That giant sucking sound you hear is Donald Trump sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. One understands, as Sen. Ben Sasse said yesterday in the Senate (see previous post) that America prefers a candidate who appears to be tough over candidates who don’t. America also prefers a candidate who is rightfully angry to candidates who seem to be made of less stern stuff.
In a cultural climate where the thought police have cowed nearly everyone into abject submission, the American people are fascinated with a candidate who is not afraid to speak his mind and is not afraid to offend.
As I suggested in my post on “Our Therapist in Chief,” not being afraid of terrorism requires a show of anger. If a candidate is afraid to be angry, the terrorists have succeeded.
President Obama’s reaction to terrorism reeks of fear and weakness. Thus, the American people are desperate to hear someone, anyone stand up for America. When Donald Trump reacts angrily he gives voice to the right sentiment. In itself the right sentiment will not get you very far, but it will get you farther than fear.
Sad to say it, but the inexperienced Donald has been overplaying his hand. For example, Trump has been insisting that if he is not treated nicely by the other Republicans he will pick up his toys and run as an independent. And yet, he has never shown any niceness or respect for the other candidates. Thus he has alienated large numbers of voters and, while he is winning in the polls, a very high number of Republicans say that they will never vote for him. To lead a nation you need first to lead your party. If you have insulted nearly everyone in your party, you will never be able to lead it.
Believe in him if you wish, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
Anger is the right emotion, but it is not a program and does not show any special ability to provide leadership. The president of France, a better role model for how to respond to a terrorist attack, was steely in his determination to crack down on radical Islamists in his midst. He has been doing just that. One notes that the French public does not seem to think that he has been tough enough, but still, he has been far stronger than our own president.
Given the Obama administration’s failures in the realm of foreign policy you would think that 2016 would offer the Republicans an easy path to the presidency. And yet, the party has far too many candidates, far too many vanity candidates, far too many candidates who could not possibly do the job. And the American public seems to have noticed.
People do not like Hillary Clinton. They do not trust Hillary Clinton. But they seem to believe that she could do the job better than most of those who are leading the Republican field. Compared with Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton seems experienced. Considering her multiple failures in politics, why do voters seem trust her more than her Republican opponents to deal with terrorism? And why do they her as strong and steely? Have they completely lost their minds?
Perhaps they are mistaking her for her husband. Perhaps they are assuming that Bubba will really be pulling the strings. Then again, Bubba was not exactly a tower of strength. He counts among our more decadent, and weakest presidents. Could it be that voters see Hillary as the real man in the family?
Voters might prefer experience to inexperience, on the grounds that we do not need any more chief executives who require on-the-job training. Failure is better than nothing.
The New York Times reports on the results of some polls and focus groups. It begins by noting that while voters do not trust Democrats to provide leadership in times of crisis, they do believe that Hillary could.
A late November YouGov survey conducted after the attacks in Paris but before San Bernardino found that Hillary Clinton stood apart from Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina as the only candidate a majority of voters believe:
is ready to be Commander in Chief. She is the only one about whom as many people express confidence in her ability to handle an international crisis as say they are uneasy.
For reasons that escape me voters associate Hillary with strength:
On Nov. 16, three days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania sponsored two focus groups in Columbus, Ohio to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of Hillary Clinton compared to three of the best-known Republican presidential candidates.
Peter Hart and Anna Bennett, both Democratic pollsters working with Annenberg, asked participants to consider Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Clinton, and to give their opinion of the candidates: “What material is their backbone made of?” The focus group sessions were transcribed.
According to the transcript, the 12 women and 12 men — a mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents — variously described their impression of Bush’s spine as made of “marshmallow,” “styrofoam,” “Jell-O,” “play dough,” “pillow,” “papier-mâché” and “chalk.”
In contrast, participants described Hillary Clinton’s backbone as made of “titanium,” “steel,” “ice” and “cement.”
That Hillary does not come across as especially feminine or even womanly seems to be working to her advantage. Note that Trump’s attacks on Bush as “low energy” have devastated his reputation.
This does not mean that the participants were ready to vote for Hillary. They distrust her and believe that she is dishonest.
But, when people are asked which candidate can do the job, they point to Hillary. When push comes to vote, this question will certainly count among the most important, even more important than who is angrier and more insulting.
This morning Karl Rove reported the results of a Quinnipiac poll:
But Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Trump in the Quinnipiac poll on three important characteristics: By 67% to 32%, voters thought she has “the right kind of experience to be president.” His numbers were almost the reverse: 34% to 63%.
I continue to be baffled that otherwise clear headed Republican voters seem largely to be ignoring these obvious facts.
