Donald Trump's success as a presidential candidate is both surprising and easily explained.
He's questioned the heroism of a former POW and standard bearer of his own party. Fought Fox News and its most ascendant star, including questioning her menstrual cycle. Picked a fight with the pope over immigration. Mocked a disabled reporter. Incorrectly cited a Bible verse while courting evangelical Christians. Promised to be an honest broker in the Middle East instead of reflexively siding with Israel. Refused to release his tax returns. Conducted news conferences while accepting victory on primary election nights. And assured us of the size of his manhood.
In every instance imaginable, Trump has done the opposite of what is expected of a presidential candidate, making him the George Costanza of the 2016 cycle!
Seinfeld fans will surely recall what happened in Season Five after an exasperated George walked into Monk's Cafe and told Jerry: "It's not working, Jerry, it's just not working. Every decision I've made has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I wanted to be."
Replied Jerry: "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."
Immediately thereafter, after spying an attractive blonde seated at the lunch counter, George approached and delivered a line that is now part of Seinfeld lore:
"My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."
"The Opposite" episode was the brainchild of Abington native Andy Cowan, who shares writing credit on the script with Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. He too sees the parallels between George's willingness to criticize George Steinbrenner while applying for a job with the Yankees and Trump's temerity to confront Roger Ailes' oracle of the GOP, Fox News.
"What's interesting is that instead of focusing on the electorate, the people, the country, Trump decided to do the opposite, focus on himself, his amazing ego, his amazing polls, the amazing size of his no longer private parts, and who wasn't very nice to him," said Cowan. "He'll come out during a debate and say, 'Thank you, Thank you!' as if it's a personal appearance, all about him. They called the '70s the me decade. If Trump gets in, it'll be the I-I, me-me decade."
Cowan is quick to cite additional instances where Trump's campaign style has been replete with Costanza-like opposites: a lack of policy specifics, no TelePrompTer, the spouting of the same stream of lazy catchphrases. And he notes that it has also induced the media to do the opposite of what would have been heretofore unlikely: cover him wall to wall as if it were news.
"Two other walls Mexico won't pay for," he quipped.
The man who has written for Cheers, Seinfeld, and 3rd Rock From the Sun, and has authored the late 2016 scheduled release, Banging My Head Against the Wall: A Comedy Writer's Guide to Seeing Stars, began his Hollywood career in the '80s as talent coordinator, writer, and performer on The Merv Griffin Show. He remembers well the origin of the legendary Seinfeld script.
"I was pitching stories to Larry David left and right, and there was a bra story that he liked, and I still love to this day, about George finding a lost bra in a dryer, a huge lost bra, and then trying to find the woman who owned it, almost like a glass slipper. Until Kramer convinces him it looks more like a grandmother's bra.
"We were getting close to his saying yes. And then just as a lark I threw him - because I've always thought about it in my own life - what if I'd done the complete opposite? Would I have been better off? I could tell he took a shine to it right away. He said, 'All right, start working on that.' "
Jeff Greenfield, the author, Emmy-winning journalist, and political observer who once worked for Robert F. Kennedy, also sees the connection.
Greenfield notes that while Trump is "boorish, vulgar, crude, seriously misogynist, [and] nativist," his supporters say, " 'That proves he's not politically correct and tells it like it is.'
"And when he's revealed to be profoundly ignorant of the most basic public policy facts, his defenders respond, 'Well, look what the experts have given us.'
"Or when presented with facts ... about his business failures, or his hypocrisies on sourcing, etc., etc., it engenders the response of: 'Anything bad the media say about Trump is a lie, because the media always lies.' "
Of course, in the world of television, Costanza's strategy resulted in a happy ending. He got the girl and the job. So will Trump get his happy ending?
"I have my doubts," said Cowan. "The big opposite this year is the opposite sex who could finally be represented in the Oval Office. Three years ago, Trump said, 'I think Hillary's doing a good job.' Now it's, 'She's the worst secretary of state in history,' the opposite. He donated money to her in the past. Maybe he decided this time that acting like the opposite of sane will give her even more than money - the White House.
"Which begs the question: When Hillary and Bill dance at the Inaugural Ball, who leads?"
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Michael Smerconish can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon on SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124 and seen hosting "Smerconish" at 9 a.m. Saturdays on CNN.