What Some People Like About Donald Trump
He fights back.
“Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque, il se defend” (“This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.”)
I’ve read various articles about why people like Donald Trump, or, even if they don’t like him, will probably vote for him. All have an element of truth, sometimes small, sometimes large. I don’t want to get into how true. I don’t know that many Trump supporters or, at least, I don’t that many people who admit they are Trump supporters.
But here’s what I see people responding positively to Trump about and it’s something that caused me to respond positively to him when I watched the second “debate” between him and Hillary Clinton: he’s a fighter and he calls people out.
When the debate started last Sunday night, my plan was to watch maybe 20 minutes to see if Hillary took my advice not to shake his hand (she did take my advice, not that she asked for it) and to see how he handled the groping women issue. Although I knew in advance that designated allegedly-undecided voters would ask questions, I just knew that either Anderson Cooper or Martha Raddatz would run with that issue like a dog with a bone. It turned out to be Cooper.
(The transcript is here.)
But once we got past that, it got more interesting. I’ve often been in the situation that Trump was in. No, not that situation. Rather, the situation of being ganged up on in an intellectual or semi-intellectual forum. I’ve written about that before. I’ve had situations where I was on one side of the issue and the interviewer had 2, and occasionally 3 people on the other side and the interviewer himself was on the other side. And, with the exception of a few tough questions, Cooper and Raddatz were on Clinton’s side.
One little instance: The audience was told, in no uncertain terms, before the debate started, not to applaud. Many in the audience broke the rule, applauding for Hillary. Neither Cooper nor Raddatz objected. My guess is that pro-Trump people in the audience thought “Ok, I guess they aren’t enforcing that rule.” They got their chance a few minutes later. Clinton warned people about putting Trump in charge of the law. (By the way, neither Anderson nor Raddatz pointed out that the president is not in charge of the law. They, like Clinton and, apparently, Trump all shared the same premise. I guess that’s because that’s how U.S. presidents have behaved for a long time). Trump replied that if he were in charge, she would be in jail. Many in the audience applauded. Did Cooper let one that go? Of course not. He said, “We want to remind the audience to please not talk out loud. Please do not applaud. You are just wasting time.”
And what did the Donald do? A few minutes later, he pointed out that it was “one on three.” He didn’t do it every time. For example, Anderson Cooper had the gall to flesh out a question asked by one of the participants by summarizing the New York Times article that had speculated, on skimpy evidence, that Trump might not have paid taxes for over a decade. Trump didn’t call him out on that one but he did on others. When Clinton’s emails were raised and she bobbed and weaved, neither Cooper nor Raddatz gave any background. It was clearly asymmetric.
At one point, when Trump fought back, I laughed at their being called out and slightly cheered. I was talking to a good female friend about it later, someone who was appalled at the groping issue that had come out earlier in the week. She dislikes Trump even more than I do. But she told me she also was appalled by their unfair treatment of him. The high point of her being appalled was when Raddatz decided to enter as a third debater and challenge Trump about a fairly obvious point he was making about not signaling the enemy in advance what you will do. And Martha (I’m calling her by her first name because I’m tired of correcting my spell checker when it changes her last name to “Radiate”) didn’t show a lot of knowledge about it either.
I was disappointed, actually, that Trump decided to debate her instead of saying, “Hold it. Your job is to moderate, not to be another debater against me.” So even Trump didn’t go as far as he could have in calling for fairness. But he at least did it at times.
Compare Trump’s occasional fighting back to Romney’s response in 2012 when Candy Crowley decided to take Obama’s side on the issue of Benghazi. Romney looked stunned but he didn’t fight back. He didn’t say, “Listen lady, do your job. Your job is not to take Barack Obama’s side or do instant fact checking based on what you think you know. Butt out.” Actually, Romney didn’t even address it publicly until 2014, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt. Trump did fight back.
Someone said that a lot of Republicans go to Washington thinking it’s a sewer and end up, after a few years, thinking it’s a hot tub. A big part of it is that they have made peace–not just with the interest groups but also with the dominant pro-government ethos. I don’t have any reason to think that Trump is that different. But Trump has given many voters reason to think he’s different.
When Trump loses the election, and I’m pretty confident that he will, there will be a lot of Wednesday-morning quarterbacking. One of the things that I hope happens is that potential candidates learn that, all other things equal, they will do better by defending themselves strongly from unfair attacks.
Postscript: After I started writing this yesterday, I saw a piece by Mark Bauerlein that covers related ground and, in some ways, does it better.