Here is what happened in the focus group conducted by Peter Hart. Note that the men and women draw roughly the same conclusions:
Hart asked the 12 male participants to first consider the wide scope of responsibilities — from foreign policy to the economy — a president faces and to then indicate with a show of hands “who can do the job?”
“How many people say, yeah, I think Donald Trump could do the job?” Hart asked. Six raised their hands. For Bush, six also raised their hands. For Carson, it was three.
“How many say Hillary Clinton could do the job?” Hart asked. “Eleven out of 12.”
In the women’s group, Bennett asked the question in negative terms: “Is there anybody who you do not feel comfortable that they could handle the enormity and the complexity of the job?” For Trump: seven raised their hands; for Bush: also seven; for Carson: 11. For Clinton: none.
Keep in mind, this is a woman who no one trusts, a woman who her closest confidante said was “often confused.” The question you want to ask is, how have the Republican presidential candidates succeeded in making Hillary Clinton look strong and competent? It was no small challenge.
Polls tell a similar story:
Similar views emerged in an ABC/Washington Post poll taken between Nov. 16 and Nov. 19 that asked voters to compare Clinton with Trump, Carson, Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Those surveyed were asked “Who would you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism?” Respondents trusted Clinton more to handle terrorism than they did any of the Republican candidates by an average of 7 percentage points.
Polls have consistently found that the public views Clinton as “tough.” In March 2014, Pew found that 69 percent of those surveyed agreed that the word “tough” describes Hillary Clinton. By 65 to 31, voters surveyed in May 2015 by the Times agreed that Clinton “has strong qualities of leadership.” On issues of “toughness,” voters see Clinton as tougher even than her Republican adversaries.
But, will the Republicans continue to make Hillary Clinton look good:
Trump is coming after Hillary, and others will undoubtedly follow. Experience alone will be unlikely to prevail. Under current circumstances, a candidate’s credibility depends on his or her perceived “ability to handle international crises” – a criterion that demands a persuasive combination of toughness and tactical skill.
How did this all happen? Perhaps it happened because the debate has been thrown off track by the Trump proposal that we should not allow Muslims to enter the country. One understands the sentiment behind the recommendation, and one certainly agrees that an open door policy to Muslim immigrants, especially immigrants from war zones is a very bad idea. The problem was not the sentiment, but the formulation.
Bill O’Reilly was trying to school Trump on policy last night and asked him what would happen if the son of the King of Jordan applied for a visa to study in America? What would President Trump do?
While the oxygen has been sucked out of the national debate, because sentiment now trumps experience, everyone is ignoring the fact that that Hillary Clinton’s closest confidante, Huma Abedin, has family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. While everyone is training their eyes on Donald Trump, no one seems to care about the Huma angle.
I have posted about this on several occasions, here and here and here. Today Town Hall reports the story again:
In a nutshell -- quoting former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy writing at National Review this week -- Huma Abedin "worked for many years at a journal that promotes Islamic supremacist ideology that was founded by a top al-Qaida financier, Abdullah Omar Naseef." That would be for at least seven years (1996-2003), by the way, during which Abedin also worked for Hillary Clinton.
Let this sink in for just a moment. The journal that Huma worked for -- which promotes Islamic supremacism and was founded by al-Qaida financer Naseef, who also headed the Muslim World League, a leading Muslim Brotherhood organization -- is called the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. It was edited first by Huma's father, Syed Abedin, and now by her mother, Saleha Abedin. Saleha is a member of the Muslim Sisterhood. Mother Abedin also directs an organization (the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child) that comes under the umbrella of the Union for Good, another U.S.-designated terrorist organization. As McCarthy reminds us, "the Union for Good is led by Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, the notorious Muslim Brotherhood jurist who has issued fatwas calling for the killing of American military and support personnel in Iraq as well as suicide bombings in Israel."
One recalls that in 2012 Michelle Bachmann raised the Huma issue, but was shouted down by John McCain, who mindlessly jumped to her defense. McCain is one of the reasons that people like Trump. No one imagines that Trump will gloss over Huma’s Muslim Brotherhood connections. Trump’s sloppy formulations might allow the press to ignore the issue, but he himself, most people believe, will not. But keep in mind, a pyrrhic victory is not really a victory.
The issue of Muslim immigration is clearly of exceptional importance. No one can doubt the fact. And yet, when amateurs lead the debate the issues become blurred while everyone is focused on the person, not the issue. In the meantime, the fact that Hillary Clinton’s closest advisor has important connections with operatives for the Muslim Brotherhood gets swept aside because people think that compared with leading Republican candidates, she is strong and has the experience to do the job. But, is it a sign of strength or weakness to be suckered by a daughter of the Muslim Brotherhood, to help her have the highest level of security clearance and to listen to her advice on dealing with the Middle East?