The Trump bandwagon keeps rolling along, gathering speed despite the bumps and potholes in the road. Rather than try to give a reasoned analysis of what seems to be an unreasonable phenomenon, I will put down some random thoughts.
The man with many faults.
● Trump sometimes uses vulgar language. Perhaps this is to teach us that even the most disgusting language is superior to disgusting behavior. Perhaps this is to remind us that no mere language can be as damaging to a woman as being sexually assaulted by a man, and then being humiliated by his wife – a “bimbo eruption” or a “vast right-wing conspiracy” or a “narcissistic looney-tune.” Perhaps Trump’s crude boasting about what women didn’t object to is morally superior to Bill Clinton’s smug silence about what women did object to – and Hillary’s anti-feminist stance of not believing them and publicly insulting them. Besides, Hillary sometimes uses vulgar language herself.
● Trump often uses strong language. Perhaps it is to make up for the politicians who talk incessantly, but who use weasel words that are ambiguous and can be construed as supporting both sides of an issue. For example, we have a president who rarely uses the word “terrorism,” and never – literally never – refers to “Islamists,” or “extremist Islam,” or “Muslim extremists.” This may be the first time in world history that a wartime leader is unable even to name the enemy, much less to formulate a plan to defeat it.
Send for the sons-of-bitches.
After the disastrous Japanese attack on our naval and air bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the admiral and general in charge there were relieved. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Stark was allowed to remain for a few months. He was well liked and had a fatherly demeanor. But he had not done what was necessary to prepare for an attack, so he was transferred to other duties.
To replace him as chief of naval operations, Admiral King was brought to Washington. Unlike Stark, he was not well liked. His own daughter said that he was even-tempered – always angry. He was sarcastic and critical of his subordinates. But he had a reputation for getting things done. This he did. He remained as head of the U.S. Navy through the victorious conclusion of World War II.
When King arrived in Washington to take up his duties, he was quoted as remarking, “When they get into trouble, they send for us sons-of-bitches.”
Would everyone prefer to work for a person who was not a sarcastic, critical son-of-a bitch? Of course. But sometimes the ideal person is not available. Sometimes we must choose between less-than-ideal persons. And if the situation is crucial and potentially dangerous, sometimes we must put up with a son-of-a-bitch if he has a reputation for getting things done. Is this such a time?
The drowning boater.
Perhaps you recall the old story about the boater who fell overboard. Another yachtsman came alongside and offered him a rope. The man replied, “No, I’m fine. I’m praying to the Lord, and He will save me.”
Then a rusty old freighter came by. A sailor shouted, “Let us throw you a life ring.” But the man replied, “No, thanks. I’m praying to the Lord, and He will save me.”
And then a tugboat came along, and the captain yelled, “Do you need help?” But the man replied, “No, I’m okay. I’m praying to the Lord, and He will save me.”
Finally the man drowned and came to stand before the Lord. The man said, “Lord, I just don’t understand. I prayed so hard, but you didn’t save me.”
And the Lord replied, “I tried three times.”
The point of the story is that our rescuer may not come in the form we expected or wanted. But if we hope to be rescued, we need to recognize him whatever he looks like. Is this such a time? Do we have the sense to accept a flawed rescuer, rather than wait for the ideal rescuer – assuming he exists and can get there in time?
● Trump speaks bluntly. Perhaps this is to make up for the politicians who are unable or unwilling to say anything meaningful about serious problems. For example, we have a president who claims to be fighting “extremism.” What? Evangelical Christians, who are extremely committed to their faith? Middle Eastern Christians, who are willing to die for their faith – and actually are dying? Jews, who are forced to flee large parts of the Middle East, and now Europe as well? Are all “fundamentalists” equally dangerous?
● Trump uses broad gestures. Perhaps this is to make up for the politicians who sit with their hands folded, blandly claiming that there is nothing we can do to stop ISIS or other terrorist groups, because opposing them would only bring them more recruits. Really? Would you trek long distances to reach training camps that are being bombed flat? Fanatics may be willing to die killing “infidels.” But to die having accomplished nothing is much less attractive.
● Trump confronts the problem of uncontrolled immigration head-on. Perhaps this is to make up for the mealy-mouthed politicians who mumble about the “Statue of Liberty” and “a nation of immigrants,” but who neglect to mention that during World War II, we were intelligent enough not to admit tens of thousands of German immigrants we could not properly scrutinize. Yet no one complained that this was “Germanophobic” or “racist” or “un-American” or “unconstitutional.”
It’s a national embarrassment that an illegal immigrant can walk across the border and receive free health care, and one of our Veterans that has served our country is put on a waiting list and gets no care.
– Donald J. Trump, 2015
● Trump goes so far as to propose banning all immigrants from the Middle East until a way can be found to vet them effectively and prevent entry of terrorists. Perhaps this is to make up for the Democrats who propose doing nothing and condemn him as a “Hitler.” But they conveniently forget that during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, Democrat Jimmy Carter not only banned entry of all Iranians, but also deported
hundreds of Iranian students. I know – my wife and I were on an airliner that was held at the gate for over an hour, so scores of Iranian military cadets could board and be deported. That was an interesting flight. But nobody called Carter a “Hitler.” Of course not – he is a Democrat.
● Trump appeals to ordinary Americans, who see their jobs, places in school, and seats in clinic waiting rooms disappearing. Perhaps this is to make up for politicians who are bought and paid for by big business, which wants cheap, non-union workers willing to take minimum-wage jobs with meager or no benefits. And these puppets have the gall to pretend to be friends of American workers.
● Trump supports the rights of gun owners and announces that he has a concealed-carry permit. Perhaps this is to make up for the cowardly hypocrites who try to disarm ordinary citizens, but who live in guarded enclaves and may secretly own guns themselves.
● Trump speaks little about his own faith, but instead clearly demonstrates his faith in America. Perhaps this is to make up for pseudo-religious politicians who wear their faith on their sleeves, but who use up their compassion on criminals and terrorists, leaving none for law-abiding Americans.
The bottom line.
Does all this mean that Trump would be an effective president? I still have reservations about his temperament, his character, and his core beliefs (if any). But at least this goes a long way towards explaining the Trump phenomenon. He promises to supply what has been sorely lacking – strong leadership and plain talk. But where that strong leadership will lead, and whether that plain talk is just talk, are questions that remain to be answered.
Perhaps this can best be summarized with a question: Of all the candidates of all the parties, which one would you least want to antagonize? Most people, even those who dislike him intensely, would be likely to answer, “Trump.” We can hope that America’s enemies would agree with that assessment and act accordingly.
We all will have to decide for ourselves in the privacy of the voting booth.
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