‘He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” That observation is attributed (possibly erroneously) to Franklin D. Roosevelt, expressing his feelings about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza García. That’s the American version of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and it has produced mixed results as a foreign-policy guideline: Saddam Hussein, the Afghan muhajideen, and the Pakistanis were our sons of bitches right up until they weren’t. Moammar Qaddafi was our son of a bitch for about five minutes, and a fat lot of good it did him.
Strange thing: A fair number of purported Republicans annoyed at enemy-of-my-enemy thinking as a rule of thumb for international affairs have embraced it as a model for choosing a president. This isn’t going to work out well for them.
To long for a strongman to rule over us with a whip hand is unworthy of Americans, but Americans are human beings, too, and they suffer from a common human affliction: They desire to be dominated by a strong man. The man on the horse offers them protection for their vulnerability, direction for their directionlessness, strength for their weakness. All he demands in return is servility, which devotees of Der Apfelstrudelführer — singing hilariously homoerotic hymns to his purported status as “alpha male” — are all too happy to provide.
“Abject” is not a strong enough word for Laura Ingraham’s performance. Point to Trump’s corruption and his support of odious politicos ranging from Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi to Harry Reid to Herself, and they’ll scoff: “He was a businessman — what do you expect?” Well, George Soros is a businessman, too — what do you expect? Point to Trump’s inconsistencies — the so-called conservative does not believe in free enterprise, property rights, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, or the rest of the Bill of Rights — and people who denounce George Will for once having had dinner with Barack Obama when he was president-elect will weep that you’re a “purist.”
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Donald Trump has lied about practically everything a human being can lie about — ask his wives and children — but he did tell the truth about one thing: He really could shoot people down on Fifth Avenue (assuming that the TV tough guy actually knows how to operate a firearm) and none of these unsouled minions would bat an eye, their eyes being exhausted from batting them at Der Apfelstrudelführer.
A caller on Rush Limbaugh’s program yesterday insisted that, all appearances to the contrary, Trump voters have taken the measure of their man and know exactly what they are doing. Trump, he said, would either be their instrument for taking over the Republican party or their instrument for destroying it. My impression was that he preferred the latter.
That’s all fine as millimeter-deep talk-radio rhetoric goes: “The Democrats inflicted upon this republic a so-called constitutional scholar who abuses and subverts the Constitution at every turn — we’ll answer with a guy who doesn’t even know how a bill becomes a law, or care!”
But I wonder how Team Trumpkin actually imagines that will work.
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It isn’t impossible to believe that the 2016 electorate will be exactly as stupid and childish as the electorate that twice chose Barack Obama over a flawed but preferable candidate in 2008 and over an immeasurably preferable candidate in 2012. Let’s say that all the greybeards in Washington are Sidney J. Mussburger but the median voter is more of a Norville Barnes kind of thinker. (“Voting! You know, for kids!”) So everybody sings a chorus of “Populism, Yeah, Yeah!” and Donald J. Trump, scion of a Queens slumlord empire who can’t quite get his story straight on the Ku Klux Klan even though his father was arrested after a Klan riot (“native-born Protestant Americans,” they styled themselves; the orange doesn’t fall far from the tree) becomes president of these United States.
There almost certainly will be a Republican House, full of conservative Republicans who believe the things conservative Republicans believe and Donald Trump does not. There probably will be a Republican Senate, too, though it is difficult to imagine that Trump’s agenda would fare any better under a Senate led by his old pal Chuck Schumer. Trump already has threatened Paul Ryan — he’ll toe the line or “pay a big price,” Trump said — and he’ll do the same with Mitch McConnell and others, one imagines. The list of people who thought they were cleverer operators than Mitch McConnell is long, and it does not contain very many happy people. Trump can rail against trade with Mexico and the nefarious Canadians, but NAFTA is the law of the land. So are our other trade treaties. Those claiming to be true-blue conservatives who believe that the president has unilateral power to withdraw from a treaty should consult Barry Goldwater. Even assuming that the nuke-NAFTA movement prevails, what do they imagine would replace it?
The preferred answer seems to be: “Never mind puny treaty! TRUMP SMASH!”
The so-called establishment that Hannity et al. rage against for fun and profit does not actually exist.
Trump’s health-care plan is mainly a dead letter, with the exception of his proposal that we create health-savings accounts, which we created more than a decade ago. (Trump does not keep up with the news.) His tax plan, to the extent that it is a plan, is dead on arrival. Even his vaunted immigration agenda, which largely replicates pre-existing law, isn’t going anywhere: His touchback amnesty is simply regular old familiar amnesty dressed up as deportation. Neither Republicans nor Democrats to the right of far left are going to go for that.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are going to be a lonely couple.
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The so-called establishment that Hannity et al. rage against for fun and profit does not actually exist. What does exist is a wide array of political and economic interests that sometimes overlap and sometimes do not, and that sometimes produce good results and sometimes produce hideous ones. (Come on, Senator Rubio: Sugar subsidies are not a national-security priority.) Those aren’t going away simply because Americans turn off their neocortices, give in to their inner chimpanzees, and pull the Trump lever.
And never mind that the idea that Trump wants to smash the nexus of media-political-financial power that has helped to keep him rich and made him famous is patently absurd. If we take him at his word, it was important enough for him to have the Clintons at his wedding (his third?) that he paid them to be there. Trump likes to scorn those who have sought his assistance (donations for the Club for Growth, an endorsement for Mitt Romney) as “begging like dogs” (Trump has watched Batman Begins too many times), but he in fact has been so desperate over the course of his life for the approval of his betters that he has been willing to pay for it, or for a facsimile of it — that being the only way he knows to get what he wants.Who’s a good boy? Now, roll over and write the Clintons a check.
But money is the only tool in his toolbox. You think he started a modeling agency because it’s a good business? Please. Ask his H1-B visa wife (this one, not the other one) about that.
Like the saps who fell for the Trump University scam, Trump voters have convinced themselves that a man who has shown nothing but contempt for his fellow Americans, his business associates, and his family cares about poor sad-sacks like them. They are mistaken.
He isn’t your son of a bitch. He’s just a son of a bitch.
— Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent at National Review.