Mr. Trump, You Are No Ronald Reagan
The most important aspect of Donald Trump’s candidacy is that he doesn’t seem to believe in anything except himself.
After Trump’s Super Tuesday victories, his battered Republican foes seem to be ready to give up the fight, resigned to his winning the Republican presidential nomination. Even some of his critics are likening him to a blank slate, to be filled once he moves into the White House. Don’t worry, it’s being said, he’s a salesman who will do or say anything to close a deal but doesn’t really mean it. Once in the White House, he’ll be Ronald Reagan, a Republican president sharing drinks with the likes of legendary Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill and working out sensible compromises.
I’ll get back to the Reagan comparison later. For now, I’ll just say it is totally wrong.
First, the election results.
In addition to bringing Trump closer to the Republican nomination, Super Tuesday dealt a severe blow to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic campaign and his call for a political revolution. Hillary Clinton, helped by solid African-American support, beat him across the South and, as The New York Times reported, “showed notable strength among Southern white voters.” She also won liberal Massachusetts. Sanders did win caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, plus the primaries in Oklahoma and his home state.
Sanders, with his big storehouse of small contributions, will stay in the race, but Clinton increasingly looks like the party’s nominee.
She’s a flawed candidate whose main assets are her intelligence, her résumé, her connections and her huge resolve. Nothing deters her—be it Bill Clinton’s marital transgressions, the email matter, her Wall Street speaking fees or the Libya quagmire.
Libya may be too complicated for opposition sound bites, but it shows her weaknesses, as revealed by a series in The New York Times by Jo Becker and Scott Shane. They portray Clinton as pushing relentlessly for intervention in that hopelessly divided land, brushing aside the doubts of Vice President Joe Biden and others. Surrounded by a team of careerist sycophants, she saw the fall and killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as a big plus for that country and the United States, along with her presidential ambitions.
What happened—the deaths, destruction and creation of a terrorist sanctuary—made a mockery of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s claim that Clinton is “someone who knows what she is doing … who will be ready on Day One.”
The email controversy makes a better sound bite, and the Republicans will try to destroy her with it, helped by a glacial government investigative process that will keep the possibility of an indictment dangling.
With Trump, we’re not talking about Clinton’s level of intelligence, although he is crafty. Nor does experience in anything relevant to the presidency figure into the equation. He is simply an authoritarian bully with a dangerous contempt for the law, the truth and decency.
As I said, Trump devotees like to compare him to Reagan. Having written about Reagan for many years, and having disagreed with him on most issues, I know he wasn’t a bit like Trump.
Reagan was an ideological conservative, not someone like Trump who skitters all over the lot, praising Planned Parenthood, urging his audience to beat up protesters, professing ignorance of the Ku Klux Klan and former Grand Wizard David Duke, vaguely promising medical care for all.
Reagan worked within the democratic process. He was a longtime president of his union, the Screen Actors Guild, serving in two separate periods. He was a two-term governor of California. He respected his opponents, negotiating with them in Sacramento and Washington and working out compromises. That was what he did with Speaker O’Neill, putting aside ideology in favor of legislation that both supported.
In short, he respected democracy and his opponents. And he did it while offering a sunny vision of America that, while not being entirely true, made people feel good.
Trump does not respect democracy. He despises a free press. He treats critics with contempt. He stirs racial and religious hatred with his attacks on Latinos, Mexico and Muslims. He sneers at women.
Reagan was a conservative who believed in the law, as did Barry Goldwater, an earlier conservative leader.
All Trump offers is his undisciplined belief in himself, unconstrained by the law and the truth, and his eagerness to impose his random thoughts and notions on the country. He makes Clinton, even with her blind spots and her brainy but muddle-headed advisers, look good.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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