Entries Tagged as 'Donald Trump'

Primary Field Falls Flat with GOP Voters

May 11th, 2011 at 11:35 am 43 Comments

A new Zogby poll makes two things very clear. First, ampoule Republicans are very unexcited about this field. Only one “candidate,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey (who maintains that he isn’t running), cracked the 15% mark. Second, GOP voters know more about who they won’t vote for than for whom they will. 50% of respondents say they would “never” vote for Donald Trump. 36% won’t vote for Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich. 34% have ruled out Mike Huckabee and 32% won’t be casting ballots for Ron Paul.

The poll does suggest that GOP voters seem virtually resigned to accepting a candidate they are not that excited about. While a mere 9% of respondents said that they would vote for Mitt Romney if the election were today, Romney is by far the presumed frontrunner. 31% of those polled said they thought Romney would win the nomination. Second place went to Tim Pawlenty, who won only 8%. This is where it gets interesting: While Romney’s the presumed frontrunner, 27% of GOP voters already say they “never” would vote for him. Tim Pawlenty has only lost 16%.

For now, the figures regarding which candidates voters who will “never” back are more significant. Ultimately, this field will get whittled down to two or three, leaving many voters having to choose the least bad option. The boring TPaw will have an opportunity to win more of those votes as they free up than Romney.

One other point: the relatively unknown Mitch Daniels (not surprisingly) would only win 4% of the vote. However, a somewhat staggering 14% of voters already say they would “never” support him. That’s a very large number of voters off the table given that Daniels remains an “inside baseball” Washington favorite and hasn’t really made a lot of noise nationally.

Follow Jeb on twitter: @JGolinkin

Can We Stop Questioning Obama’s Legitimacy Now?

David Frum May 2nd, 2011 at 12:07 pm 124 Comments

So much to say about the long-awaited visiting of justice upon Osama bin Laden.

But there’s one effect on US domestic politics that deserves a thought:

Here’s hoping that we have at last seen the end of this ugly insinuation that there is something less than fully American about the black president with the exotic name.

On Friday came the release of the long-form birth certificate that provided the final decisive refutation of the birther lie that President Obama was born elsewhere than the United States.

On Saturday at the White House Correspondents dinner, pills the most visible proponent of that lie, the blowhard TV tycoon Donald Trump, was publicly ridiculed in front of an audience of 3,000 people – without a voice to excuse or defend him.

And then late Sunday, the president told the nation of the successful execution of his order to shoot and kill Osama bin Laden.

The success of the bin Laden operation is a great moment for the United States – and not only for the United States.

But it is also a deservedly bad moment for some of the destructive forces in American public life: for those who have substituted for ordinary politics a sustained campaign to brand President Obama as an outsider, as un-American, as non-American.

Those of us who oppose this administration’s economic and foreign policies have had so many valid points to make.

Yet some have insisted on traveling beyond those valid points. They have called the president “post American.” A “Third world dictator.” An individual whose behavior could only be interpreted as “Kenyan post-colonial.”  A “thug in chief.” They have tried to present US politics not as a choice between liberal and conservative, but as a choice between American and non-American, between real Americans and between a dangerous dark-skinned intruder. They have sought to portray the President as a man who could not be trusted to lead the country because he owed no loyalty to the country – because he did not belong in the country.

After the events of the past 72 hours, those kinds of attacks should be finished now. It’s a cleaner world without bin Laden soiling it. And American politics will be cleaner for the expunging of the malicious fantasy of the president’s non-Americanness.

President Obama has performed the first job of an American president: he has used the power of the nation well to defeat the nation’s enemies and defend the nation’s people. After an interval for celebration of yesterday’s accomplishment, it will be back to politics as usual. But let’s hope that this time, the usual will have this difference: that the administration can be criticized as “liberal” without being libeled as “alien.”

Originally published at CNN.com.

