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Early on, I was a bit seduced by Donald Trump, mostly because he has exquisite taste in enemies and because my political instincts incline me toward populist upstarts and against arrogant establishments. In the early 1990s, for example, I was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Reform Party of Canada. At the time, the Canadian political establishment was at its most corrupt, arrogant, and insular and the Reform Party was the right antidote.
So when the incompetent GOP establishment went ballistic against the real estate mogul, I naturally felt sympathetic toward him. My sympathy, moreover, seemed validated by how ham-fisted the attacks against him turned out to be. But while today’s American political establishment is equally corrupt, arrogant, and insular as the one Manning toppled two decades ago, Donald Trump is not the answer Americans should be seeking. Donald Trump, you are no Preston Manning.
The moment when serious doubts about Trump’s competence first entered my head was over a seemingly minor point. Railing against unfair trade from the Far East in a speech last December, Trump lumped China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea all together. So let me get this straight Donald: you want to start a confrontation with China and you want to push Japan onto China’s side? Apparently so.
How important is the alliance with Japan for America? Let me put it like this: In 2014, China produced almost 24 million cars. The US came in second at 12 million, with Japan at third at 9.3 million, and South Korea at fifth at 4.5 million. Since the American Civil War, the US has enjoyed an overwhelming material advantage over its adversaries through it manufacturing might. With Japan and South Korea at America’s side, it still holds that advantage. But if Blunderbuss Trump thoughtlessly alienates these allies, leaving the United States to fend against China in a hypothetical one-on-one Pacific War, America could find itself outgunned.
And then I realized — like I was shot with a diamond bullet — that there is no “there” there. Trump has no ideas, no philosophy, and no governing principles. He is little more than a salesman selling himself. He is a hollow man, a stuffed man, headpiece filled with straw.
Not only doesn’t he know much, he doesn’t care to find out, which is much worse to my mind. Read this article from Spengler about how Trump doesn’t read. (“What I noticed immediately in my first visit was that there were no books,” says D’Antonio. “A huge palace and not a single book.”) If somebody like this were to run the foreign policy of the world’s most powerful country, it would be an unmitigated disaster. In a narcissistic fit, he may start World War III without a clue as to what to do after it begins. Only then will it dawn on him that not everything in the world is a transactional deal.
Once I realized this, other examples became evident. There are Trump’s extensive ties with top Democrats, like Senator Harry Reid and the Clinton family, as well as establishment Republican figures like Senator Mitch McConnell. There is also his (very recent) past support of left-wing causes, including illegal immigration. Most tastelessly, he has personally attacked conservatives who have been fighting the good fight for a lot longer than Donald Trump has, and with much fewer resources. Take his disgraceful feud with Michelle Malkin. Donald, Michelle was pulling her weight back when you were cutting checks to Anthony Weiner and employing illegal aliens.
Of course, people can change. Roger L. Simon, David Horowitz, and Whittaker Chambers all came to the Right from from the hard Left and even Ronald Reagan used to be a Democrat. Normally though, when somebody has had a genuine change of heart, it only comes after a protracted inner struggle — often detailed in their writings — or as the result of some dramatic event, like the way that the death of Betty van Patter changed David Horowitz. It has been said that converts make the best zealots. The reason why is because their soul-searching has given them an in-depth understanding of the issues. Absent a dramatic turn of events, or an eloquent ability to explain basic principles, it is entirely appropriate to doubt the sincerity of the convert. Particularly, if the timing is convenient.
But what about Mexican immigration and Trump’s promise to build The Wall? Look, when it comes to building a wall to secure the southern border, rounding up illegal aliens the way Dwight Eisenhower did with Operation Wetback (its actual name), instituting exit controls to monitor visa overstays, and cutting back legal immigration to manageable levels, I am on your side. One hundred percent. But here’s a newsflash for you: Trump isn’t going to do any of this. He’s just shining you.
How do I know this?
One of the best ways to divine a man’s true intentions is to examine his past actions, particularly under stress; i.e. does he favour the hard right over the easy wrong? One of the reasons I think Senator Ted Cruz is a rare sincere politician was his opposition to ethanol subsidies during the Iowa Caucus. Iowa was a must-win state for Cruz, but Cruz didn’t budge on the issue and wasn’t silent about it either. Watch his confrontation with an Iowa farmer angry over the ethanol issue; Cruz’s ability to win him over is one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen. In contrast, Trump embraced ethanol subsidies with gusto.
Suffice it to say, there is no comparable instance where Trump took an unpopular position that was personally disadvantageous to him. He was for Senator Chuck Schumer and the New York Democrats because he needed to please them to run his pay-to-play empire. Then, he adopted Republican principles when he saw a better opportunity in the GOP. And he saw immigration opposition as the untapped issue to exploit (though I credit him for seeing that opportunity before anybody else).
I predict Trump will continue to oppose immigration in order to win the nomination, but will soften his stance if he makes it to the general election. Should he make it to the White House, he will do what he has always done: cut a deal with the likes of Schumer and McConnell. And all those Trump supporters who think he is being sincere? You are his saps, just like those unfortunate students who were duped by Trump University.
There is an old adage that if you look around the card table and don’t see who the mark is, you’re the mark.