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Some of our favorites comment on Trump. Andrew Malcolm is first.
… When was the last time a really rich guy said he wanted to take the presidency from incompetent, untrustworthy pols and restore America’s grandeur? 1992. Ross Perot.
The tiny Texas billionaire with the personal grudge against George H.W. Bush bought his way on to sufficient state ballots to split the conservative vote and hand the White House to — Oh, look! — these same Clintons.
Trump’s very presence on a crowded Republican debate stage with serious contenders not only denies a genuine candidate priceless national exposure. It makes a mockery of those putting themselves through the rigorous selection process of a political party’s leader. And of conscientious voters watching.
Remember now, Trump was an original birther who credits himself with forcing Obama to release his birth certificate. There’s a qualification to occupy the Oval Office, right?
Yes, Trump is a TV/casino/real estate showman. “You’re Fired!” So was Barnum. Both provided popular entertainment. But Barnum focused on harmless hoaxes like the Fiji Mermaid and General Tom Thumb, the “Smallest Person Ever to Walk Alone.” …
Peter Wehner calls Trump a stain on the GOP.
… What, then, could possibly be the attraction of Trump to conservatives? For some, it seems, the attraction is found in the Trump style, which is precisely the concern. Mr. Trump’s announcement speech was rambling, vague, shallow, simplistic, insulting, ad hominem, and self-obsessed. He has no governing agenda and no governing philosophy; all he has is an attitude. And that attitude is crude and off-putting. Trump would be temperamentally and intellectually unqualified to run for the state legislature; running for president is ludicrous. But that’s where we are.
I’m not quite sure what the Republican Party and the conservative movement can do about Trump. If he polls well enough to be invited to participate in the debates, it’s hard to keep him out. Doing so might become a rallying point for him and his supporters. But here’s what I know they shouldn’t do, which is to be sympathetic towards him and his candidacy. Nor should they speak as if Trump has something to useful and constructive to offer. To say, as Fox’s Eric Bolling did, that Trump is “refreshing.” He isn’t.
Donald Trump is a stain on the Republican Party and conservatism, and leaders of the party shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
Michael Gerson says it is politics by hammer.
… Trump’s policy agenda is too skeletal or absurd to analyze. He will pick better generals to defeat the Islamic State. He will slap a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. He will build a wall across the continent and make Mexico pay for it.
There is little chance that Trump will have much influence when votes are tallied — even the most celebrity-blinded Republican is unlikely to forget Trump’s political contributions to Harry Reid — but there is plenty of time for mischief between now and then. And the largest risk, in the end, is not to Republicanism but to populism.
Trump’s form of populism promises not reform but deliverance. The answer to every problem is a leader who can make deals, knock heads and get results. The defects of democracy, in this view, are remedied by the strongman. It is not a coincidence that Trump expresses admiration for Vladimir Putin. “He’s doing a great job,” says Trump, “in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia, period.”
This is populism as Caesarism. The fact that Trump is laughable in the role of Caesar does not make the argument less pernicious. And it tells you a lot about the blind anger of the anti-establishment right that Rush Limbaugh is more favorable to Donald Trump than to Jeb Bush.
Jonathan Tobin says Trump means the GOP has joined the circus.
If you thought the 2016 Republican presidential race was going to be a sober affair, Donald Trump had other ideas. Trump jumped into the GOP race today with a long rant in which he boasted of his prowess as a negotiator and dismissed his competitors as a bunch of unintelligent losers who deserve to be thrown off a game show. It was a characteristically bizarre as well as an oddly compelling piece of political theater. But rather than attempting to analyze the laundry list of positions on the issues that he put forward in his speech, pundits would do better to ask whether Trump really intends to spend the next several months attempting to win the Republican nomination. If Trump is prepared to invest the time and the considerable personal wealth he has at his disposal in this enterprise, then the attitude toward his candidacy should not be limited to the mixture of dismay and mockery with which it was greeted by most of the press. A clownish, albeit opinionated celebrity, Trump doesn’t deserve serious consideration from the voters. But his presence will disrupt the race in ways that we can’t predict. Like it or not, if he meant what he said today, the Republican Party has just joined the Donald Trump circus.
Given Trump’s history as publicity hound rather than an actual office seeker, it’s entirely possible that this announcement was, like his past flirtations with presidential runs, merely a stunt that will soon be retracted. If so, the rest of the GOP field will breathe a sigh of relief. Though not even the least interesting or intelligent of the Republican presidential wannabes need fear a comparison with Trump as a potential commander-in-chief, they should all be worried about the way the developer/television personality has of sucking the oxygen out of a room. …
Last, but not least, we have Kevin Williamson continuing his evisceration of the Donald.
… Trump brings out two of the Right’s worst tendencies: the inability to distinguish between entertainers and political leaders, and the habit of treating politics as an exercise in emotional vindication.
Whatever Trump’s appeal is to the Right’s populist elements, it isn’t policy. He is a tax-happy crony capitalist who is hostile to free trade but very enthusiastic about using state violence to homejack private citizens — he backed the Kelo decision “100 percent” and has tried to use eminent domain in the service of his own empire of vulgarity — and generally has about as much command of the issues as the average sophomore at a not especially good college, which is what he was (sorry, Fordham) until his family connections got him into Penn.
If it’s not the issues, it’s certainly not the record of the man himself. Never mind that he’s a crony capitalist, he’s not even an especially good crony capitalist: The casino racket is protected from competition by a strict cartel-oriented licensing regime, but Trump, being the type of businessman who could bankrupt a mint, managed to be the biggest loser in Atlantic City, which is no small feat. He is a lifelong supporter of Democratic politicians, including Chuck Schumer and, awkwardly, the woman against whom he is pretending to run: Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is dishonest (“Oh, he lies a great deal,” said architect and collaborator Philip Johnson) and has shown himself to be a bad bet for bankers, business partners, and wives, among others.
“But he speaks his mind!” shout the Trumpkins. Indeed, he does, in a practically stream-of-consciousness fashion: His announcement speech was like Finnegans Wake as reimagined by an unlettered person with a short attention span. The value of speaking one’s mind depends heavily on the mind in question, and Trump’s is second-rate. …