Washington Gets the Last Laugh at Trump

David Frum May 1st, 2011 at 8:28 am 124 Comments

First the Washington Post seats Donald Trump in the middle of the vast ballroom in the Washington Hilton at the White House Correspondents dinner.

Then the President of the United States followed by the comedian for the night ridicule Trump to his face in every imaginable way, including his appearance.

The entire room explodes in laughter at his expense – all 3000 people – while the cameras are fixed on his scowling helpless face.

When the Washington village performs a ritual humiliation, this is what it looks like. On the other hand, Trump more than deserved every horrible second.

Still: a question for the morning after. The DC Republican elite has now signaled it doesn’t like Trump either. Do Fox and Limbaugh submit? Or fight?

Trump’s Next Reality Hit

April 29th, 2011 at 5:42 pm 68 Comments

Last week, I took a look at what happens when one well-off family allowed a camera crew to insinuate itself into their daily lives, back in May-December 1971 (for PBS’s 1973 landmark An American Family). Today, it seems as though the Presidency itself, or at least the campaign for it, has been reduced to all the pre-programmed unreality of a modern reality show.  Even before Trump, two of the leading list (Sarah Palin on her recent TLC show and Mike Huckabee’s weekend interview show on FoxNews) had a reality TV background.

Indeed, each of the leading challengers to President Obama might just as well have been “cast” for contestant slots on a reality show, like Donald Trump’s hit two-hour Celebrity Apprentice. There’s a JR Ewing or Gordon Gekko-style delicious villain (Newt Gingrich).  There’s a handsome, bland, Dudley Do-Right hero (Mitt Romney).  Then there’s the Type-A jock who knows how to read (Tim Pawlenty).  And of course, what would a reality show be without a couple of self-involved, Snooki or Omarosa-type divas, whose prickly and demanding personalities might make some viewers think of a word that rhymes with “itches” (Palin and Bachmann).  We even have an aw-shucks, slightly nerdy, religious guy-next-door to round things out (Huckabee).

All things considered, the question isn’t why would a media opportunist like Trump exploit this to create his own even higher-rated “spinoff” of his hit NBC reality series.  The question is why wouldn’t he?

Indeed, Celebrity Apprentice is one of if not often the highest-rated shows on NBC’s troubled prime-time schedule, which has been mired in fourth place for several years (all the more humiliating after a 20-year period of total dominance from the late 1980s through roughly Bush’s first term.)  And this isn’t the first tabloidey, high-profile controversy generator that the Peacock network has found itself involved in of late. (Remember Conan vs. Jay?) And few shows are more of an iconic shorthand for the era of outsourcing, downsizing, job loss, and economic meltdown than a program known most for telling teary-eyed victims “Ya FIRED!”, as others get off on the drama, and still others count their blessings that it’s on TV, not their real life.

Even I am not cynical enough to think that NBC-Universal or Comcast was directly “behind” Trump’s birther escapades. But the secret to Donald Trump’s considerable staying power and success is that he has always been an inveterate showman.  Like Charlie Sheen, Trump provided the network and its flagship show with a tsunami wave of publicity that money alone couldn’t buy (especially at today’s ad rates!)   Interestingly, much of the most negative publicity has come from within the network’s own wheelhouse, as liberal cable channel MSNBC’s relentless coverage of Trump and birtherism provided countless hours of subject matter for Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, and especially Lawrence O’Donnell.  For what it’s worth, I think that O’Donnell and Matthews really are and were as disgusted as they seemed to be on TV at birtherism in general and Trump’s high profile semi-legitimization of it.  But they also “spelled the show’s name right”, as they say in Hollywood.

