Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What If This Is Actually What Donald Trump's Campaign Is All About?

Thanks to Donald Trump, the 2016 presidential campaign is like no other in the history of American politics. It's certain to be studied in colleges and universities, and analyzed by consultants and pundits, for decades to come.

The old rules, as well as conventional wisdom, have been tossed aside for a whole new fascinatingly despicable play book. Now all a candidate needs to do to become the front runner of a major political party is be angry, insulting, confrontational and totally lacking substance. To hell with being "politically correct;" just fire up blue collar white folks with ignorant racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic rhetoric. 

Which brings us back to Trump, the man who put the "ad" in ad hominem attacks. The buffoonish bully blowhard who's turned the Republican Party on its head in the biggest feeding frenzy in the history of Ids. But what if instead of being an unprecedentedly mean-spirited political campaign it was actually a pioneering, praiseworthy research project that would turn Trump from goat to hero overnight?

How genius would it be if Trump were to announce, just as he started to drop in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls, that his campaign was in fact not a legitimate quest for the presidency, but rather to conduct the world's greatest social experiment? That is was a brilliantly crafted scheme designed to expose the bigotry, ignorance and ugliness that's prevalent in American culture. A test

Trump would explain that in his "experiment" he set out to prove that he could do or say anything, no matter how outrageous or offensive, without consequence... because it would tap the raging anger and bigotry in so many Americans. That in his attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator, he'd push the envelope so far until it would draw these bigots out into the open like scattering cockroaches. That the more inflammatory and racist his rhetoric, the more people would like him. And that just when he'd say something so irresponsible and reprehensible that it should finally kill his campaign, it actually would propel it even further.

Trump's initial plan would be to offend Mexicans, immigrants and refugees. He'd call them terrorists and rapists, and threaten to build walls to keep them out. If that didn't turn voters off he'd move on to gays and women. Then he'd attack war heroes and people with disabilities. He'd call his detractors "stupid, "losers" and "bimbos"... and insinuate that female reporters were treating him badly because they were 'menstruating.' He'd lie about 9/11. And when, despite all that, he'd incredulously find himself pulling ahead by 20+ points, he'd call for an all out ban on Muslims.

And this phenomenon would continue unabated. The more despicable Trump's words and actions, the more popular he'd become. Until one day, in typical Trump megalomaniacal grandiosity, he'd step before the cameras for the big reveal:

"I'm leaving the race. I don't want to be president. I never wanted to be president. I just wanted to hold a mirror up to the ignorance and bigotry that lurks dangerously beneath the surface. And you shocked me. The more vile and racist I became, the more you loved me! No matter what I did, I'd go up in the polls! I'd say to Melania, what do I have to do turn these people against me, kill someone?! I pulled off the greatest social experiment in American history. In the end, it wasn't Donald Trump whose behavior was shameful, it was yours. I was merely pretending, but you weren't. You've got a lot to work on, America. And you can thank Trump for exposing it."

Talk about redemption. The last laugh would surely be Trump's...

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Reason Why Trump Gets Away with Saying Whatever He Wants

Ever since he entered the presidential race in June, Donald Trump has offended women, gays, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, refugees, immigrants and just about every ethnic and religious group in the world. He's recently called for an all out ban on Muslims from entering the United States. He's mocked people with disabilities. He's lied about 9/11. He's attacked the war hero status of John McCain. He's sucked up to Russia's President Vladimir Putin. He's called President Obama "stupid" and continues to question his citizenship.  And he's relentlessly spewed ignorant, incendiary, racist rhetoric to incite his rapacious devotees. Yet he continues to rise in the polls. Why?

The answer is simple: because no one, not even his most loyal "supporters," take him or his candidacy seriously. He's simply entertainment. A show. A modern day Morton Downey Jr., whose pugnacious, hockey-fight persona appeals to the lowest common denominator; the "angry" folks with a voracious appetite for reality television-style confrontation. And Trump's giving them one helluva brawl.

To be sure, Trump's candidacy is unprecedented in the annals of political history. He defies conventional wisdom at every turn. Every time you think he's finally done himself in, his popularity grows. He appears untouchable. Teflon Don. But that would only be worrisome if he was a legitimate candidate.

Trump's base is addicted to his bombastic bluster. They lap it up like a stray cat with a bowl of milk. And that's why they don't seem to care that he somehow manages to reach new heights of loathsome and un-presidential behavior each day. Because these Trumpsters know that, while they adore the spectacle that has become his speeches and rallies, they will never actually vote for him. He's their fun party girl, but he's not the one they'll be bringing home to mama.

