I think that every liberal friend and relative who knows I am a Republican has asked me what I think of Donald Trump. The general implication is that any shred of respect they ever had for my opinions will be gone if I say I like him. Also, several of my conservative Republican friends absolutely abhor Trump and say they would never vote for him, no matter what. On the other side, a third group of friends think he is the best hope we have to save the country and they fervently support him.
Personally, I am torn by Donald Trump. To me, he is like the girl in the nursery rhyme with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When he is good he is very very good and when he is bad he is horrid. I’d like to discuss the good and the bad of Donald Trump. I will focus on who he is as a person, not his views on individual issues. Everybody has different views on issues. My question here is does he have what it takes to be a good president. Before I do this, however, I would like to share two insights that I think you are essential to understanding Donald Trump.
Insight 1: The Art of The Deal
The first insight comes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal”. I read this originally almost thirty years ago when it was first released. I will confess that I do not remember it clearly, but one thing I do remember is that he says that you need to begin with an outrageous, extreme starting position. As you negotiate, you will negotiate away the outrageous components and you will end up with what you actually want. If you start with a reasonable position, then as you negotiate you will need to make real concessions and you will end up with far less than you want.
Therefore Donald Trump starts his approach to immigration saying he will deport every illegal alien in America. The press and other detractors have ridiculed this position saying that it is impossible and/or impractical. I believe Donald Trump knows that. This is his outrageous starting position. If he gets elected president, he will negotiate down and end up with an immigration policy he never could have achieved if he started with a reasonable position.
Insight 2: The Board Room
The second insight derives from watching Trump for many years on the Apprentice. In Trump’s boardroom, if you are attacked, you must counter-attack. If you don’t counter-attack, you get fired, even if you did a great job. My personal philosophy is that if I am the project leader, everything that goes wrong is somewhat my fault. My job is to anticipate and prevent other people’s mistake. I would not have made it out of the first boardroom. I don’t agree with his philosophy here. On the other hand, he is a multi-billionaire and I am not. Maybe he knows something that I don’t. Whether you think this is good or bad, it is who he is. You can’t understand Donald Trump without understanding this.
The Good 1: The CEO
The best thing about Trump is that I think he would be a great Chief Executive of the United States. The man knows how to run an organization. Most importantly, I believe he would bring in very talented people to work under him. Too often, key government positions are political payoffs. They are rewarded as political prizes, often with little thought given to the ability. Trump didn’t get to where he is by hiring his buddies. I am not worried about Trump’s lack of Washington experience. He can hire people with Washington experience. Presidents often hire people who will tell them only what they want to hear. You don’t become a billionaire by surrounding yourself with flatterers; you surround yourself with highly competent people that tell you what you need to know.
The Good 2: The Blunt Spokesman
When my son was about five years old, he was randomly selected for a full body pat down at the airport. While security was busy making sure that Jimmy was not carrying any weapons such as high-caliber squirt guns, multiple people who appeared to be from the Middle East walked through security without being hindered. Sometimes political correctness is silly. Sometimes it can get people killed.
I think it is important to have a president who is willing to tackle serious issues and will not be frightened off by political correctness or the fear of offending someone. Trump is correct when he says he made immigration a major issue. Before Trump’s initial comments, immigration was a secondary issue and primarily focused on how we should not offend Hispanic voters. After a few words from Trump, it became the issue in the campaign. He not only says what needs to be said, but when he says things, people listen.
The Good 3: The Attack Dog
In 2012, the Democrats painted Romney, a person who truly has dedicated his life to helping others, as one of the most horrible people the world has ever known. Romney, on the other hand, would attack Obama’s policies but he refused to say anything negative about Obama as a person. Romney lost. The Republicans cannot make this mistake again.
Many pundits think that Hillary Clinton would mop the floor with Trump. I have heard predictions she would win forty nine states. I think that these people have not watched Trump at all. When Trump attacks, people listen and his attacks work. His low-energy comments destroyed Bush. His attacks on Cruz’s citizenship, which I personally think are without merit, have caused Trump to surge in the polls and overtake Cruz in the Iowa polls. Bill Clinton has been an abuser of women for women for over twenty years and Hillary has helped him do it, but until Trump brought it up, nobody thought anything about it. After a few words from Trump, Hillary’s poll ratings from women plunged.