“Mark my words,” O’Donnell recently dared, “when NBC announces its prime-time schedule on May 16th,” he thinks Celebrity Apprentice will still be on it, that Trump will return to his small-screen box and give up any illusions of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and all this silliness might well be over.  He’s half right.  Trump might very well go back to his hit show and leave the politics to the professional politicians.  But with the racialist overtones of birtherism, the decision to renew the next season of Apprentice could have implications far beyond the usual pass/fail of an otherwise successful series.  On the one hand, Apprentice’s ratings to date clearly merit a strong campaign for the show’s renewal.  On the other, both NBC (Keith Olbermann) and arch-rival Fox (Glenn Beck) have recently proven themselves quite willing to sack their leading lights once they become too embarrassing, too much of a liability.

Now that Trump himself is disingenuously trying to back away from the birther issue while simultaneously taking credit for “forcing” Obama to submit to his will, the question still remains of why this very intelligent, able businessman would choose to pull off such a high-wire stunt as this?   Did he think that it would just be a vehicle he could ride for more publicity, like his show?  And more importantly, bottom-line businessman that he is, did Trump just coldly decide that with Obama’s 95% share of African-Americans (and overwhelming support among Latinos), that “those people won’t vote for me anyway”, so he might as well tap into the most incendiary rage against that foreign-sounding “worst President in history”?  Racism by cost/benefit analysis, as it were?

If The Donald does decide to run (or if NBC makes the first move in canceling Trump, which would ironically “free him up” to run next year), the other big question is what they will do with their Sunday-night timeslot after football plays itself out.  Will they try to find another media-friendly ruling classer (Gates?  Soros?  Buffett?  Some spare Rockefeller or Kennedy lying around?) to take over Trump’s hiring and “You’re FIRED”-ing duties?

Or, might they bait-and-switch, and make a reality show about Trump’s already reality-show-like campaign for the Presidency?  There’s actually some precedent for that.  In 1988, Robert Altman made a brilliant mockumentary called Tanner ’88 (starring Michael Murphy), about a hopeful Democratic politician trying to capture the nomination to go against the first George Bush.  (Twenty years earlier, droopy-dog comedian Pat Paulsen “ran for President” on the stage of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.)

And, as offensive as I find a lot of Trump’s comments to be, I can’t help but thinking that THAT would be a reality show I would watch.

The Birther Disgrace

David Frum April 27th, 2011 at 10:28 am 349 Comments

Even for the small band that sustained the phony controversy until now, the birth certificate so-called issue ends today.

Any last lingering doubts that maybe, perhaps, a pregnant Stanley Ann Dunham in the summer of 1961 boarded a propeller plane from Honolulu to Los Angeles, then from Los Angeles to New York City, then from New York City to Gander, then from Gander to London, then from London to Nairobi – and then repeated the trip backward a few weeks later – all so that her baby could acquire Kenyan nationality – those doubts are definitively squelched, as they should have been three years ago.

Now the more haunting question: How did this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation get such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong. Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.” Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, “I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.”

Yet even now, the racialist aspect of the anti-Obama movement has not subsided. Trump has moved from the birth certificate to questioning the president’s academic qualifications for the Harvard Law School. Trump himself was a troubled student (at one point he attended a military school) who nonetheless gained admission to Wharton. His father’s wealth and business success cannot have hurt with that application. Yet he feels himself qualified to pronounce on who is and who is not smart enough to attend Harvard Law. Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude. (And to anticipate a new line of attack – yes, Harvard Law School exams were blind-graded.) He was elected editor of the law review. And his classmates, left and right, universally admired his abilities.

I wish it were otherwise, but it does seem that these racialized attacks on Obama have exacted a toll on him. But they also have exacted a toll on the opposition to Obama. The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand. It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a “real American.”

I write as an opponent of virtually every major and minor action of this administration. Republicans should be fighting this president on policy, not winking at those who use race as a weapon. It’s worth recalling the generous words of John McCain on election night 2008:

[T]hough we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound. A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

And those who imagine that they somehow enhance the value of that citizenship by belittling the American-ness of their president – they not only disgrace the politics they uphold, but they do damage that will not soon be forgotten by the voters a revived Republicanism must win.

