When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for US President last year, he was immediately met with a tidal wave of scorn and derision. His was a joke candidacy, we were told, intended merely as a publicity stunt, and he would soon withdraw from the race.
Watching from the other side of the pond, I was already well aware of Donald Trump as a self-publicising US property developer who wrote his own name on more or less everything he built, much like the famed Kilroy who carved “Kilroy Was Here” wherever he travelled. At the time I wasn’t aware that he was also a celebrity in America as one of the judges on The Apprentice TV show, much like the tycoon Alan Sugar in the UK’s equivalent show.
It’s been some 15 months since Donald Trump announced his candidacy, and the scorn and derision has never let up for a single day: he is the single most abused man in America.
Yet another example of this appeared yesterday in the New York Times under the banner: “When a Crackpot Runs for President” – a nice example of a genre in which the insults start in the title.
I took a while to read the opinion piece carefully:
There are crackpots who believe that the earth is flat, and they don’t deserve to be quoted without explaining that this is an, er, outlying view, and the same goes for a crackpot who has argued that climate change is a Chinese-made hoax, who has called for barring Muslims and who has said that he will build a border wall and that Mexico will pay for it.
We owe it to our readers to signal when we’re writing about a crackpot. Even if he’s a presidential candidate. No, especially when he’s a presidential candidate.
So the evidence that Trump is a crackpot derives firstly from his denial of the reality of global warming/climate change, secondly from his wish to bar Muslims from entry into the USA, and thirdly from his promise to build a southern border wall to keep out illegal immigrants.
I must confess that I see no evidence of crackpottery in any of those, even if some of them don’t seem very practical.
The modern doctrine of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is a novelty which has only gained traction in the past 25 years. It has now become something of a religious cult, despite there having been no warming for the past 18 years, and plenty of evidence (Climategate) of mendacity on the part of its high priests. In my view, the real crackpots are the credulous true believers in AGW, not the sceptics or “deniers”.
In respect of Muslims, it is quite obviously the case that a great many of the mass murders of the past few years – Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, etc – have been carried out by Muslim zealots, and something urgently needs to be done to restrict their access to the Western world. Once again, the real crackpots are those who advocate doing nothing.
And in respect of illegal immigrants (some of whom will be murderous Muslim zealots), a nation state simply ceases to exist if it fails to defend its borders against intruders. This is true not only of the USA but every state in Europe (and indeed the world). There was a time in the 1980s when it looked like I might be asked to do some work in the USA, but back then one had to apply for a visa, which I did, and was granted a 10-year entry permit printed in my UK passport. I didn’t think it was impertinent of the US authorities to do this: on the contrary, it seemed like simple common sense for them to vet prospective visitors before allowing them into their country. They would have been crackpots had they not.
So, far from demonstrating that Donald Trump was a crackpot, his various positions rather suggested that he was anything but a crackpot, and was in fact a man of simple common sense.
The article continues:
The latest dust-up has been health care. Neither candidate has been very open about health, but Clinton has produced much more detailed medical records than Trump, and an actuarial firm told The Washington Post Fact Checker that Clinton has a 5.9 percent chance of dying by the end of a second term in office, while Trump would have a 8.4 percent chance.
Since Donald Trump is a year older than Hillary Clinton, and women tend to live longer than men, it’s probably true that Trump has a greater chance of dying in office than Hillary Clinton. But that’s not what the health scare has been about. The concern has been about Hillary Clinton’s propensity to fall over in recent years – something that has resulted in a broken arm and multiple cerebral haemorrhages -, and was demonstrated last Sunday when she collapsed outside a 9/11 memorial event. There are serious concerns about Hillary Clinton’s health in ways that there are not about Donald Trump’s.
The article concludes with a final fusillade of insults:
For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump actually is ill-informed on a great many affairs. He’s a property developer, after all. But I doubt he will remain ill-informed for very long once he takes office. And what politician isn’t deceptive, evasive, and vacuous? It’s almost part of the job description these days.
But perhaps with the final shot – “He’s not normal” – the author at last scored a direct hit. Because Trump isn’t normal. He’s a maverick, an outsider, a man apart. From the moment he stepped into the race, he stood apart from all the 16 other rather boring Republican candidates. Probably because he’s not been a politician, he hasn’t come over as a normal politician. His speeches aren’t like theirs. The language he uses isn’t like theirs. He has a different campaign strategy, appealing directly to people via town hall speeches or online tweets, rather than through slick and expensive TV commercials. Donald Trump doesn’t do normal politics.
But I rather suspect that many Americans are as sick of normal politicians as many of us are in the UK (and much of Europe). And that’s why Trump has attracted a considerable following. Normal politicians have let us down badly. And if normal politics leads nowhere, then the time has come for abnormal politics. So Trump’s non-normality is another asset, and not a liability.
And I can’t help but think that his endurance in the face of the almost daily frenzied attacks on him (like the one above) in the mainstream media has done a great deal to demonstrate to all concerned an admirable steadfastness and resoluteness in the man, that I for one never saw in him before. He’s been being crucified for 15 months, and will probably carry on being crucified, but he carries his cross lightly.
I have plenty of my own reservations about him. I’m a bit worried that a man who doesn’t smoke or drink (not even coffee!) may turn out to be yet another puritan busybody like Michael Bloomberg or Bill Gates. I also wonder – since he’s a very rich man – that he’s likely to prove to be just another oligarch (he knew both Bill and Hillary Clinton before he ran for office, and contributed to their campaigns) in a suffocating US oligarchy.
Unlike many people, what I’m not worried about is whether he’ll start lots of new wars. That’s what normal politicians do, more or less as a required rite of passage. I think a blunt-speaking Trump presidency would probably shake up international politics and ruffle lots of feathers, but that will be a welcome breath of fresh air in the sterile corridors of power. His probably won’t be a normal US presidency, bringing the normal succession of futile and destructive wars – and that will be a relief. And as a man from the construction business, his might even be a highly constructive presidency, that will leave his name emblazoned forever on his new 40-storey Trump Wing of the White House, and will maybe do so perfectly deservedly.