For now, it’s all Donald Trump. This morning Peggy Noonan pens an encomium to the real estate developer by channeling an acquaintance from Georgia, a true believer who shares what Noonan calls Trump’s contempt for government and who agrees that if Donald says he can do it he can do it.
So, why Trump? “The whole country will be in better shape. And ISIS won’t like it that he’s in charge. He’s very wealthy and can turn around the economy. He’ll get things moving. The Donald will kick a—.” She knows other supporters locally and among friends of her son, an Iraq vet. “They’re completely disgusted and just furious, and he’s igniting their passion. He’s telling them ‘I will make this country great again,’ and they believe him.” Mr. Trump is dismissed as exciting, but “we have to get excited to get up out of the chair to vote.”
Hmmm… being wealthy means that you can turn around the economy? Does this Georgian have any evidence to support the assertion?
Trump’s positions have been all over the political spectrum. Sometimes they verge on incoherent, and clearly there is no reason to believe that he can do the job. We are talking about some very serious on-the-job training. Unless you believe that Vladimir Putin is going to start quaking at the prospect of confronting the Donald....
None of it seems to bother people who thrill to the notion that someone is finally standing up, not just to the Democrats, but to Islamic terrorists and the media elites who have cowed the rest of the opposition into silence.
Trump is the polar opposite of an administration that has been sucking up the ayatollahs. The spectacle of America surrendering in negotiations with Iran has impelled the candidacy of someone who, whatever mess he might make, will not be crawling to Tehran, begging for a deal.
One understands that Trump seems to be ready to restore wounded American pride. One admires his supporters’ enthusiasm, but still, new polls yesterday came out showing that Trump is the one major Republican candidate who is losing to all three top Democrats… by a lot. It’s not because of a lack of name recognition. Trump is down substantially when he is pitted against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
Many Republicans have now chosen not to fight the Trump steamroller. They are waiting—and hoping—that it runs out of steam on its own.
One must say, however, that next to Trump, the other Republican candidates are looking small. Stature and gravitas matter, even though, as happens with Trump it is more show than substance. After all, people who have accomplished great things let their achievements speak for them.
When it comes to governance Trump has no achievements to speak of; thus, he can do no more than bluff by insisting boisterously that he can do it. I suspect that he believes every word he says, but that does not make it true.
By comparison, note Camille Paglia’s description of Rand Paul, someone with whom she generally sympathizes. She offers a cogent explanation for why the Rand Paul campaign is moribund:
As a libertarian, I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul on so many different social and political issues. Unfortunately, however, Paul lacks gravitas as a physical presence. The U.S. presidency has a highly ceremonial aspect. The president isn’t merely a prime minister, a political leader–he’s the symbolic embodiment of the nation. Therefore, physical attributes and vocal style are very important.
One might say the same of Jeb Bush, another conspicuous casualty of Trumpmania.
Curiously, while the chattering classes and the moneyed interests have been convinced that the presidential candidates would be named Clinton and Bush, I have suspected that neither Clinton nor Bush would be on the ballot. For now it seems clear that Jeb is not going to make it. He’s fading in the polls. At a time when people want tomorrow’s candidate, he is increasingly looking like yesterday’s news.
In Paglia’s words:
The major media have been constantly saying that Jeb is the GOP front-runner, which is utter nonsense. It’s the same thing with Hillary–the polls have just been showing name recognition, nothing more. I’ve been looking at the comments on political news articles since last year, and Jeb Bush seems to have absolutely no support whatever–like zero! To this day, I’ve never seen an online commenter enthusiastically supporting him. It’s really strange! All these rich people throw big money at him, but I don’t know who his voters could possibly be.
Of course, Paglia has always been a stern critic of Hillary Clinton, and I agree with her that Clinton’s chances have been fading with her approval ratings. Democrats are currently looking around for anyone who can replace her… that means Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden.
And yet, the only other candidate who has approval ratings as bad as Mrs. Clinton’s is Donald Trump. Strangely, more and more Republicans are embracing him as their savior.
Strangely, Paglia seems to believe that Barack Obama had exactly the right kind of gravitas to be president. She sees him as a commanding presence:
He projects a sober, unflappable confidence and presents himself with elegance and grace–all of which produced his success early on, when Hillary was the frontrunner in 2008.
In principle, we should all know better than that by now. Obama’s deer-in-the-headlights look, his tendency to believe in his own lies ... none of it makes him appear to be a strong leader, a commanding presence. Paglia is wrong to overlook the manifest weakness, the pusillanimous demeanor of our current president.
