By Ruth Marcus
WASHINGTON—There’s a reason presidents go gray. The job is difficult. The pressures are unrelenting. If you don’t realize this, you’re not qualified to be president. Or you’re Donald Trump, in which case you are also not qualified to be president.
The self-proclaimed billionaire is fond of asserting how swiftly and simply he could solve problems that have bedeviled presidents for decades. As my colleague Dan Balz has noted, “Being Trump apparently means being able to say about nearly everything, ‘It’s so easy.’ ”
As in Trump to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on rising gasoline prices:
“We don’t have anybody in Washington that calls OPEC and says, ‘Fellas, it’s time. It’s over. You’re not going to do it anymore.’ ”
Stephanopoulos: “So what would you do to back up that threat?”
Trump: “Oh, it’s so easy George. It’s so easy. It’s all about the messenger. They wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for us.”
Right. All it takes is for a president who knows the art of the deal to call up an emir or two—you don’t need to learn their names if you just call them “fellas”—and announce that America is outta there if the spigot slows down.
I don’t think Trump is going to be president, so we needn’t spend too much time contemplating his comb-over gone gray. Trump is more interesting as a phenomenon of modern celebrity culture than as a serious presidential prospect. He is the ultimate in bread-and-circuses politics: a glittery amusement for voters and an avalanche of free publicity for the man who craves it.
But Trump is polling near the top of the GOP heap. He’s headed to New Hampshire and Iowa. So it is time to look past the birther nonsense he has been spouting to consider the rest of the nonsense he has been spouting.
Trump makes Mitt Romney look unalterably steadfast in his positions. Trump was for abortion rights before he was against them. Ditto with a tax increase on the wealthy and universal health care.
He makes Sarah Palin look like a deep thinker. In an astonishing interchange with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Trump said he believes the Constitution protects the right to privacy but seemed mystified when asked how to square that answer with his opposition to abortion rights.
“Well, it’s a pretty strange way of getting to pro-life,” Trump said. “What does that have to do with privacy?” Answer: Because the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling was grounded in the right to privacy. You can disagree with that analysis, but it’s something you ought to know if you want to be president.
And on matters of foreign policy, he makes Dick Cheney look like Gandhi. On Libya, “I would go in, I would take the oil and stop this baby stuff,” Trump told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “We go in, we have wars, we lose lives, we lose money and we leave. I would go in and take the oil and I’d clean up everything.”
I’m not cherry-picking lunacy here. Trump breezily dismisses warnings of dire consequences if the U.S. were to default on its obligations. “I don’t care. I wouldn’t raise it,” he said of the debt ceiling. When Guthrie pressed about the implications of default, Trump waved her off. “I don’t think you have to default,” he said. “You’re going to have to make a deal someplace.”
Trump ruled out both defense cuts—“I guarantee you, of all of the Republicans, I’m the strongest on defense”—and “doing anything that’s going to tinker too much” with Medicare. “I protect the senior citizens,” he said. “They’re lifeblood as far as I’m concerned.”
So how does he propose to deal with the deficit?
Trump: “You know how you do it? By stopping what’s going on in the world. The world is just destroying our country. These other countries are sapping our strength. OPEC is sapping our strength. We can’t pay $108-a-barrel oil. It’s sapping our country.”
Guthrie persisted: “How does that go to the debt crisis?”
Trump: “I’m saying, what we want to do is create a strong country again, and you can solve the deficit problem the easiest way.”
The hard truth is that there is no easiest way. Trump is an unserious candidate for serious times. The sooner he decides—or reveals—that his flirtation with running for president was just another act in the Trump show, the better the political debate will be.
Ruth Marcus’ email address is ruthmarcus(at symbol)washpost.com.
(c) 2011, Washington Post Writers Group
Flickr / Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)