univision journalist Jorge Ramos out of a press conference.
It’s a testosterone-fueled performance that has left his rivals gasping for media coverage and turned the 2016 election into a rolling reality show. No one can be sure exactly what will come out of Trump’s mouth on live TV.
Being tough is not unusual in presidential campaigns: It’s required, for instance, for presidential nominees to show they have the steel to be commander-in-chief.
But Trump takes political bravado to a whole new level, branding himself as a human battering ram who will smash through Washington gridlock and conventions.
And one thing he cannot bear is “weakness.”
He’s baffled that Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders let a campaign event be hijacked by African-American activists.
“That showed such weakness,” Trump declared in a press conference in Michigan.
Republican foe Jeb Bush doesn’t match up either in the eyes of Trump, who paints the former Florida governor as a “low energy” scion of the political elite.
“He had a very small crowd, and very little enthusiasm,” Trump said recently of Bush, and slammed his rival’s 2014 comment that illegal migrants come to the United States in an “act of love” to better their family’s life.
“No act of love. It’s tough stuff, it’s mean stuff, and it’s going to be taken care of,” he said.
Weakness is, according to Trump, a national affliction.
“This country is such a target because we’re considered to be weak. We’re a weak country,” Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo last week.
On Tuesday in Iowa, Trump dialed up criticism of the political establishment further: “I don’t know, there’s something about Washington. They look at these beautiful buildings, these beautiful halls and all of a sudden they become impotent. Is that an appropriate word? I think so.”
Trump might be tough, but he insists he’s fair and only attacks when he’s provoked.
“I am really a counterpuncher. If you look at what’s happened with me and the people that I hit, it is really the people that hit me first,” he said on CNBC recently.
But fondness is no reason for him to hold back.
He told CNBC that he liked Marco Rubio, but that all that will end once his GOP foe criticizes him.
“Once that happens, you know, I will no longer like him. … Then I (will) go after him,” Trump said.
And he reflected with apparent faux regret on how he had already dealt with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“I hit him very hard,” he acknowledged. “I really go after the person – like in business, right.”
Trump’s compelling stream-of-consciousness monologues in place of what regular politicians call a stump speech reveal disdain for rivals who don’t share his kill-or-be-killed mantra.
He wondered Tuesday why Bush did not crush Rubio, his former protege, for running for president against him.
“I would really go after that guy. I’d say he’s the most disloyal guy, he’s a terrible person and I hate him,” Trump said.
“I watch those two guys and they’re hugging and they’re kissing and they’re holding each other. Very much like, actually, Chris Christie did with the President,” Trump said in Iowa.
He said there will be no such softness around his campaign and pledged to appoint tough people instead of “all talk, no action” politicians.
“All politicians – all talk, no action – it’s all bull. We’ve got to stop. I have people that are so nasty, so mean, so horrible, nobody in Iowa will want to have dinner with them. They’re Wall Street killers.”
Weakness is fatal in politics, according to Trump. He believes Mitt Romney lost the election to President Barack Obama in 2012 because he “choked like a dog.”
And he claims Russia’s own macho leader, President Vladimir Putin, would turn docile with Trump in the White House and hand over fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.
“He hates Obama, he doesn’t respect Obama. … If I am president, Putin says (to Snowden), ‘Hey, boom, you’re gone,’” Trump told CNN in July. He often talks about how he will find smart, “cunning” people to deal with the Chinese.
But sometimes Trump’s bombast takes him into dangerous political territory – as in his feuds with Kelly and Republican rival Carly Fiorina, which some party leaders fear could harm the GOP in the eyes of female voters.
He also sometimes seems thin-skinned himself, like when he complained in New Hampshire recently that Fiorina had been “nasty” to him.
“I cannot say anything to her because she is a woman and I do not want to be accused of being tough on a woman.”
In the same speech, Trump also proclaimed that real men don’t do massage.
“I’m not into that,” he explained. “I don’t like people touching me.”