He’s a blowhard with an opinion about everything, especially subjects he often knows little about.
He thinks humility is a bad word and always tells people to “think big.”
He drives people crazy with ill-considered comments and sometimes will issue five retractions of statements over a period of a few days.
His business successes aren’t quite what most of his admirers think since he was once functionally bankrupt. Then he joked that a homeless person had a higher net worth.
He is the frontrunner in the republican presidential primary race.
Who Is He?
He is Donald Trump.
As with all the presidential candidates in this profile series written from the viewpoint of which candidate will promote limited government, this is a critical column. I am no Trump follower.
But GregoryBresiger.com has a caveat: I disagree with much of what Trump says and does, especially the bully-boy, “I’m so bad” tactics, but I think I understand why so many people are supporting him. He’s tapped into a populist strand. Millions of Americans are disgusted with politics American style, truer than the bleeding red.
Trump is the ultimate anti-political establishment candidate. No one has been nearly as effective in that role since the 1992 third-party candidacy of Ross Perot, who was perhaps on his way to the presidency before he self-destructed. Millions of dissatisfied Americans flocked to Perot just as millions are doing the same with Trump.
No More Bushes! No More Clintons!
A friend of mine who I have known for close to 40 years, a highly intelligent generally pragmatic, slightly right of center, person, said it best in explaining why he supports Trump: “Greg, I’ve had it up to here with the Bushes and the Clintons. I’m supporting Trump.”
This person readily concedes that Trump has warts. However, he notes that Trump is not part of a political establishment; that he practically engages in a blood sport of hounding the powers that be; the powers that have led this country into endless spending, taxing, political correctness and useless wars. His conclusion is that a Trump vote is the best way to protest.
I can agree with the dissent. I cannot agree with the way of registering it: voting for someone so ill-prepared to become president of the United States makes about as much sense as voting for a less than one term senator for president as millions did in 2008. And President Barack Obama, in my opinion, had an ideology that demeaned liberty and a thin resume that meant Americans elected a president with zero managerial experience; someone who never ran a state, city or even a candy store.
One Flawed Leader and Another
Ultimately, my objection to President Obama is the same as many of my left wing friends who voted for him in 2008 and later regretted it: He has been a weak president, with a spotty domestic and foreign record (We are in the midst of a strange business recovery and few people actually believe that he is seriously attacking the problem of terrorism).
Yes, but Trump supporters say that is the point. Trump will be anything but weak. No, the truth is that Trump, in the midst of the age of hype, will project strength, but actually provide bankrupt policies; the same as the casino he opened in Atlantic City, then walked away from when the business crashed.
Trump is someone with a facile easy answer to every question, no matter how complex. Listen to him take questions. He is often interrupting and answering before the question is even finished. And many answers are bizarre.
For instance, Trump has no foreign policy credentials. So someone asked him who, if elected president, would be his foreign policy advisers and who does he read. Trump provided no names. He merely said that he is “really good” at figuring out these issues.
Trump Has All the Answers?
Trump will tell us that he will bomb and use U.S. forces to solve the problem of terrorism, but this is a complex problem. It is a problem that illustrates why Trump is so dangerous. The solution requires men and women with specialized knowledge, none of which Trump has ever demonstrated.
So how will he know who to choose? Trump, in effect, is telling us in a number of ways to trust his intuition.
Indeed, he’ll tell you, or anyone else, anytime, anyplace, that he is brilliant. And the subject doesn’t matter, Trump will tell you he has it all figured out.
Take our economy, which now grows at two percent or less a year, which is about half the rate it once did in recovering from recessions. What is Trump’s plan?
Massively cut taxes. That is not a bad idea. However, at the same time, Trump insists that there need be no cuts in entitlement spending. If no changes are made in the latter, then entitlement spending will someday weaken or perhaps bankrupt our nation as the graying of the nation continues and the worker/retiree ratio continues to drop.
This is the same problem that many other advanced Western welfare state democracies are facing. Once entitlements get going they never contract, they always expand. And besides an economic problem, they become a cultural problem.
People are reminded that the government will take care of their every need. So they gradually become less and less self-sufficient. This is a problem the brilliant friend of liberty Tocqueville warned of over a century and a half ago. People are less motivated to work and take care of themselves and their families. The big, paternal, government will do that, they believe as they forget the values of their parents and grandparents.
For those Trump followers who have followed me to this point—and I commend you for entertaining a point of view that is obviously disturbing you—I ask: Do you think Trump has actually given these critical issues serious consideration?
Trump and the Third Rail
The truth is Trump doesn’t want to touch entitlements, which means, in this case, he in the same class as most politicians. They think entitlement is the equal of touching the third rail on the seedy state-run subways, a place they rarely visit except when they’re campaigning for office every few years.
Why won’t Trump touch the third rail?
It is more popular to say cutting taxes will solve all problems, which they won’t. There is an intelligent way to take on these issues, but Trump isn’t proposing it.
Here it is.
Here’s the Beef
Yes, cut taxes, but also cut spending. Yes, cut taxes, but also cut payroll taxes along with income and investment taxes so more people of all different income groups take home more money and enjoy more of what a president called “the fruits of their labor.” Yes, but also cut spending to justify the tax cuts you are carrying out so deficits in the short term won’t soar.
Make painful spending decisions and take the heat for them (My proposal: Why not cut federal spending in every department by three percent. Three percent. Would the world come to an end if the federal government spent somewhat less? Ask yourself this: What do responsible people, in control of their finances, do when they face money problems? They cut their budgets. They live with less. Our governments should learn the lessons of their thoughtful citizens).
There is another big problem with a Trump presidency. Presidents, although they have taken on more and more power especially in issues of war and peace in the era of the imperial presidency, still must work with Congress to get things done such as cutting taxes and spending.
Three of the most successful and popular presidents in the post WWII era were Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. All men who could work with the opposition party. They didn’t publicly call leaders of the opposition “morons,” even though some of them certainly were. All three left office highly popular. All of them could have had a third term but for constitutional limitations.
Will He Accomplish Anything?
How is Trump, with all his grandiose plans, ever going to accomplish much? Most members of his own party in Congress dislike him because he goes out of his way to insult them as though he is promoting the main event of a wrestling event or preening for a television show.Of course, it is worse for opposition party members, who might be in control of the next Congress.
And yet, just as his ignorance is his bliss when asked about his foreign policy, he sees no need to make alliances or consult almost anyone. And he seems to delight in insulting people. Just as Trump picked the wrong casinos in Atlantic City, so, too, Trump has chosen the wrong career change. He has confused running for president with promoting wrestling matches and generating needless controversy. That is a good way to get television ratings but that’s not the stuff of successful presidencies.
Even though I understand the delight many people feel in Trump’s criticism of America’s political class, is this really the person you want as president? Wouldn’t he inevitably leave the nation disappointed and even worse off than we are today?