Collins, solo

Well, Ms. Collins says she is “Coming to Terms with Donald.”  She says Trump doesn’t look so bad when the alternative is Ted Cruz.  Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.  Here she is:

Americans of all races, creeds and political persuasions are united today in the realization that, good grief, Donald Trump actually could become the Republican presidential nominee.

It hits different people different ways. Jeb Bush’s path toward acceptance was probably different from that of a civics teacher who has to explain it to his advanced placement seminar.

I keep thinking about the time, years ago, when I worked for The Daily News and was summoned back from vacation because Donald was splitting with his first wife, Ivana. I swear to you, that was not my normal beat. But for the Trump divorce it was all hands on deck. The whole city was sort of nuts on the subject. (The cardinal expressed hope that the unhappy couple would pray for guidance.)

Everyone assumed — correctly as it turned out — that Trump’s next stop would be Marla Maples, an actress who was made immortal when The New York Post emblazoned its front page with her alleged quote: “Best sex I’ve ever had.”

Did you ever fantasize about being able to go back in time and tell people from the past what’s going to happen in the 21st century? I like to envision telling Vincent van Gogh how much his paintings will be selling for. Or I inform George Wallace that he never gets to be president, but a black guy does.

Right now, I’m imagining going back to 1990 and telling my colleagues on the Donald desk that they are chronicling the love life of a future presidential front-runner. They were a pretty cynical crew, but still.

Trump has been ahead in the polls for a long time, but until recently it didn’t seem serious. It felt like one of those TV talent shows where the audience decides to vote for the most spectacularly awful singer in the competition, just for the hell of it.

That goes on for three or four weeks, but then at the end, when it’s getting down to who’s going to be the next American idol, they drop the game and vote for the pretty girl who can belt out country-and-western.

But here in real life, it hasn’t happened yet. And the serious Republicans are starting to abandon hope that it will.

“Let’s get to be a little establishment,” Trump told a recent rally. He’s been basking in the way Republican honchos are “warming up” to him.

Under normal conditions, if a party was confronted with a candidate who had never held any public office, whose political activism consisted mainly of trying to prove Barack Obama was born in Africa, and whose platform consisted of whatever stuff was getting good crowd response at the last rally, everybody would race to get behind the alternative.

So if Trump does win this thing, he’ll owe it all to the terribleness of Ted Cruz.

Cruz is the No. 2 every politician dreams of being stacked up against in a contest where the road is long and, sooner or later, everybody needs a friend. It’s fascinating how much his fellow Republicans hate this guy.

This week, even as National Review launched a roundup of conservatives saying, in effect, Donald Trump, oh God, no, party leaders were sending out signals that he was someone they could live with if the other choice was Cruz.

Policywise, Cruz isn’t much different from every other Republican running around Iowa and New Hampshire. So it’s just him. Even in a world full of egotists, the senator from Texas is regarded as off the charts.

When John McCain was running for president and ran into controversy about being born outside the United States, his colleagues passed a bipartisan resolution stating that, in their opinion, he met all the constitutional requirements. When the Canada thing came up with Cruz, there was dead silence. You could sort of imagine the entire Senate sitting, twiddling their thumbs and smirking.

Besides his talent for not being Ted Cruz, Trump’s other strong suit for Republican leaders is the suspicion that he doesn’t particularly believe anything he says. It’s not that he disbelieves it. His positions are more like thoughts of the moment, or opening bids. “He’s got the right personality, and he’s kind of a deal-maker,” Bob Dole told The Times’s Jonathan Martin.

In one way, Trump’s campaign pitch is a little like Hillary Clinton’s. She’s less about a new vision than about the ability to take care of the government, wring some long-awaited changes out of Congress and handle foreign affairs. His is about getting things done through the miracle of genius negotiating. (“We’ve got to get things done folks, O.K.? Believe me, don’t worry. We’re going to make such great deals.”)

Really, they’re very similar in that sense. Except that she’s been a senator and secretary of state, and he’s got his name on a ton of golf courses.

We live in strange times, people. Strange times.

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