Sunday, April 3, 2016

Trump as Mussolini?

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post interviewed Donald Trump this week.  The interview was described as “very unusual” by Woodward.  The headline makers used that phrase to further validate a narrative that Trump is a kook.  But when you watch a video of the two reporters discussing the interview the impression is that “unusual” is not intended as “odd” or “strange” in a pejorative sense, but “different” from traditional behavior in presidential politics.   Framing Trump as a nut may be a mistake that his opponents use as a primary theme to their peril.

The Woodward and Costa interview followed inflammatory comments from Dr. Lawrence Summers on the NPR show “Here and Now” on Thursday.   Summers is the penultimate insider – former Harvard President, Wall Street executive, Secretary of the Treasury, World Bank economist.  He said, “The possible election of Donald Trump is the greatest threat to American national security, American Prosperity, and indeed American Freedom.”  He represents, “the kind of risk that one associates with Mussolini and a whiff of Fascism.”  Listening one could not help but say, “Wow, that is quite a statement.”

The shaping of Trump and his supporters as a dangerous lunatic fringe, which may be a theme for the campaign against Trump in the general election, could backfire.  Attacking Trump personally and framing his supporters as ignorant possible fascists, without consideration for what underpins the rising of Trump, may be a major, and possibly election-turning mistake.

Summers himself stated later in the interview on NPR that the rise of Trump reflects “understandable frustration with the failure of the establishment…to seem adequately concerned with the genuine middle class who feel that there is concern for the rich, there’s concern for the very poor, …but just hard working folk who play by the rules … somehow don’t seem to be anybody’s primary concern…that bipartisan failing in our political system is a significant part of what brought us to this point.”

With that tempering statement one should delve further into the Woodward interview with Trump to understand better what he is saying, what it means, and why a very large block of people are finding it appealing.  Simply buying into the headline - Trump Interview Called “Unusual” – is very short sighted.

The interview revealed:

1) Trumps personal wealth lets him stand alone in the process of political money groveling to say of Wall Street, “I don’t need them.” He therefore can speak very candidly about our financial system and may be the only person in the campaign who could actually take on Wall Street.

2) He will pick a political legislative insider with at least 25 years of experience as Vice Presidet to be an integral part of his team.  This shows he recognizes his personal lacking and need for a counterbalance in this regard, and the need to work with the co-equal legislative branch, not ignore them.

3) He will issue a list of the 10 or 12 candidates from which he will chose his Supreme Court nominees.  Woodward finds this unprecedented and “unusual.”  Trump will be telling us not only who we are voting for to be the president, but also the candidates for the Supreme Court, all in one swoop.  This could be very positive in securing his Republican base voters, but also serve as an opening to his opponent to fire up the liberal base.

4) His talk of changing traditional relationships and alliances.  Insane some might say, but this is going to ring true for a lot of people when he says NATO was created to counteract the Soviet Union.  He feels non-governmental terrorist groups are the threat and need to be the focus.

5) He is about winning.  He says of his vehement attacks upon his opponents, “you have to break eggs.”  He is getting a lot of feedback to be more presidential to build broader support.  In response he says, “My natural inclination is to win. And after I win, I will be so presidential that you won’t even recognize me. You’ll be falling asleep, you’ll be so bored.”

Woodward and Costa Article
Video of Woodward and Costa Discussing the Interview
Here and Now Interview with Dr. Lawrence Summers

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