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April 20, 2011

Yes, Trump Is Serious (About Running, At Least)

The WSJ confirms what's apparent.

In an interview, Mr. Trump said people are finally realizing he is serious. "Originally they said, 'Oh, Trump is just having a good time,' " he said. "Then they were saying, 'Well, this is getting interesting.' Then, as of today they are really taking it seriously. I'm not playing games. I am totally serious."

Mr. Trump called one of Iowa's leading evangelical leaders last week, and has put out lines to tea-party groups in the state. He also is contacting prominent national religious leaders, while checking off other boxes typical for GOP contenders, such as agreeing to sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to never raise taxes.

"Donald's as serious as a heart attack" about running, said Tony Fabrizio, a top Republican pollster who has been in frequent contact with Mr. Trump.

Here's are the benefit of Trump, and the likely downfall of Trump: He's a relentless self-promoter, has a hustler's mentality of saying what is needed to close the sale, and has the overconfidence of a billionaire.

All of those things are actually positive -- to an extent -- in a candidate. They all come with high negatives, though.

I'm particularly worried about that "hustler" thing. Closing the deal is the be-all end-all for a certain type of sharp operator, and if it means fudging a few things here and there, so be it.

I'm a little alarmed at the breezy lack of candor in telling the GOP what he believes it wants to hear in order to, as they say in Glengarry Glen Ross, sign on the line that is dotted.

Check out his recent interview with CBN’s David Brody. Discussing his religious beliefs, he volunteered, “I think the Bible is certainly, it is the book. It is the thing.” That sounds more like a Larry King blurb than a declaration of faith. And can you just feel the passion when asked how often he attends church? “As much as I can. Always on Christmas. Always on Easter. Always when there’s a major occasion. And during the Sundays.”

Oh well, “during the Sundays.” Never mind then.

I don't believe that answer is really candid. I don't believe that Trump goes to church on "the Sundays." Some Sundays, maybe. "The Sundays?" The whole back half of that answer is Trump realizing that by saying he goes to church on Christmas and Easter he's actually telling religious voters he's not one of them, so he adds in what he thinks will close the deal -- he also goes to church on "the Sundays."

It's not candid. I'm a cynical guy so I can sort of go with this if this is our best shot at ousting Obama. I won't withhold support because of "the Sundays." The way I see it Obama is lying left and right and I'm not going to get squeamish if our guy is lying left and right too.

My problem with these serial fibs is not that I'm morally offended but that I think they won't work. I think they'll be understood, widely, to be less than candid, and thus Trump will get the reputation (if he doesn't have it already) of being a typical New York City sharp-operator/hustler who's willing to say whatever's necessary to con the rubes.

I mean, the abortion thing -- he breezily announced at CPAC "I'm pro-life; I bet you didn't know that." But he hadn't been pro-life until this declaration; he had been avowedly pro-choice.

When you flip-flop on an important gut/values question like that, you're supposed to have a story to explain your conversion (the elder Bush had a story about the "little brown ones" or something, his adopted grandchildren), and Trump is in fact checking that box with a story. But again, it doesn't really sound credible. It sounds like a hustle.

"A friend of mine, his wife was pregnant, in this case married, and she was pregnant, and he was going to—they were going to—he didn't really want the baby. And he was telling me the story, he was crying as he was telling me. They ended up for some reason—amazingly, through luck, because they didn't have the right timing—he ends up having the baby. And the baby is the apple of his eye. He says it's the greatest thing that ever happened to him . . . And I am pro-life."

Trump is like 65 and it's not credible that he has too many friends of any sort of age where they might be considering abortion. Of course the story is constructed such that Trump can always refuse to name his friend ("it's too personal"), but the suspicion rises that this "friend" is less than what we typically call "real" and more of what we call a "hypothetical construct."

Is this going to sell? I don't think so. The GOP base is rabid to punt out Obama (I know I am), but that very rabidness suggests we need to exercise some caution about who is most likely to achieve this task. (Nevermind the secondary goal of actually governing in a manner consistent with our aspirations and values.)

Trump has never had an interest in politics before, either. Not a real intellectual interest. He's flirted with the idea of running, but he's never been much for policy.

Some may call that a plus -- in a way, it is -- but it means his knowledge base is limited. Last week a reporter tried to ask one of those questions they only ask of Republican candidates, the pop-quiz "please get this wrong so we can start The Narrative that you're dumb" question. In this case, they asked Trump how many Representatives were in Congress, and Trump apparently didn't know, because he said something like "I'm not going to answer that, this isn't a history test."

