Politics & Policy

Donald Trump: Not Telling It like It Is

(Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty)
It’s fun to think of him negotiating with the mullahs, but reality intrudes.

Let’s see. He’s a thrice-married Christian “believer.” A man born rich who went broke. A man who built a brand as a symbol of income inequality at its most offputting. A man who has no experience in government and thinks he should start at the top. A man who declines to study public issues lest they cloud his vision of personal goals. A recently engaged Republican who embarrasses his new party while delighting the opposition. A man who confuses racial slurs with policy analysis.

I’m sorry, did I miss anything?

Let’s just say that Donald Trump doesn’t check all the boxes for the job of leading the conservative movement. We are, most of us, looking for something different — somebody with apposite skills and a bit of policy depth, of course, but more importantly, somebody with moral vision and a public grace. But there he is: In recent polls, Trump is tucked in just behind Jeb Bush and well ahead of Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. What should we make of him?

RELATED: Trump Is a Bad Deal for the GOP

Some basic reporting tells me that his recent rise in popularity springs almost exclusively from his anti-establishmentarian posturing. At some primal level all of us would like to say to the mullahs, “Look, you want a nuke deal? Work it out with my associate here, the blow-dried bloviator from Queens. Have a nice day.” That would be a bit of an air-freshener, wouldn’t it?

His campaign slogan to the contrary notwithstanding, Trump is not telling it like it is. That would require some thoughtful analysis.

Indeed, when I think of Trump at the negotiating table, I’m reminded of Kingsley Amis’s take on marriage. (PC Alert! Ignore the misogyny. Amis was writing before differences between the sexes were expunged from human memory.) Said Amis of wives in general: “Women were like the Russians — if you did exactly what they wanted all the time you were being realistic and constructive and promoting the cause of peace, and if you ever stood up to them you were resorting to cold war tactics and pursuing imperialistic designs and interfering in their internal affairs.” Now, the thought of Trump mixing it up with the mullahs or the North Koreans or even the teachers’ unions sounds like good fun, but people on our side, most of us anyway, don’t pick leaders at the primal level. Reality intrudes.

His campaign slogan to the contrary notwithstanding, Trump is not telling it like it is. That would require some thoughtful analysis. He’s more about telling it like it feels. America has left its borders undefended. America is wobbling on the world stage. America’s economy is sagging under the dead weight of bureaucracy. To many Americans, it feels as if our grip on The Dream is slip-sliding away. There’s real anxiety rumbling out there, and Trump has managed to tap into it, if not with articulation at least with body language. The public — or at least its more anxious element — is responding.

#related#So where does the Trump boomlet go from here? Experience tells us that it will prove to be epiphenomenal. As voters take a closer look at him, they will see more of his warts, which to even a minimally competent oppo-researcher are present in grotesque profusion. More tellingly, the other candidates will begin to address the issues Trump is agitating. And when those more plausible candidates begin to allay the Trump-excited anxieties, voters will exhale, knowing that their concerns are being addressed. Their infatuation with Trump will then wane — my guess is that his campaign will be fading well before the first snow falls. The question will then become: Will he go quietly? Or is he lugging around what gives every appearance of being a third-party-sized ego? Will he play the sore loser, do Hillary still another favor, and try to bust up the game he just lost?

I don’t know, but here’s a suggestion for those of you currently bemused by the Trump candidacy: Ask him now if he will commit to supporting the nominee of the party whose leadership he seeks. If he won’t commit, kick him off the debate stage.

— Neal B. Freeman is Senior Adviser to the Tea Party Patriots.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been amended since its initial posting.

Neal B. Freeman is a former editor and columnist for National Review and the founding producer of Firing Line.

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