“You speak your mind,” says Megyn Kelly in the early going. As Joel Gilbert's new film Trump: The Art of the Insult confirms, Donald Trump does indeed speak his mind. His greatest hits are all here, from the “fat ugly face” of Rosie O’Donnell, to “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “total dope” Lindsey Graham, “idiot” John Kerry, to “Crooked Hillary” Clinton and of course “fake news.”
In The Art of the Insult, candidate Trump says he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and that the San Bernardino shooter was a “son of a bitch,” and that Mexico would pay for the wall. Someone who speaks his mind like that, even a casual observer might think, would stand no chance of becoming President of the United States. To give away the ending, he did become president and the film helps explain the victory.
In the early going, some journalist wonders why Trump has to fire back every time someone goes after him. He was one of the first to push back hard because, as he said, “the last thing I want to be called is weak.” The aggressive candidate found a target-rich environment in both political parties.
The “Never Trump” Republicans got after him for not being a conservative, and Jeb Bush called him “a jerk.” Trump fired back that Jeb Bush was a “low energy person” and “a stiff,” who doesn’t use last name because there are “lots of problems with that name.”
When Jeb Bush said his brother George kept us safe, Trump said the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center didn’t make him feel safe. “We haven’t won anything,” candidate Trump said, because “we have people who are stupid.”
Bush’s brother and father had been president but Jeb duly dragged out his mother Barbara to vouch for him. Jeb Bush called Trump a “loser” but his own campaign went nowhere.
“Worse than Jeb Bush,” as Trump said, was “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz. Trump called Cruz a choke artist,” and a “liar.” As Trump noted, Cruz had no mathematical chance to win, yet he named a running mate, Carly Fiorina. “Look at that face,” Trump said, but he also went after Fiorina’s record at Hewlett Packard, and the facts were on his side. If insulting is to be an art, the insulter must know what he’s talking about.
Trump called Marco Rubio a “con artist” with the “worst voting record in the Senate.” With that, he “couldn’t run for dogcatcher,” and his campaign suffered an “epic meltdown.”
Rick Perry said Trump was putting on a “carnival act.” Trump said the newly bespectacled candidate should take an IQ test before the debate. Rival Ben Carson, Trump said, “makes Bush look like the energizer bunny,” but he was a nice guy. The film shows Carson telling a newsman that “real nice gets you nowhere,” another moral of the story.
From Gilbert’s previous film, Dreams from My Real Father, and Paul Kengor’s The Communist, the 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney had solid evidence that the 44th president, formerly known as Barry Soetoro, wasn’t exactly who he said he was. Romney held off but did call Trump a “fraud” and a “phony.” Trump said Romney was a “failed candidate,” and also “a total stiff. He’s a dope.”
The Art of the Insult shows Hillary Clinton calling Trump followers “deplorables,” racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and so on. Trump called her “Crooked Hillary,” and he knew the facts on the emails she destroyed, and how she lied about it. The film helpfully includes her “what does it matter?” line about the four American deaths at Benghazi, and the quip about wiping the server with a cloth.
Trump goes after Bernie Sanders as a “Communist” and a “socialist,” and as an entrepreneur says he would like his chances against someone like that. The socialist would have been the Democrats’ candidate but Crooked Hillary rigged the primaries and bought off the DNC. Knowing that will not lessen the impact of the film, in which the strident Elizabeth Warren plays a brief role as “Pocahontas,” a fake Indian.
Trump really gets down to it with the media, the “fake news” outlets packed with “lying disgusting people.” At Trump rallies, the people chant “CNN sucks!” and that network also serves up some laugh lines in the film.
“I’m president and they’re not,” Trump says at the end, and the progressive Hillary Clinton, the media’s favorite candidate, isn’t president either. There can be little doubt that Trump’s willingness to push back and play it tough played a major role in his victory. As he said, the last thing he wanted to be called was weak.
One year later it’s all worth recalling and preserving for posterity. Trump: The Art of the Insult is cinéma vérité at its finest, endlessly entertaining and, for all but the willfully blind, hugely instructive.