Big deal? Well, not really, but they did an awful lot with lesser stumbles from Palin.

But going back to abortion, it's pretty obvious from this article in in LifeNews that Trump knows almost nothing about the policy question surrounding abortion. LifeNews headlines this as Trump "falters" on the abortion question, and it's hard to argue with that interpretation.

Businessman Donald Trump faltered when responding to a series of questions on abortion that saw NBC reporter Savannah Guthrie attempt to challenge him on the so-called right to privacy the Supreme Court invented to create a “right” to abortion.

“Is there a right to privacy in the Constitution?” Guthrie asked Trump.

“I guess there is, I guess there is. And why, just out of curiosity, why do you ask that question?” Trump responded, his tone of voice changing to one of skepticism.

Guthrie asked Trump how his newfound pro-life view “squares” with the so-called privacy right and Trump replied to the question with an answer that made it appear he doesn’t understand the legal arguments underpinning the abortion debate.

He said, “Well, that’s a pretty strange way of getting to pro-life. I mean, it’s a very unique way of asking about pro-life. What does that have to do with privacy? How are you equating pro-life with privacy? ”

NBC’s Guthrie then said, “well, you know about the Roe v. Wade decision” and Trump appeared to finally understand the context of the question. “Yes, right sure,” he said. “Look, I am pro-life. I’ve said it. I’m very strong there.”

Now, Roe v. Wade rests almost entirely on this suggestion of a "right to privacy" that extends to contraceptive choices and, by the next step in the reasoning daisy-chain, to abortion. This is all very basic. You don't have to accept this reasoning in order to know it, of course. Most pro-lifers are fully fluent with this line of argument -- they know the argument; they just reject it.

But Trump appears to not understand the central argument in the most divisive hot-button issue of the last 30 years.

And his conclusion -- "I'm very strong there [on pro-life]" -- is completely undermined by the fact he doesn't seem to get this. How can he be "very strong" on this issue if he's not even interested enough to read a four sentence digest of the holding of Roe v. Wade.

I find this whole answer very Freudian. Let me bold-face the part I think is telling.

NBC’s Guthrie then said, “well, you know about the Roe v. Wade decision” and Trump appeared to finally understand the context of the question. “Yes, right sure,” he said. “Look, I am pro-life. I’ve said it. I’m very strong there.”

That's what concerns me -- the "I've said it." The equating of actually believing in a position with merely saying you believe in that position.

I just find that to be a Freudian slip, unintentionally revealing his thought processes.

"I'm very conservative on ObamaCare. I want to repeal it. Look, I've said it."

"I just signed the promise to never raise taxes. I'm very anti-tax. Look, I've said it."

"I'm very religious. I got to church on the Sundays. Look, I've said it."

Yes, you have said it. The doubt is over whether you mean it.

Honestly, I've got nothing against Trump. I watch his dumb tv shows.

But it sounds and awful lot like he's just checking boxes off a list, and when questions are asked about his commitment to these positions or just his sincerity in expressing them, the answer seems to be "Look, I've said it."

Like: "Look, I said what you wanted me to say."

AllahPundit wondered why Trump's obvious insincerity is being given a pass while Mitt Romney is raked over the coals for similar (or less troubling) stuff. All Allah could figure is that Mitt Romney is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes, and they resent that and punish him for that, whereas Trump is so blatant in his hucksterism it's borderline honest.

And so people aren't holding it against him, because no one's actually deceived.

"Look, I've said it. I don't mean it and you know I don't mean it but at least I've said it. If you want me to say it, I've said it."

Is it going to work? No, I don't think so. And don't even get me started on what I think his soon-to-be-leaked divorce records will turn up.

I just don't understand why people who supposedly rank abortion as one of their top issues would rule Romney unacceptable because, in order to win a race in abortion-crazy Massachusetts, he said he was pro-choice, whereas Trump has always said he was pro-choice not to get anything out of the statement but, more likely,just because he really was, and just really thought it was the right common-sense policy.

I think people just want an aggressive posture towards Obama. I get that emotionally, but I think people are not asking themselves if a tough-talker is the best type of candidate to actually do the job that's necessary, of if tough-talk is emotionally pleasing and cathartic but actually not central to the important thing, which isn't talk, but action and victory.

This is why I keep pushing candidates with less-big personalities. Yeah, they're not exciting. But I don't want this election to turn on whether the public finds our candidate acceptable. I want our candidate's acceptability to be sort of the default position, not really the central question at all.

I want the election to turn entirely on Obama. We win that contest 9 out of 10 times.

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posted by Ace at 12:46 PM

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