WASHINGTON — For Donald Trump, the joy of the insult seems as compelling as the art of the deal.
Whether his challengers are fellow presidential candidates, the press or others, they are, according to Trump: incompetent, weak, pathetic, disgusting, idiots or the like. He described Democratic presidential contender Martin O'Malley, for example, as acting "like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby."
So far in the rollicking 2016 presidential contest, the billionaire businessman is showing little willingness to dial down his because-I-said-so style to suit the conventions of political campaigns — where the voters are the ones making big hiring decisions.
Trump is used to controlling his world like the boss he is.
On Tuesday night, he dismissed a Latino reporter from his press conference for demanding to know how Trump intended to deport all 11 million people in the country illegally. "I have a right to ask a question," said Univision's Jorge Ramos.
"No you don't," Trump said. "You haven't been called." Trump merely tossed a glance to his left and a bodyguard escorted a protesting Ramos out. Trump's primacy re-established, he later let Ramos back into the conference and took his question.
Count on Trump to react when someone crosses him, even mildly.
"When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can," Trump wrote in his book "How to Get Rich."
In fact, Trump's reality show campaign is one of the things people like about him. Trump is at the top of the polls in the GOP field, drawing more passion and bigger crowds than his Republican competitors.
"It's totally refreshing," said Leigh Ann Crouse, 55, of Dubuque, as she waited in a 100-yard-long line Tuesday to see Trump. "He has a backbone, and he cannot be bought."
Here are some examples of Trump's in-your-face approach to the 2016 presidential contest:
TRUMP vs JEB BUSH
Trump succeeded this week in putting the former Florida governor, whose wife is Mexican-American, on the defense on immigration issues. The two quarreled over the term "anchor baby," which some find an offensive term to describe children born to people in the U.S. illegally. Bush defended himself by saying he'd been referring to wealthy Asians who come to the U.S. to bear children. That earned Bush a chorus of demands for an apology to Asian people.
"Asians are very offended that JEB said that anchor babies applies to them as a way to be more politically correct to Hispanics," Trump gloated on Twitter. "A mess!"
But a true Trumpism requires a personal dig. Trump has repeatedly served that up by calling Bush "low energy" and suggesting "every time you watch him, you fall asleep."
TRUMP vs JORGE RAMOS:
"Go back to Univision," Trump told Ramos, an anchor for the Spanish-language network.
It was the latest salvo in Trump's conflict with Univision, which began when the network cancelled its contract to broadcast his Miss Universe Organization pageants. Univision said it was responding to Trump's description of Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists" in his June campaign announcement speech. Trump is suing the network for $500 million for breach of contract and defamation — and bragging about it.
Five times during the news conference, Trump told Ramos to sit down. When that didn't work, the billionaire had Ramos hustled out.
Letting him back in later, Trump extended an upturned hand toward Ramos and said, "Yes? Good, absolutely. Good to have you back."
Trump complained Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show that Ramos had been "totally, absolutely out of line" and "ranting and raving like a madman."
"I'm not a bully," Trump said. "In fact, I think it's just the opposite way."
In an interview Wednesday evening with Fox News' Megyn Kelly — another Trump target — Ramos said, "I'm a U.S. citizen, I'm an immigrant, I'm a reporter and I have a right in this country to ask any question I want."
TRUMP vs MEGYN KELLY:
Trump's feud with the popular Fox News anchor began during the first Republican primary debate, when Kelly called Trump out on his previous comments describing women as "pigs" and "dogs."
Convinced that the question was out of line, Trump launched a full-blown campaign to discredit the anchor with a series of insulting tweets and interviews. On CNN, he claimed that she'd had "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever" during the debate.
After what had seemed like a detente with the network, Trump's vitriol returned this week when Kelly came back from vacation.
"@megynkelly must have had a terrible vacation, she is really off her game," he tweeted Monday. He retweeted another comment that referred to her as a "bimbo."
TRUMP vs LINDSEY GRAHAM:
Trump made clear he had zero regard for the rules of political decorum when he proceeded to read South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's personal cellphone number to a roomful of his supporters after Graham, one of his Republican rivals, called him a "jackass" on TV.
The two have continued to spar, with each calling the other an "idiot."
"Come to South Carolina, and I'll beat his brains out," a riled-up Graham told CNN on Tuesday, referring to beating Trump in his state's Republican primary. "I know my state. This is a silly season in politics. He is shallow."
Trump responded with a tweet: "Congrats @LindseyGrahamSC. You just got 4 points in your home state of SC_far better than zero nationally. You're only 26 pts behind me."
TRUMP vs. FOX NEWS:
Fox News is the kind of beast that Republican wannabes rarely take on. Not Trump.
"I think they cover me terribly," he told reporters at the press conference in Iowa, in which he repeatedly railed against his coverage by the network, despite frequent appearances and phone-ins.
Trump returned to bashing Kelly this week, and the network chief Roger Ailes engaged.
"Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise," Ailes said in a statement demanding Trump apologize.
"I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump's verbal assaults," he added.
Trump, meanwhile, shows no signs of backing down, responding with his own statement further insulting Kelly.
"Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as Fox deserves," he said.
Colvin reported from Newark, N.J.