Over the next few days, watch how quickly news of Donald Trump’s potential candidacy explodes across America. Watch your local news. Read the local papers. Listen to the conversations at work.
Back on November 18, 2010, The Hill first noted that the television personality and well-known businessman was talking seriously about throwing his hair into the ring. “I’m going to make a decision probably by June,” Trump was quoted as saying. He also was on the record clarifying that he is, in fact, a Republican and would enter the GOP primary if he were to run.
That day, he did Good Morning America, but little else. Mostly, the buzz surrounding “The Donald” was swept up in the promotional buzz for his television show. At the very most, his comments were taken as typical Trump bombast. Now, however, things are little different. Yesterday afternoon, he made a surprise appearance at CPAC in Washington, D.C.
A few notes on that piece from The Hill have been stuck in “draft” format behind the scenes here at America’s Right for a few months now. Serendipitously, my failure to put aside work for a few minutes to comment on a possible Donald Trump candidacy back then has allowed me to only need a few minutes’ deviation from Bar Exam study to get on the record today following his speech to approximately 12,000 attendees.
My first impression, knowing only of Donald Trump through his television programs and his books, is that he desperately needs to work on his public speaking. For him, a TelePrompTer will go a long way. To be honest, though, when he spoke off-the-cuff, he actually came across as more knowledgeable, more congenial and more affable than when he read from his prepared notes. In that alone, it seems as though Donald Trump is quite the opposite of President Barack Obama.
As for his prepared notes, for a guy who has the money to surround himself with talented political and public relations consultants–and has done so, as The Daily Caller pointed out earlier yesterday–under no circumstances should he have delivered the speech that he did. Yes, it was relatively informal and likely so by design, but that’s no excuse. Yes, this was Donald Trump’s opportunity to introduce himself to conservatives, but everyone already knows who he is. Instead of reading from his resume and self-promoting as though on Oprah, Donald Trump should have taken this opportunity to hammer home a message. When he did so, speaking about free trade and taxes and economic growth among other things, it seemed to come secondarily to a self-serving reading of his curriculum vitae. As previously noted, off-the-cuff Donald was certainly better than read-the-notes Donald.
Nevertheless, this was a first step in a possible–I’d say probable–candidacy, and discussion among pundits and politicos in the coming days and weeks will likely address whether such a candidacy is good or bad for the GOP and for the country as a whole. Personally, I’m not entirely opposed to it.
Trump’s frank nature–I absolutely loved the impromptu remarks about China, the Somali pirates and, especially, the feasibility of President Ron Paul–is undoubtedly a product of his status as a Washington outsider, and his self-described tendency to speak his mind is absolutely refreshing, unequivocally needed, and could be tremendously informative for many American people who do not otherwise pay attention to politics, people who get their news from Access Hollywood rather than credible outlets in the New and Old Media.
When former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton casually noted, back in early September 2010, that he would consider a run for the presidency in 2012, he noted that his motivation would not necessarily be to win, but rather to use the pulpit of a presidential primary candidate to bring more attention to vital national security issues. In a similar fashion, the notoriously unfiltered Donald Trump could not only use the pulpit of candidacy but also capture the added attention of pop culture celebrity, and use the exposure from both to bring the realities of our nation’s fiscal situation into sharp focus for people who might otherwise not pay attention.
Furthermore, love him or hate him, Trump knows what it means and what it takes to succeed, and what it means and what it takes to fail. He has built an empire, lost it, and built it again. Compare that with the utter dearth of private sector experience in the Obama administration. More over, Trump knows how to get a message out. He knows how to play the media. He’s endlessly savvy, and notwithstanding a missed opportunity to really shine at CPAC, has grown into a public relations whiz.
And, of course, we also know quite a bit about Donald Trump. We know about his bankruptcies. We know about his marriages. We know that he can be, and often is, an arrogant and stubborn sonofabitch. We know that he has terrible hair, and makes an odd pouty face when mugging for the ever-present cameras. Much like Newt Gingrich, he might not be ideal in many ways, but at least his presence as a largely known quantity rules out a few October surprises.
Do I think that Donald Trump could win the GOP nomination or the presidency in 2012? Of course not. However, it is crucially important to remember that no matter how many candidates fill the field in advance of the primaries and no matter how spectacular those candidates may be, only one will win that nomination and have a proverbial shot at the title. For that reason, it is absolutely essential that those candidates who cannot win otherwise play their part and bring something to the table.
In 2008, Ron Paul brought a dose of fiscal reality to the debate that many people, including myself, just weren’t ready to hear quite yet. That same cycle, candidates like Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo brought attention to social issues and illegal immigration, respectively, with little chance of winning the nomination. Because this upcoming presidential election will afford a chance for Americans to suspend our notoriously poor attention spans, I hope that someone has a chance to bring a specialty to the debate and explain a number of important issues: the realities of the threats against national security, the limitations of our federal Constitution and proper role of government, and the merits of state’s rights, just to name a few. Most importantly, though, is that the American people understand exactly how troublesome our financial picture is proving to be.
Can Donald Trump explain it? I think so. Will whatever he says get through to a broad spectrum of the population? Absolutely. The fact that people know who Snooki is says so.
Nevertheless, if he wants to be taken seriously by the people who DO pay attention, there are a few things he needs to address. He has gone back and forth on issues vital to the American right, including but not limited to abortion and gun control. He has donated money to Democrats like former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And then, of course, there’s this:
How much Trump needs to explain and rationalize the evolution of his positions, opinions and agenda over the years depends upon whether his candidacy is to serve as a serious presidential bid or, as noted above, a mechanism for which certain issues can best be brought to the forefront of the debate for the sake of educating those who might otherwise remain ignorant. How much he deviates from the conservative message will need to be weighed against the focus he brings to the right issues.
Regardless, it cannot be argued that in recent weeks and months, Donald Trump’s message has been sharpened and defined by this administration and, as a result, he has come down vocally on the right side of nearly every issue foreign and domestic. If he continues to sharpen and refine that message, a potential candidacy could be as useful as it would be interesting.
At the very least, Vice President Joe Biden could rest easy knowing that nobody–nobody–will be poking fun at his hairline anymore.