Reality Will Trump the Hype

April 26th, 2011 at 8:44 am 25 Comments

Don’t believe it!

Periodically the media abandons common sense, click and goes out on a limb believing what it wants to believe, abandoning usual skepticism and Judgment.

Donald Trump possibly running for President of the United States is 2012 is a case in point.

Thanks largely to appearances on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, the idea of Trump challenging for the presidency has taken root, especially as opinion polls show him to be a leading contender among all Republicans — and closing in on Barack Obama’s numbers.

Again, don’t believe it.

Trump, being Trump and something of a blowhard, may actually challenge for the Republican nomination. And his blunt, in-your-face message, devoid of political correctness, may resonate among those who yearn for America to stop pandering to the rest of the world, and to start advancing its own itinerary.

America, and its constitution, are a beacon of inspiration to the world, whether the world realizes it or not. Just look at refugees and the oppressed – all aspire to reach America, seen (often erroneously) as a paradise, or sanctuary, of prosperity and freedom.

“Yearning” is a far cry from wanting Trump as president.

Remember, this is a guy with a huge ego; vanity as big as all outdoors, who has his own reality shows and feeds on controversy.

Likely he started his blustering to be president as a gimmick, and then when O’Reilly and others began taking him seriously, at face value, he began to think maybe it was more than a ploy or attention-getting stunt.

He now talks of running as an independent if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination—which he hasn’t a snowball’s chance of getting.

Running as an independent, like Ross Perot in 1992, will simply guarantee that Obama is re-elected. And Trump doesn’t want that.

One who is under no illusions about Donald Trump is Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, and the most insightful political commentator in America.

Here’s Krauthammer on Trump: “He’s not a candidate, he’s a spectacle. He’s also not a conservative. With a wink and a smile, Muhammad Ali showed that self-promoting obnoxiousness could be charming. Trump shows that it can be merely vulgar. A provocateur and a clown, the Republicans’ Al Sharpton. The Lions have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.”

There you have it. With no base inside the Republican party, Trump hasn’t a hope of winning the nomination, but he might be tempted to run as an independent and screw up the system as Perot once did.

As far as opinion polls go, at the moment Trump looks more powerful than he is. (A Newsweek poll shows him three points behind Obama).

What Trump’s antics can do, the longer he continues the charade, is put himself in a position where he can influence who the Republican presidential candidate might be. His dismissal of Mitt Romney on grounds that he, Trump, is richer than Romney is just silly. But there’s a distinct silly quality about all of Trump’s posturing and pronouncements.

Anyway, his main vehicle for publicity is an uncritical media which love a show and relishes controversy. Donald Trump is ever-willing to provide both.

But don’t take his possible candidacy seriously—even if he does. It’s just a side-show. Like a dancing bear or a one-armed juggler.

Trump’s D.C. Dinner Date

David Frum April 24th, 2011 at 11:38 am 96 Comments

I am not one of those who are shocked that the Washington Post would invite Donald Trump as its guest to the White House Correspondents Dinner. The WHCA is the night of the year when the working press honors the nation’s movie and television performers. Trump – who plays a businessman on TV and licenses his name as a form of real estate product endorsement – is nothing if not a performer.

On the contrary, I am actually impressed that the Washington Post, so often accused of liberal media bias, was able to choke down its liberalism long enough to invite Trump. Trump of course has gained a new dose of fame by accusing the nation’s first black president of benefiting from – if not actually participating in – a multi-decade campaign of forgery and fraud in order to qualify for welfare benefits. Narrow-minded liberals might take offense at that. But not the cosmopolitans at the Post! For them, Trump remains eminently Salonfähig. Well done.

Trump’s Number Crunchers Get to Work

David Frum April 22nd, 2011 at 6:49 pm 24 Comments

So Donald Trump is working with his accountants to prepare disclosure forms. This reminds me of a favorite joke.

