Every four years, and sometimes more often than that, there’s a presidential candidate that elicits a certain kind of “You just don’t get it!” response whenever he (or she) is criticized by so-called “establishment” conservatives. Moreover, criticism or even a pronounced lack of enthusiasm for this anointed candidate is proof of any number of sins, from corruption (moral, intellectual or professional), cowardice, hypocrisy, naiveté and, of course, secret liberalism. So in that sense the tone and tenor of support for Donald Trump is nothing new. I’m hearing all of it in response to today’s column on Trump.
Still, the degree to which reason is taking flight is really remarkable to behold. People who try to parse my words with laser precision to prove I’m not merely wrong but a sell-out, have no objections to the barrage of nonsense and non-sequiturs that pour forth from Trump’s mouth hourly. For example, last night I listened to Trump on Greta Van Susteren’s show explain that “nobody” talked about illegal immigration or the crimes committed by illegal immigrants before he brought it up. “This wasn’t even an a subject and I brought it up,” he insisted.
Really? Illegal immigration hasn’t been an issue or discussed in American politics until Donald Trump started talking about it? That is such unalloyed nonsense. Illegal immigration has been a defining issue for years in the GOP. You could look it up.
Almost as ridiculous is his claim — repeated again last night – that he’s being attacked for being “against illegal immigration.” No he’s not. Every GOP candidate says he (or she) is against illegal immigration, admittedly with varying degrees of forcefulness and seriousness about both the problem and the solution. But Trump is not being attacked because of his “brave” policy position. He’s being attacked, at least by his conservative critics, for stating his policy positions in ways that will make it harder to get good policies enacted — and make it harder for serious GOP presidential candidates to get elected.
Or maybe not. A few smart people I’ve talked to have started seeing an upside to Trump. First of all, yes he’s distracting the media from the other candidates, but he’s also making the other candidates look more serious. The press savaged Mitt Romney for saying “Binders full of women” and mocked Rubio for drinking water (“Ha, ha! He requires it to live!”). Those kinds of conventional “gaffes” are meaningless noise when Trump’s lips are moving.
Moreover, the issues Trump raises aren’t necessarily bad for the GOP. This horrible murder in San Francisco isn’t a storyline the press or the Democrats wanted in the wake of Trump’s remarks, or really at all. On other fronts, talking about how badly things are being run is not a terrible message when the Democrats are running for a third Obama term. Having Trump raise these subjects while the serious candidates discuss them seriously probably isn’t that bad a thing. If a leftwing celebrity joined the Democratic race and brought attention to income inequality or some such, it would probably help the Democrats in the long run.
The other night on Special Report Charles Krauthammer referred to Trump as a “rodeo clown” a downgrading of status from mere “clown.” But maybe the analogy is apt. Rodeo clowns have a specific job, to draw the bull away from the actual cowboys so they can do their jobs. Maybe Trump is providing a similar service?
I’m not sure I buy it, but it’s an interesting theory. And, ultimately, whether it’s true or not, it really won’t change my approach to Trump. My only job is to say what I think truthfully. And I truthfully don’t think much of Trump.