TRUMP TO PRIEST: “I Will Kill Myself!”
October 20, 2016
When my phone rang at 6:00 AM this morning, I had just stepped out of the shower. The screen indicated an unknown New York telephone number. I was about to push the reject button when curiosity won the day. And what a day!
“Good morning, Rev. Messenger. I hope I did not wake you. My name is Kellyanne Conway. Mr Trump would like to speak to you.”
It was way too early for a practical joke. Besides, I’m not a Trump supporter. Suspecting this was the work of one of my friends, I decided to play along.
“And why would he want to speak with me?”
“You’ll have to ask him,” she replied. That was my first indication that twisted truth was on the line. She answered media questions about Trump in just the same way.
“Very well,” I said. “I’ll speak with him.”
“Hello, Rev. Messenger, this is Donald Trump.”
“Good morning, Mr. Trump. What can I do for you?”
“I need someone to talk to,” he replied.
“Because you’re a priest and a good counselor.”
“Why would you say that? You don’t even know me.”
“As you know, I’m very well liked. And I have friends, many, many friends in Los Angeles. They tell me good things about you.”
“I have to be honest with you, Mr. Trump…” He interrupted.
“Call me Donald.”
I continued, “I’m a Hillary supporter.”
“That doesn’t matter. You’re a priest and I have a problem. Will you at least listen?”
This was a man I did not respect and I was tempted to decline. But he was right about the priest part. Listening to a soul in distress comes with the job. The voice I heard was desolate and full of anxiety. And I was intrigued. This did not sound like the Donald Trump I had seen at campaign rallies or read about in the papers. The Trump of the campaign trail would never admit to having problems.
“Go ahead,” I said.
“Look. I never wanted to be president. I started this as a way to help Hillary. I’ve known her a long time. She’s a good person. Hillary and Bill were even at my third wedding. They both said very nice things about me.”
“You haven’t been saying very good things about her lately,” I prodded.
“That’s because she’s started saying mean things about me. At first I liked her. I started my campaign to force the other Republicans out, because I’m a winner. That’s what I do. I win. I thought low energy JEB would survive and then I could find an escape. But that fool quit and I couldn’t stop winning. All those other guys, and I include Carly Fiorina in that, they all turned out to be losers. Now I’m stuck.”
“You might not win, Mr. Trump. Hillary is way up in the polls. And that Access Hollywood tape only made matters worse.”
“I have a secret. I leaked that tape.”
I did not know where this conversation was going, but I did not believe him. I asked, “Why?”
“I was looking for a way out. I couldn’t quit. I’ve never done that in my life. That’s why I didn’t respond to the tape until my family forced me to. I thought maybe the useless Republican leadership would get rid of me. I could live with that. But they proved what I’ve been saying about them all along, especially Paul Ryan. He is disloyal and incompetent. They never wanted me.”
After years as a priest, I bought into the “nothing new under the sun” idea. This conversation changed that. What Trump told me on the phone was as bizarre as his candidacy itself. I tired to be reasonable.
“Mr. Trump, there’s no shame in dropping out of the race. Tell people you changed your mind. Tell them it’s not what you thought. Being president is not what you really want after all. They’ll accept that. I’m sure some people will be disappointed. But those who see you as real, who know you speak your mind, they won’t have a problem.”
“Listen, Reverend. I need you to understand. I can’t quit. I have to think of my fans. I have many of them. Millions all over the country. No Republican ever won as many votes in the primaries as I did. They want me to stay in the race. But I also can’t lose.”
“I’m not an expert in politics, Mr. Trump, but if you stay in you will lose.”
“And if I do, I will kill myself.”
I wasn’t sure if he was serious, but then I was one of those people who did not take his candidacy seriously, either. So I cautiously asked, “What will you accomplish by suicide?”
“I’ll go out hugely. Just like I’ve lived. I’ve never lost before—at anything. I always found a way to win, even when I cheated on my previous wives. This will be my way out.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“My life’s a mess right now. My daughter Tiffany thinks I’m a pig, Ivanka is tired of defending me and Melania is not even talking to me. Did you see her at the debate last night? She said if I lose the race she’ll leave me. Only my sons understand me. I raised them right. They’re just like me.”
“About that debate.”