A CEO is interviewing accountants for his company. Three applicants sit in the waiting room to be interviewed.

The first applicant enters the magnificent office, very nervous. The CEO motions the accountant to take a seat. “I’m a simple man,” says the CEO, “and I have only one simple question for you. What is two plus two?”

The accountant cheers up. This is going to be easier than he dared hope. “Four!” he answers brightly.

The CEO shouts: “Next!”

The second accountant enters, takes a seat. The CEO asks again: “What is two plus two?” This accountant thinks for a moment. “Do you want the answer in binary format or base 10?”

The CEO nods, impressed. “You’re smart. Congratulations. Next!”

The third accountant enters, takes a seat. Once more the same question: “What is two plus two?” This accountant does not hesitate. “What would you like it to be?”

As the Donald would have said: “You’re hired.”

Why Main Street Takes Trump Seriously

David Frum April 20th, 2011 at 4:04 pm 73 Comments

How could anyone possibly support an obvious flim-flam man like Donald Trump?

Imagine this – or maybe you don’t have to imagine.

You are 62 years old. White. Go to church In Easter Sunday. You make a good living: $75,000 a year in a strong company. Your wife earns another $45,000. The kids have grown up and moved out. If anybody had told you when you were young that you’d be signing a $120,000 tax return on April 18, 2011, well, you would have thought you’d moved to easy street.

Only it’s not so easy.

You lost a big chunk of your retirement account in the dot-com crash a decade ago. For a while, it looked as if you had recovered your wealth, thanks to the increase in the value of your house. Back in 2006, you felt so flush that you borrowed against the equity in your home to pay off your credit cards.

Then the housing market crashed too, wiping out your equity. You now face a worrying future. You still have your job, thank God. But your boss makes it very clear that he’s expecting to replace you the instant you turn 65.

Your son has lost his job and is looking for another one. Your daughter and her kid are struggling.

You need to save every penny you can. You keep noticing those withholding lines on your paycheck. Almost a third of your salary! And for what? Those politicians in Washington are eyeing your Medicare. President Obama’s health-care plan cuts $500 billion over 10 years to finance a new entitlement for the uninsured. Nothing against the uninsured – but you were counting on that Medicare. Meanwhile, the financial channels on TV keep warning of inflation that will eat away those savings you still have left.

A friend of yours, a little older, lost everything. Literally everything. He’s working as a limo driver to supplement his Social Security. That’s okay at age 67. But what happens when he turns 77?

You hate President Obama; Michelle even more. It’s not a racial thing. AT ALL. No matter what your daughter says. You’ve worked with black guys during your entire career. But this Obama, he does not come from the America you know. He has this way of looking like he thinks he’s better than you. And the way his wife spends money! Too much flash, too much bling. All on your dime. Then she tells you not to eat at Denny’s. Hey, you’d like to eat at the fancy places she goes, but Denny’s will have to do. Every time you see her you think: Who are these people? How did they rise so high?

You are a Republican. A conservative. Always have been. You voted for Nixon in 1972, your first vote. Ford. Reagan twice. Bush once. (Perot in 1992.) But over the past few years you’ve lost your enthusiasm for the GOP.  Your pay went up under Reagan. Under Bush, it was gas prices that went up. Then they bailed out Wall Street and GM while you got screwed.

You never thought you’d hear yourself say this: but you are pissed at Wall Street. You’ve got nothing against people who get rich honestly. But the big money guys at Goldman Sachs? The guys who loooved Obama? Yeah, what would be so wrong about taxing them to clean up the mess they made? You’ve paid already, through the nose. Why should you pay again? And it’s those same Goldman Sachs guys who are pushing Washington to squeeze your Medicare to balance the budget. Forget that, buddy.

