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The Trump Card

For some reason, a number of readers have asked me to expand my thoughts on Donald Trump.  Apparently, the subtle jabs I've taken in past articles have led some to believe I don't like Trump, and others to believe I do like Trump.  Either way, I'm going to get hate mail on this one, I think.

Que sera.

Basically, I score candidates on three main issues: statesmanship, leadership and economics.  I will say right up front that NONE of the candidates for US president rise to the top in any of these categories.

To give an example of someone who does score high in all three categories, I would point to Vladimir Putin.  In terms of statesmanship, he knows history, diplomacy and politics.  As far as leadership, he is circumspect, cautious and flexible.  When it comes to economics, he has proven able to guide his country through some tough times and still manage to keep the economy growing.  The economics part relies heavily on the first two categories to formulate the proper policies and implement them correctly.  In short, I admire his skills, though I can say nothing about him personally.

That said, I can evaluate what I see of Donald Trump.  Since I do not know him personally, I can only do as I would with Vladimir Putin and look at the publicly available information.

When it comes to statesmanship, I will use the dictionary definition of the term in order to remain objective.  Statesmanship means "the ability, qualifications, or practice of a statesman; wisdom and skill in the management of public affairs."  In this category, I include knowledge of history and law, as well as the legal processes that make government work.

In this category, I think we can say that Donald Trump has no record whatsoever.  He has never held public office and his experience with politics seems fairly limited to his ability to buy and sell politicians to get what he wants in the way of tax concessions, property easements and other things needed to run his businesses.  Knowing how to manipulate political systems says nothing about his ability to operate on the other side of the table.  He is used to buying what he wants to make his operations run smoother, not protect public interests and the commonwealth.

Furthermore, by listening to his public statements, we can conclusively say that Donald Trump has little or no knowledge of the legal and political processes that maintain government.  He does not know, or has never studied, the US Constitution.  That he promotes torture and similar remedies means that he is unfamiliar with the Enlightenment and the philosophical underpinnings of American law.  Trump promotes expedience over justice, making him rather dangerous in this area.  His stances on immigration and border control, however, don't seem out of place, since most of what he proposes is simply enforcing the current laws, which has not been done for some time under other presidents.

In the area of diplomacy, I think it is fair to say that Donald Trump is seriously lacking.  Even when he espouses ideas that are valid and/or popular, he has a way of expressing them that alienates many people.  I happen to agree with his desire to reduce globalism and bring manufacturing jobs back home, but the way he lays out his views make more than just the globalist bankers nervous.  The US trade partners are also balking, since Trump has been both blunt and has not given any basis for his proposed policies.

As for the wisdom of circumspection, it is hardly controversial to say that Donald Trump is not much of a deep thinker.  He is reactionary and unable to express his reasoning in intellectual terms.  He appeals to and plays on emotions, which given his obvious popularity, could be very dangerous in the long term.  This is precisely the kind of rhetoric that gets nations in trouble.  Again, I point at Vladimir Putin, who is most often understated and places numerous historical and legal references in his speeches.

In terms of statesmanship, we can only put a big question mark, since we know nothing about his abilities here.

In the next category, leadership, we find a rather mixed bag.  Donald Trump has a long public record of corporate leadership where his attitude appears to be one of "my way or the highway."  This attitude works fine in a business, because when people don't like "my way," they are free to change jobs.  However, when running a country, things are not so straight-forward.  Countries contain thousands of competing interests, and a republic (at least in name) has the further duty to protect certain basic rights against even majorities who would take them away.  Leading a country requires diplomacy and compromise, skills which Donald Trump has seldom displayed.

Donald Trump is charismatic and expresses things that a lot of disaffected voters feel.  On the campaign trails, this is useful and obviously successful, but with no record of statesmanship, we cannot evaluate how he would behave in the office of president.  Being emotional and unpredictable when you control one of the largest militaries on Earth and have your fingers poised on the nuclear launch button are not ideal qualifications.  They are equally undesirable for a leader whose job is to calm the anxieties of foreign leaders, who could easily be on the receiving end of military responses.  As a cut-throat real estate developer, Donald Trump is used to getting his way by using any means at his disposal.  What happens when the means include all the weight of the US military complex?

In the category of economics, it seems reasonable to assume that Donald Trump has a strong intuitive grasp of economics.  He understands interest rates and taxes, and likely can calculate large sums instantly in his head.  As a developer, he understands profits and margins for a lot of different suppliers and laborers.  He can probably generate a 5-year plan with cost-benefit analysis in his sleep.  But , government is not a business.  It is a cost-center that generates no products and is incapable of earning a profit.  Government, in other words, is the fundamental opposite of business.  Being highly successful running one does not imply success with the other.  The skill sets are completely different.

I would place Donald Trump in a much higher place, when it comes to economics, that I would any career politician.  The politician has no experience with the "real" world.  They can vote themselves a raise, and frequently do.  Their incomes are derived from threatening physical violence on the productive workers.  The only time a politician answers to anyone is when he runs for office, and it is quite easy to manipulate the constituency using well-established media tricks and a few pork-barrel projects for the home crowds.

In light of the preceding, I find it very difficult to support Donald Trump, not to mention his rather potent ego-centrism, which puts me off.  The problem is, there is no one in the rest of the field that would seriously turn the country around, or at least get it off of the current course of destroying the world and itself.  In additional, I have always supported the non-establishment (can't really call Trump anti-establishment) candidate, and in my lifetime, I have never seen such a candidate reach this level of support.  For that reason alone, I secretly admire his chutzpah.

If for no other reason, I like Donald Trump because he will, without a doubt, stir the pot, something desperately needed in the US.  I can't believe he will make it past the convention, since the entrenched powers literally cannot afford to lose control.  They will stop him, one way or another.  They have come too far down the their road to let one man derail the whole thing.

The best endorsement Donald Trump has received is the vitriol pouring out of the establishment media in the US.  That those media would try so hard to get rid of someone almost guaranteed to bring ratings, both now and in the White House, means that they are truly and profoundly scared of him.  I like that.

In the end, for anyone wanting to break the grip of the neo-cons, Donald Trump is probably the best bet.  One thing is likely under a Trump administration - the business environment would return to the heady days of the early Reagan years.  Even though the country (and the world) has suffered dearly for the wave of deregulation in the 80s, no one can deny that a lot of people made a lot of money back then.  Just look at the movies that period spawned.

You pays your money and you takes your chance.  I naturally will not vote, as I haven't for decades.  I prefer "none of the above."  In this position, I can claim to have always been right, because I have always said that no matter who gets elected, everyone will be sorry.  Go back and look at my early posts on Obama, when it was oh-so-incorrect to say such things.  Unless Trump returns the US Federal government to a size somewhere equivalent to pre-Civil War days, neither he nor anyone else offers much more than the impossible dream.