I’m usually at work during Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, but on the Friday before Thanksgiving I happened to find myself in a car with someone who was listening to his show. Rush was defending Donald Trump against stories in the media suggesting he might be interested in having a database to register Muslims in the U.S. While discussing Mr. Trump, Rush said that the media has not been able to destroy Trump because it didn’t create him. A couple of days later, I saw Rush on Fox News Sunday saying that Donald Trump is providing a great service by showing Republicans that they do not have to be afraid of the media or of being politically incorrect.
- First of all, I really would not be at all sure that “the media” is trying to “take out” or ruin Donald Trump at this point. They get good TV ratings or more hits on their websites, etc. when they cover him, so why would they want that to stop any time soon? Also, I’d guess that they probably still do not view Mr. Trump as one of the Republicans most likely to do well in the general election. So, from a partisan standpoint, I wouldn’t expect the media to try to harm him during the primary season -- why make it more likely for Hillary Clinton to face someone they see as a stronger opponent? Once the Republican nominee is officially selected, there will be plenty of time for attempted media sabotage of whomever is chosen.
- Also, while there may be occasions like this one, where reporters or others ask Trump questions that have a good chance of eliciting controversial answers from him, most of the time this is quite unnecessary, as Mr. Trump seems delighted to make blunt or even outrageous statements of his own accord.
- Finally, I cannot see that Donald Trump’s ability to succeed to this point despite a plethora of media coverage of his “politically incorrect” campaign would be generally applicable to other Republican candidates. I find it hard to believe that most candidates would retain their support if the news was filled with reports about them continually making rude and insulting comments about practically everyone, constantly changing their positions on issues, and making or supporting proposals that might alienate large portions of the public. This type of “Teflon” resilience is possible, for Trump or any other politician, only if his or her supporters are willing to provide it. Trump’s segment of the Republican electorate certainly seems willing to stick with him no matter what he says or does or what is said about him, which, in his case, I do not thing is a good thing. If Republican voters in general and conservative media figures would be willing to extend that sort of unshakable loyalty to any (or even most) Republican candidates, it would certainly be a new development, because in the past there has been what I would consider an often unfortunate tendency to abandon Republicans facing criticism or even to join in with it, even when the people in question are much more deserving of defense.
- In reference to Rush’s caller, once again, I think it would be wiser for potential voters not to simply discount stories about candidates without any attention or thought. Beyond that, though, I find it troubling that people would want to claim that Donald Trump is “speaking for” them. If we’re seeking a spokesperson, wouldn’t it be better to look for one who is at least moderately civil, consistent, coherent when discussing issues, and, hopefully, conservative?
- To respond to the question from my dear relative (and I will mention that she actually prefers a candidate other than Trump,) I think it is the wrong thing to ask, especially now, and it is certainly not a sufficient argument for having Donald Trump as the Republican frontrunner. Barack Obama is rather irrelevant to the discussion, since he is not, thankfully, running for reelection again. (Unless, of course, he decides to pen another really creative executive action eliminating presidential term limits and then phone all of the media outlets to tell them about it. But, I digress...) As for a comparison of the relative merits of Trump and Hillary Clinton, I honestly cannot say that I am confident Trump would be preferable. Not that long ago, he praised and supported Hillary, and he changes his stated opinions on many things very frequently. How, then, can we think we have any real idea what actions he would take or goals he would pursue were he elected President? I will confess that I see Mr. Trump as really being much more of a liberal Democrat than a conservative Republican at heart, so, in a contest with Mrs. Clinton, there would basically be a draw in my mind. That being said, even if we were to stipulate that Trump would at least be better than Clinton, this is not the time to raise such a point. If he does eventually win the nomination (insert involuntary shudders here,) it would make sense for those advocating his election to use this reasoning in attempting to persuade other voters to support him. For now, though, we still have 14 candidates in a primary race for which the actual voting has not yet even begun. Rather than settling for someone who meets a bare minimum standard of being a bit better than the Democrats, shouldn’t we be trying to select the strongest candidates who are likely to do the best job as President and who might actually try to govern according to some basic conservative principles?
- Finally, a couple of points in answer to Mark Steyn’s caller regarding “winning.” First, I think that it is still difficult for many of us to accept the idea that large numbers of people could find Donald Trump to be a valid option for President of the United States, so we do not just assume that the nation as a whole would be willing to elect him even if enough Republicans vote to give him the nomination. The American electorate obviously has been known to make very unwise choices before, having, for example, recently elected Barack Obama twice. So, they may well go along with the idea of a brash reality show in the White House, but there is also a chance that they may take a more traditional, staid approach when deciding whom to consider “presidential.” Secondly, are we to consider it a “win” as long as someone with an “R” next to his or her name on the ballot is elected, no matter what his or her philosophy, policies, or actions may be? I think that we should aim higher than that and seek to nominate someone who will at least try to move the political conversation and policy goals of our country in the right (and Right) direction, and, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe Mr. Trump is the man to do that.
- In general, it seems rather odd for the public to put its trust in someone with no real relevant experience or qualifications who mainly just expresses multiple vague and ever-changing opinions about foreign policy and other issues, but this seems especially reckless regarding matters of national security. Why would voters choose to rely on a person who thinks he can wait to become knowledgeable and prepared about these issues until it’s time to take office; who has criticized other candidates for making harsh characterizations of Vladimir Putin, with whom he thinks he can have good discussions; suggested that we should just let Russia deal with ISIS in Syria; and so on? Because they see him as the “tough guy?” I think that’s a flawed perception of him, but, in any case, I don’t think the terrorists are going to abandon their goals and plans and slink away because someone casts particularly creative or withering insults in their direction.
- In addition, I find it quite troublesome that even reports about Donald Trump’s lengthy “speech” in Iowa a couple of weeks ago apparently do not give his supporters pause. If he can go on a rather unhinged tirade against other candidates (including Ben Carson and Marco Rubio) and even call the voters of Iowa stupid for the egregious error of failing to always keep him, the Great & Powerful Trump, on top in their polls, and this results in a greater number of people thinking he is the man they want to make the leader of the free world, what does that say about the qualities the American people (or at least Republican primary voters) want in a president? And, from a practical standpoint, this begs the question: is there anything Donald Trump could possibly do or say that might cause fans to rethink their support? I’m afraid that the answer may be no, and that is a very disheartening thought.