What you want is a candidate who will take the fight to Obama. Really fight him. Mitt Romney? He’s no fighter. He’s a CEO, and you’ve had it with CEOs. Mike Huckabee? Seems like a nice guy, but if you want a sermon, you’ll go to church. Sarah Palin? Sexy sure, but too flakey. Now Donald Trump, he’s kind of a blowhard. But he hates Obama almost as much as you do. You don’t take the birth certificate thing seriously, but if it annoys the liberals, what the hell. Trump says he’s going to get tough with the Chinese, the Arab oil sheikhs, everybody who’s ripping you off. A guy can’t get that rich if he doesn’t have balls, stands to reason.

So maybe you’ll give him a try. Or somebody else. You need help. You need help from somebody who understands what it’s like to be you: not poor, not black, not Mexican, but still hurting, still scared, still looking at a future suddenly a lot bleaker than you ever expected. Somebody. Anybody.

Originally published at The Week.

How to Beat Trump

David Frum April 20th, 2011 at 9:05 am 86 Comments

This post by Ed Kilgore about Donald Trump seems to me very astute.

The Republican establishment has perceived [Trump] as a threat and launched an all-out effort to tar him. But the truth is that their effort may be a lost cause, for reasons that are intrinsic to the success of Trump’s consumer-focused approach: This year, GOP voters’ hunger for radicalism is so great that it can be filled by essentially anybody. Kill off Trump’s candidacy and the demand will remain, leaving an opening for yet another demagogic charlatan to take his place. …

What [Trump's high poll numbers] show is not a desire to support the faux tycoon per se, but a raging right-wing, anti-establishment fever that has only gotten stronger in recent months. … There may be no coherent body of views you could call “Trumpism,” but even without Trump, there would be a hunger for spicier red meat than is being offered by the current crop of Republican candidates.

This screw-the-establishment sentiment must be understood in the context of what looks to be growing dissatisfaction with compromises made by Republicans in the Tea Party Congress and statehouses. …

This dynamic creates an enormous temptation for non-congressional Republicans to join the revolt, as evidenced by the rapid devolution of Tim Pawlenty into an extremist on budget issues and a favorite at Tea Party rallies. (He’s now opposed to raising the debt ceiling, even though that would damage the U.S. economy on a scale similar to a nuclear attack.) And if there is something that GOP voters want which Pawlenty is unwilling to give them because he decides it’s too crazy, then there will always be Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann, who are receiving rapturous receptions on the campaign trail, to flay him for his equivocation.

If Trump is pushed out of the limelight or off the campaign trail by the conservative establishment, or by his own erratic record on a host of issues, the atavistic longings of the rank-and-file conservative base will simply affix themselves elsewhere as other candidates try to tap the rich vein of anger he’s helped galvanize.

Here’s the thing Republican leaders and pundits need to understand. (I said it yesterday, but let’s say it again today.) America has not had a mass conversion to ideological libertarianism. Instead, Americans who feel robbed and duped by the series of financial and economic disappointments and disasters from the dot-com bubble onward are boiling with rage against their financial and political leadership. Conservative Americans express that rage in terms learned from talk radio and Fox News. But the fact that these conservative voters express their rage by talking about “debt” and “taxes” does not mean that they want what K Street wants: a Ryan budget that cuts spending on people like them to finance tax cuts for people much richer than them. They are just using familiar words to express a new and unfamiliar emotion of betrayal and resentment. The GOP establishment has successfully directed those emotions against the Obama administration. But there’s no guarantee that the emotions will remain fixed in that direction – because after all, the establishment GOP is offering little or nothing to allay the discontents producing the anger. Conservatives like liberals have suffered unemployment, the loss of savings, the decline in housing values. Conservatives like liberals find themselves suddenly poorer for reasons they do not understand. Conservatives like liberals fear and dread that Medicare and Social Security will soon be cut to rescue the country’s finances. If the GOP wants to finish Trump, GOP candidates had better learn to speak to those anxieties – to offer a remedy more effectual than the snake-oil now being peddled by Tim Pawlenty.