Thursday, April 14, 2016

Make America Vain Again

Not to be excessively vain myself, but I will point out that, many months ago, I offered up the one concept that would help everyone to understand the Republican presidential nomination process.

I suggested that it was all about vanity. While others were thrilling to the prospect of having so many candidates, I was saying that the Republican Party had too many vanity candidates. Too many vanity candidates, I suggested, make for a vanity party. And a vanity party tends to lose elections because the public looks at the spectacle and decides that the party does not take the office of the presidency seriously.

Fair enough, the public cannot take its eyes off the spectacle, but the same is true of a train wreck, don’t you know?

Obviously, there are limits even to my prescience, so I did not predict that the front runner would be the ultimate vanity candidate, one Donald Trump.

Running on a platform of “Make American Vain Again” Trump has not captured the majority of the votes, but his plurality puts him ahead of other, more qualified candidates.

Today, Karl Rove informs us that Trump has been running a “vanity campaign.” Check. He adds that vanity will be the Teflon Don’s undoing. That remains to be seen.

What evidence does Rove offer?

We can quote him directly:

Mr. Trump, who has often displayed his ignorance about myriad policies, added to the impression of not having thought through his presidential bid. Quizzed by the Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about how long it would take a Trump administration to get rid of the $19 trillion national debt, he replied, “I would say over a period of eight years.”

Federal outlays under current law will total $38.6 trillion between 2017 and 2024, the Congressional Budget Office estimated last year. Mr. Trump would have to slash the budget nearly in half each year of his two full terms to fulfill his pledge without raising taxes. Oh, and he promises to leave entitlement programs, the chief driver of the debt, untouched. Mr. Trump was not pressed on his inane answer.

You get the impression that Rove is not very enthusiastic about Trump’s grasp of policy:

How would he restore international respect for America? “Through the aura of personality,” he told the Post reporters. They asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin would respect the U.S. under President Trump. “He said very positive things about me,” The Donald replied, confirming that he is easily misled by flattery from anti-American dictators.

He further demonstrated his ignorance by complaining to the Times’s David Sanger and Maggie Haberman about how Iran is spending the billions released to it under the nuclear deal. “They’re buying everything, they’re buying from everybody but the United States,” he said. When Mr. Sanger reminded the celebrity TV star that U.S. sanctions prevent American companies from selling to Iran, Mr. Trump was reduced to saying, “Uh, excuse me?”

As for personal vanity, with Trump it is never in short supply:

His lack of knowledge shouldn’t be surprising, given that Mr. Trump is his own principal foreign-policy adviser. When Mr. Sanger suggested foreign affairs was “not an area you focused on in your business career,” Mr. Trump responded that he “had an aptitude for it,” and “would read about it.”

Asked what he had read, Mr. Trump said “various newspapers.” Pressed about his failure to attract experienced advisers, he responded, “Many of them are tied up with contracts working for various networks.” Strange how other campaigns don’t have the same problem.

And, of course, Rove concludes by suggesting that Trump has been running his campaign, not on organization or political savvy, but on vanity. It’s fair to say that, in many cases it has been working. People respond to vanity. It may be fake but it beats despair.

One place it didn’t is Colorado. Trump has gone into high dudgeon over the results of the Colorado convention, but, Rove continues, it merely shows what happens when you lack executive skills and believe that vanity—coupled with death threats and intimidation—can carry you across the finish line:

Mr. Trump’s newfound class was on display this week, in reaction to Saturday’s state GOP convention in Colorado. Lacking almost any organization, Team Trump was smoked. Sen. Ted Cruz took all 34 delegates. In response, Mr. Trump tweeted, “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them” and warned, “This will not be allowed!”

Actually, it will be. The state Republican executive committee voted unanimously last August to select delegates through a convention, not a primary or caucus. Mr. Trump, running initially as a lark, failed to organize in states like Colorado. Now he demands that the rules be changed because he didn’t prepare and lost.

Mr. Trump has been running a vanity campaign. His looming victory in next week’s New York primary may discourage him from doing so, but at some point, maybe he should run a real one.

Today’s non-Rovean text is:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Follow the actions, not the words...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I got called a "fringe reactionary" by one of my Republican friends at lunch today. I was summarily castigated for my "high opinion" of Donald Trump (a high opinion of him which I do not hold at all). This came after I asked him a simple question: "You seem to think it's fair game to select convention delegates whose most important qualification is their opposition to Trump... I actually wonder if you're missing the most important question: who will those delegates choose in his place?"

He stomped off, quite emotionally ruffled. By a question. I suspect I will be de-friended on Facebook. Horrors. Ah, vanity.

Who will the Republican Party choose as their presidential nominee? This is an audacious question??? Isn't this the point of this electoral exercise? If the electoral exercise is null, void or pointless, why are these candidates spending enormous resources to win? Who's going to win? Can that nominee win? Does anyone care if the Republicans win the general election? I am not so sure of that.

If the current establishment stance is "Anybody but Trump" (or hash-tag "Never Trump" for those of you with the attention span of a gnat), I suspect they will get their wish. The only question is: WHO will it be? Who will the Republican Party run? Who will be the Republican nominee for president? Can that person hold the party together? Doubtful. Who are the "reactionaries" in this case? I've watched many more anti-Trump people come unglued at Trump's threat to the status quo than people who favor his candidacy. It is most curious.

Pesky things, elections. It would all be so much easier if we didn't have them, eh?

sestamibi said...

Just to set the record straight, The Colorado Republicans did not choose their national convention delegates by insiders. They had caucuses just like many other states, but refused to indulge in the travesty of having a meaningless straw poll. In all too many caucus states, voters showed up to cast a ballot and leave immediately, instead of staying to participate in transaction of caucus business, such as adopting resolutions to be used ultimately in the preparation of the national party platform, but most importantly to elect precinct delegates to the next level (county or legislative district) conventions--all too often supporting candidates other than the one who won the straw poll vote in that precinct.

Bravo to the Colorado GOP for calling this nonsense for what it is.