Trump appeals to the disaffected and disenfranchised because he's the Larry David of politics, speaking much of what they think and feel, but could never say out loud themselves. But even these loyalists know that he's woefully unprepared and ill-equipped to be president. And they know he could never win. But they like that he's stirring up some serious shit. That, at least for now, he's serving as their advocate. "He's my mouthpiece," one fired up Trumpite said at a recent rally.

But winning presidential nominations requires a lot more than bluster and bravado, as the New York Times reported over the weekend, citing Trump's anemic ground game in the critical early caucus state of Iowa. And it refers to one Trump volunteer who's "sipping white wine" while she's canvassing for votes by phone. The way things are going for Trump in her home state, it's likely his volunteers will be switching to hard liquor pretty soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What a Debate!

Ok, America, you now have a clear choice between the party of hope and optimism and the party of gloom, doom and fear. The most surprising thing at Tuesday's night's 5th Republican presidential debate was the absence of Chicken Little himself. This event could've been called The Sky is Falling Show.

For over two hours, the overriding message from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and, to a lesser degree, Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Rand Paul was that the United States is unsafe, unrespected and a disaster. Only Jeb Bush and John Kasich presented a positive message about America's standing and the expectation of a greater future. It was all fear, fear, fear...

The biggest takeaway, as in all the previous debates, is how woefully unprepared and ill-equipped Donald Trump is to be president and commander-in-chief. His inability to answer a question about which components of the nuclear triad need the most attention should be an immediate disqualifier in and of itself:

"Well first of all, I think we absolutely need someone we can trust who is total responsibility who knows what he or she is doing that is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was against going into Iraq because you are going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it, I called it very strongly and it was very important. But we have to be extremely vigilant and careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. I would have said get out of Syria, get out. If we didn't have the power of weaponry today, the power is so massive that we can't just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn't care, it was hand-to-hand combat. The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he's saying. The biggest problem we have today is nuclear proliferation anding are some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now....For me, nuclear, the power, the devastation, is very important to me.

Jibberish! The way I tried to blabber-bluff my way out of tough 8th grade science questions. He might as well have thrown up his hands and said, "Hell if I know!"

When you toss in Trump's incessant sighing, eye-rolling, mocking and scornful faces, dismissive hand-waving, bullying and audience-berating, it's truly hard to fathom how anyone with even a half a brain can support the candidacy of this empty-suited blowhard fraud. He is without question the most unqualified presidential candidate in the nation's history.

We witnessed Trump's implosion last night. While I suspect his poll numbers will drop as a result, they may for a blip even rise first. But make no mistake: Republican voters saw a man who, as Bush recently claimed, is unhinged. And there's nothing uglier and more embarrassing than an old, angry, insulting megalomaniac pathetically vying to utter an intelligent thought without sounding like a nasty junior high schooler. As I've been saying for a couple of months, it's over. Forget the polls. His reality show primary campaign popularity will not translate to actual votes when it's time to pull the curtain. And he'll likely not even be around by then to find out.

So who won the debate? Bush finally demonstrated some impressive cajones as he battled Trump on foreign policy and personal qualifications, calling the bloviating businessman "a chaos candidate." For the first time since Trump entered the race with his infamous "Mexican rapists" speech, it was Bush who quite visibly got under The Donald's skin, not the other way around.

It won't be a surprise to start seeing Bush's heretofore anemic 3-5% numbers begin climbing appreciably. I disagree with almost everything he stands for, but he's an adult. Mature. Respectful. Smart. Knowledgeable. And get this...presidential. Honestly, the way Trump acts like a whiny, petulant, belligerent narcissistic buffoon I wouldn't want him on my kid's PTA let alone sit in the Oval Office.

Cruz? He'll probably win Iowa, but like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum before him he'll disappear after that. Keep an eye on Chris Christie, whose likable 'every man' persona, reputation as a 'straight shooter' and reasonably moderate positions keeps him in the running as the dark horse. But despite what the polls say, it's still Jeb's race to lose.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another Open Letter to Jeb Bush

Dear Jeb:

Tuesday night could be the biggest night of your political career. The fifth Republican debate, live from Las Vegas, will likely be the moment you either reignite your comatose presidential campaign or you fade into the sunset. So if you truly wish to maintain the Bush family's dynastic hold on the White House, I have some advice for you. It's going to sound aggressive, especially for a mild-mannered softy like you, but if I were you I'd take my anemic 5% and roll the dice. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain:

Go after Trump. Hard. Like your life depended on it (which, politically, it does). Attack him right out of the box. Birthers, Mexican rapists, Muslims...make him own his reprehensible  comments. Challenge the American public to reject his incendiary racist rhetoric. At some point early on you need to ask Americans if they believe that intolerance, hatred and fear is their idea of "America's greatness," because that's what Trump's America looks like.  