“I know what you’re going to ask. You want to know why I won’t accept the results when Hillary wins. Because I won’t have to. I won’t be around to give a concession speech. That’s what I meant about keeping people in suspense.”
“But Mr. Trump…”
“Look, Reverend. I know I can’t win. Then, for the rest of my life I’d be known as a loser. That’s not who Donald Trump is. I built a great business with just a small loan from my father. It was all me. And I have properties all over world. Beautiful, massive properties worth billions of dollars. I won’t become a loser. I’ll kill myself if that happens.”
“I still don’t understand why you’re telling me this.”
“I already told you it’s because you are a priest. After I shoot myself you’ll know the reason and you can explain it to everyone. You can help people understand me. If I kill myself that is the only thing people will remember. They’ll forget about the weak Republican leadership, the rigged election. Maybe they’ll blame the media. But they’ll only say one thing about me—Donald Trump was huge. He even chose his own way out.”
I suddenly realized that I was dripping wet from my shower. I was standing with the towel in my hands and no telephone. Had I just been speaking with Donald Trump? Either my imagination had gone wild, or I was the victim of a cruel science fiction time warp.
If only the country could warp back to June 6, 2015. Maybe we could start over. Maybe Trump would not run. Maybe Donald Trump would not commit suicide on November 8, 2016. Maybe.
In one sense the candidates, themselves, are to blame with their incessant need to seem cleverer than their opponents, waiting for that precise moment to spring a well-rehearsed “zinger”. Even worse, the candidates’ desire to pander to the voters leaves everyone hoping for a glaring error. In truth, no candidate has ever waffled as much or pandered as much as Mitt Romney. That reality is probably the source of so many of his misstatements. Still, that does not mean that each error should be turned into ridicule.
For example, in last Tuesday’s town hall debate, Romney dodged the question of equal pay for women, refusing to indicate whether or not he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Instead, he referenced his time as Governor of Massachusetts, and spoke of creating flexible hours for one female employee so that she could go home and fix dinner. In the aftermath, he has been skewered by pundits with the claim that he does not respect the equality of women; that he possesses a 1950’s mentality on the role of women in society.
That accusation is supported by the fact that there were no women in positions of authority at Bain Capital when Romney ran the company. The accusation is intensified in Romney’s implication that he did not know of any qualified women to work in Massachusetts’ government. Many commentators have suggested that Mitt Romney has a problem with women, but that is exactly where he deserves a break. It is not his fault.
Most people do not want to address the real issue. However, before I address it let me point out that I have written in the past that a person’s religion should not determine his or her fitness for office. Nonetheless, it must be noted that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Like many religions, including the Christian Faith, Mormons have a checkered history when it comes to women.
Time for full disclosure: I am a Catholic and my own Church has not always had a stellar position on women. Women are denied priesthood in the Catholic Church—a position I disagree with and find theologically untenable. On the other hand, many women hold significant positions of authority in the Church. Throughout history women have been some of the Catholic Church’s finest theologians, mystics and missionaries.
The position of the Mormon Church, however, is “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband.” That is more than just patriarchal. It is not quite as demeaning or obnoxious as the phrase “barefoot and pregnant,” but it is not far behind.
To be fair, women may also serve as missionaries in the Mormon Church. It is rare, and unlike the men, women are “not invited” to serve, but they are “welcome.” In the rare case of women missionaries, they are accepted only if they have no immediate marriage prospects. Even then it is expected that missionary work will make them better wives and mothers—their true mission in life.
The Mormon Church is driven by the belief that a woman’s place is in the home. So the real question for Mitt Romney is whether he truly respects the role of women in the work place or in government. Does he respect the opinion, decision and work of women legislators, or if he is merely pandering to win election. Now there’s a thought! But I digress.
Mitt Romney is understandably committed to and proud of his faith. As President Obama put it at the end of the debate: “I believe that Mitt Romney is a good man. He loves his family and cares for his faith.” Indeed. But the President’s esteem also misses the mark.
Romney appears to have that blind commitment to faith that does not permit him to question any tenets of his church, no matter how absurd or out of touch. That blind commitment that does not permit him to seek changes in church theology. That blind commitment that does not permit him to think for himself. That blind commitment that enables him to believe men are superior to women.
Mitt Romney does, indeed, have a problem with women, but it is not his fault.