Trump is probably the best, most-effective attack dog I have ever seen. He has the ability to find the attack that sticks and get people to talk about it. I think he could devastate most opponents. If his opponent is Hillary Clinton, with so many negatives that most people don’t even begin to know, some of which dwarf the email issues, I think that Trump could be the most effective candidate the Republicans could run against her.
The Bad 1: The Meanie
I understand Trump’s need to counter-attack his enemies. I am disturbed how he needlessly says mean and crude things about people who sometimes aren’t even his enemies. Comments on Carly Fiorina’s face or saying McCain wasn’t a hero because he got captured just make me cringe.
I think that Trump’s war on Megyn Kelly is the best illustration of his pettiness. Megyn Kelly asked Trump a question in the first Fox debate about his denigration of women. The moderators began the debate by asking each candidate a tough question that would certainly come up at some point if the candidate won the nomination. In that light, I thought that her question was totally fair and reasonable. Since then, Trump has been throwing out a steady stream of attacks on Kelly including a line which I certainly interpreted as being about her menstruation. It culminated in his boycott of the Iowa debate. During this time, Kelly has shown nothing but class. I can certainly understand a candidate attacking the media for being unfair. It often is. In this case, though, it is certainly vast overkill. He comes across as petty, petulant, and just plain mean. These are not characteristics you want in a president.
The Bad 2: The Narcissist
I have always thought that President Obama is a narcissist. In his campaign, he consistently stated how he could make everything right based upon the force of his personality. The Iranians might hate America under Bush, but Obama would turn them around and make them see the light. Obama also never admits he is wrong about anything.
I see the same narcissistic characteristics in Trump. He can make Putin see reason. He can work with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. He very seldom says how he will do anything, asking us to trust that he will succeed because he is Trump. While Trump may have more justification than Obama in thinking he can succeed just because of who he is, I still think is is a dangerous personality characteristic.
Trump also refuses to admit he ever makes a mistake. For example Trump claimed he saw a newscast video of thousands of Muslims celebrating 9-11 in New Jersey. Nobody has found such a video. To me it is obvious and innocuous what happened. He saw videos of thousands of Muslims in the middle east celebrating. He saw another video of a few Muslims in New Jersey celebrating. Over time, he mixed them up. This is a fairly normal type of thing. I certainly have done it. Trump, however, will never admit he made a mistake about anything. I can’t say for sure it is from Narcissism. I don’t know if he knows he made a mistake but feels if he admits a mistake, it will destroy the Trump magic. Maybe it would. I just don’t want a president who can’t ever admit when he has been wrong. If a policy is bad, it needs to be changed. Would Trump change it?
The Bad 3: The Waffler
I have my doubts about Ted Cruz, which I will not go into right now, but I certainly admire his integrity and consistency. In Iowa, Cruz has stated his opposition to Ethanol subsidies. Iowa lives on Ethanol subsidies. Every candidate who ever campaigns in Iowa supports these subsidies except Cruz. To me this clearly shows that Cruz will stand by his principles no matter what. I can’t say that about Donald Trump. I don’t really know what his convictions are.
In the last debate, Trump swore he would not personally bring a lawsuit against Cruz on the citizenship issue, then a few days later he said he was considering it. How can he consider it? He just promised he wouldn’t. Likewise, pledging to support the Republican candidate no matter what, he started hinting again that he might run as a third party candidate if he wasn’t “treated fairly”. It bothers me that he reneges or at least considers reneging on promises that easily.
With this lack of integrity, I find it hard to evaluate Trump’s true views on many issues. Earlier in life he espoused some fairly liberal positions and supported Democratic candidates. He says his views have evolved over time and he supported Democrats because as a businessman, it is what he had to do. That might be true, but I don’t have enough confidence in his integrity to know that for sure. While the Cruz citizenship suit threat might be minor in the grand scheme, it tells me that his promise can’t be trusted. I understand that sometimes promises must be broken due to extreme circumstances. This, however, is not an extreme circumstance. If he can break his word here, he can break it anywhere.
I am still torn on Donald Trump. There seems to be a trend where I start to like him and then he says something that makes me cringe and it pushes me back away from him. I would certainly vote for Trump over Clinton, Sanders, or any Democrat who I can think might run. I just kind of sort of hope that the Republicans choose somebody else. Maybe. I think. Ask me again tomorrow.