Of course, Trump does not display the calm confidence of a true leader. But, next to Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi… to say nothing of the weak-looking Boehner and McConnell… Trump looks like the real thing.
Keep in mind, it’s much easier to project an image when you do not have to forge political compromises and to defend a record.
For Paglia, Obama is a blind spot. But, on the topic of presidential stature and presence, Paglia’s remarks are on point:
In the primary debates, Cruz will benefit from having a tall and commanding physique, as Bill De Blasio did in the New York mayoral debates. On the whole, Republicans don’t seem to realize that persona and self-presentation are crucial in a media age. For example, Rand Paul has obviously had his eye on the presidency for years, so it’s astonishing that he apparently has never given any thought to how he should dress or cut his hair or even stand in front of cameras. It’s as if his idea of style was flash-frozen in the Everly Brothers era. The tall candidate often has a big advantage in any campaign…. People do want a sense of implicit authority in the president.
If she’s right, look for Joe Biden to enter the race at some point in the fall. One recalls that he managed to make Paul Ryan look small in the 2012 vice presidential debate. Those who thrilled at Ryan’s marvelous intellect failed to notice his inability to project a commanding presence.
What do Republicans have against Donald Trump… aside from the fact that he does not look like he can win the election? For a more substantive critique we turn to David Goldman, aka Spengler:
He [Trump] blames most of America’s problems on a “tidal wave” of illegal Hispanic immigrants and unfair Chinese trade practices. He reminds me of H.L. Mencken’s classic one-liner: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” One might add, “dangerous,” because Trump appeals to our desire to blame someone else for problems we created.
Surely, it is possible that some part of Trump’s appeal lies in his ability to shift the blame for America’s problems. But then, Trump has strongly opposed the American media and American politicians. It’s not as though he has limited himself to blaming the Mexicans and the Chinese.
Goldman offers some data to sustain his argument:
Immigration from Mexico actually fell after the 2008 crash, mainly because construction jobs disappeared. The best data we have suggest that net immigration from Mexico was negative between 2005 and 2010–that is, more Mexicans left the US than arrived. Hispanics, to be sure, are more visible in the workforce–their share of total employment has risen from about 14% 10 years to to 17% today–but that is due to the natural increase in the Hispanic population. In 1990, non-Hispanic whites had a fertility rate of 1.7 children per female, vs. 2.9 children for Hispanics. This bumper crop of Hispanic children has been entering the workforce for the past several years. But that has nothing to do with recent trends in immigration.
Somehow or other Goldman neglects to factor in the more recent increases in illegal immigration that followed Obama’s initiatives.
As for the influence of China, Goldman adds this:
As for China: During the early 2000′s, US imports from China were growing at 20%-30% a year. Since 2011, imports from China have hardly grown. That’s because China’s currency has appreciated by one-third since 2005 (from 12 cents to the dollar to 16 cents), making Chinese goods pricier in the American market.
What should we be worrying about? Our loss of industrial and technological competitiveness. Goldman explains:
China is graduating twice as many PhD’s in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines as the US. China’s economy is way behind the US, but catching up fast in key areas. Chinese missiles can sink any US aircraft carrier within a range of several hundred miles from its coast. China can knock out American satellites. Chinese computation capabilities are on par with America’s. China has more industrial robots installed than any country in the world. China is about to become the dominant producer of Internet communications equipment (with Huawei replacing Cisco as the global market leader). China and its periphery manufacture everything that goes into American tech products.
America used to have disruptive, innovative tech companies. Now we have corporate giants run by patent trolls rather than engineers whose mission is to suppress innovation. Apple, a design company that relies on Asian production, now accounts for two-thirds of all profits in the S&P 500 Technology Sub-Index.
America used to have nonpareil defense technology. Now we are betting the defense budget on the F-35, a plane like the proverbial horse designed by a committee, and sold by defense industry lobbyists.
Can Donald Trump reverse these trends with his negotiating skills? Will the pending loss of competitive technological advantage be reversed when Trump talks tough with the Chinese? I have my doubts.
Still, it appears that Trump is working to restore our flagging national pride. Since the Obama administration has been giving it away as though it was of no real value, apparently, it takes a Trump, a flamboyant showman to rise above the din and to remind us of what it can be.
Goldman agrees with Trump that we ought definitely to close the border. If it requires a fence, let’s build a fence. As for reversing the flow of immigrants, apparently the slowdown in the construction industry was a highly effective way to encourage what Mitt Romney called “self-deportation.”