You must tell them that they are better than that. That these are not the principles on which America was built, nor are they what we stand for today. Remind them that there's no need to to be "great again" because we are already great. The greatest nation in the world, in fact. The land of opportunity. Where people of all faiths and cultures are welcomed, especially if they're escaping religious and ethnic persecution. A nation governed by the rule of law, not by the divisive, scapegoating demagoguery of flame-throwing, self-aggrandizing fear-mongers like Trump.

You must pointedly declare that Trump's America is not a great America. It's an ugly America. An America filled with ignorance, anger and vitriol, where entire faiths are mocked, condemned and banned. Where walls are built, both on U.S. soil and on the world stage, and humiliating registries are created. Where immigrants are rounded up, ripped from their families, and deported.

You must then tell voters why you are the right choice to make America even greater. How you will fight for them and protect their interests while upholding the Constitution. While respecting our fellow citizens and helping those in need around the globe. That we just need to look within our own families to know we're a nation of immigrants. And that keeping America safe and secure from terrorists does not require us to abandon our principles.

You must ask voters if they want an America which is lead by someone who resorts to juvenile ad hominem attacks on opponents. Who disparages women and the way they look. Who threatens to "bomb the shit out of" sovereign nations. Whose inflammatory remarks makes him a walking recruitment video for ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Who's alienating us from every single ally, including Israel, who just this week told him to take a hike.

Oh, and, please, no hand slappin' or high fivin' Trump for Pete's sake. Look at him like you detest him, which we all know you do. Don't show even an ounce of respect or reverence. I know it's hard, but try to look and sound like a tough guy. Someone with balls. Someone who can not only stand up to Trump, but to our enemies.

And here's your line of the night. In a strong voice, look into the camera and say to voters: "He's bankrupted marriages, he's bankrupted companies and his divisive, bigoted rhetoric is going to bankrupt America."

And then watch your poll numbers rise...

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Donald Trump Projects Recklessness, Not Strength

The conventional wisdom among the political punditry is that Donald Trump is popular because he "projects strength." When Americans fear terrorism, especially in the wake of the recent Paris attacks, the perception of foreign policy and homeland security weakness is a campaign killer. Just ask Ben Carson.

But Trump's macho reputation among his 25% rabidly loyal base is incredibly misguided, counter-intuitive and, worse, actually a threat to America. Trump is not "tough." He is not "strong." And he most certainly does not have the qualifications, or the temperament, to be president and commander in chief. Rather, his inflammatory, divisive, hate-filled racist rhetoric demonstrates unprecedented recklessness. His "character" is therefore not an asset in these globally challenging times. It's a severe liability.

In his bid for the White House, Trump has grossly offended just about every ethnic and religious group, women, gays, immigrants, refugees, war heroes, people with disabilities and anyone who's raised his ire. He is angry, petulant, belittling, demeaning, polarizing, patronizing, dismissive and a blatant propagandist and liar. A delusional narcissist. Imagine that these are the qualities of the man sitting in the Oval Office. The leader of the free world, whose job is not just to protect America's interests and security, but its respect, integrity, principles and reputation in doing so.

Are we to accept Trump's empty promise that if elected he'd suddenly, after decades of being a nasty, condescending, confrontational, self-aggrandizing, verbal-diarrhea-inflicted, my-way-or-the-highway buffoon, become a consensus and coalition-building diplomat? A statesman who commands respect at home and abroad?

Trump's "strength" is confused with bullying, intimidation and rabble-rousing bluster.  This is not presidential behavior. Is this what we could expect from President Trump when he's dealing with difficult heads of state, or U.S. enemies, including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Bashir al-Assad? His "bomb-the-shit out of-them" cowboy rhetoric could greatly hinder our ability to engage our allies in the fight against terrorism.

And let's remember something about Mr. Tough Guy: when other American young men and women enlisted or were drafted to fight in Vietnam, Trump received multiple student deferments and a medical exemption which kept him from serving. There are many people who believe he was nothing more than a draft dodger. And he has the audacity to attack Sen. John McCain's highly decorated war record? 

Sorry, Trump "fans." Your hero is no tough guy. And he's not strong. Don't let him fool you. He's an Ivory Tower-living billionaire whose rich, connected daddy kept him safely at home while your loved ones fought and died in Vietnam. He's a self-serving coward who lies through his teeth and mocks the military service of heroic prisoners of war like McCain. His dangerous 'bring it on' demagoguing would likely alienate our allies, incite terrorists and provoke our enemies.