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February 29th 2016 print

Peter Smith

No Ducking Donald

He is a vulgarian, a brawler, an egomaniac and, to the consternation of Republican Party's sclerotic establishment, he won't play by the rules. Well, nobody's perfect, and what he gets right -- borders, Islam, US exceptionalism -- have made me a convert. Go get 'em, Mr Trump

trump lawn signOf particular note among others, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have endorsed Donald Trump for president. Let me add someone of absolutely no note, to wit, me. I had wavered for a time between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and I like John Kasich and who doesn’t like Ben Carson?. But facts must be faced. Ronald Reagan is no longer around and this is not the time for yet another politician bought and paid for by lobbyists or, perhaps, for a career politician at all.

Strategic mistakes made by George Bush weakened the United States militarily and fiscally. Since then a feckless president is on course to leave a legacy of overwhelming debt, a fragile economy, a more race-divided country, a weakened military, a nuclear-ready Iran, a belligerent North Korea, an expansionist China, a sabre-rattling Russia, and complete Islamic-driven chaos in the Middle East and in North Africa. Of course this hasn’t been entirely Obama’s fault. But who could possibly have done a worse job? The best that might be said is that he often simply stood by. Being a bystander is not a bad option in good times, as Coolidge showed. It is a bad option when enemies are at and inside the gate.

What do Australians understand about US politics? Not much, in my experience. And what they think they know is skewed beyond belief. Republicans are nut jobs. Democrats are middle of the road.

Of the fifty states, thirty-one currently have Republican governors. Maybe US voters appreciate that Republicans are good for business and jobs. The only three states which have recorded 10% or more of private sector job growth since the depths of the last recession (circa July 2009) are Texas, Utah and North Dakota, all with Republican governors.

Democrats might once have been middle of the road. But the fact that avowed socialist Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money, and that her response is to try to outflank him, is symptomatic of the way the party has lurched to the left.

Another complete blind spot is the view that it doesn’t really matter who is elected to the presidency. Let’s get it straight, the entire civilised world needs a strong, outward-looking America. To bring it home, this is what ultimately safeguards the freedom of 24 million people living on a large-island land mass in the ‘wrong’ hemisphere. And we will depend upon the Americans for a long time to come. This is fact, and then there is fantasy. Lots of people live in a fantasy world from which the bad guys have taken permanent leave.

This is an edited version of Leigh Sales interviewing Defence Minister Marise Payne on the 7.30 program on February 25: “Can I start by asking you to make the case to Australians as to why defence should get more money instead of health or education?” Response: Politico-waffle, waffle, waffle.

“Why not just six submarines because then you could use the remaining $25 billion to cover, say, easily five years of the Gonski education funding or it would take care of a year of the NDIS?” Response: More waffle, waffle, waffle.

“But who in the 21st Century is going to potentially attack us in that sort of a geographic sense that it matters that we’re an island nation?” Response: Politico-bafflegab.

Ms Payne should have put Ms Sales in her place, just as Mr Trump might have done, and along these plain lines: We won’t have any Gonski funding or NDIS if we can’t defend ourselves. As it is, we may well have difficulty if attacked and might need to call on the US, which might not be impressed if we haven’t spent a dime on our own defence. And who might attack us? I won’t say for obvious reasons, but use your imagination and stop asking such a silly question betraying your complete ignorance of history.

Trump cannot do anything about the fantasies that have taken over the minds of those on the left, wherever they live. But he can rejuvenate America. He can make America energy independent, he can reduce job-killing environmental regulations, he can rebuild the military and he can control the borders. Of course, all of the Republican candidates claim they will do these things. But will they? Trump is the only one with the guts to have said that he will stop Muslim immigration.

Immediately he said this, to howls of outrage coming from Republican elders to David Cameron, I started to tilt in his direction. Leaving aside terrorists and their many millions of sympathisers, hundreds of millions of Muslims support religious intolerance — as they must if they follow their scripture. There is no mystery about that. The mystery is why anyone would support risking more of this fetid baggage of intolerance being carried into America; or, for that matter, into anywhere where Western values prevail.

Taking on the Pope in building a wall finally convinced me. A borderless world lets the jackals in. And Trump was right to remind the Pope of the risks he faces in appeasing those who see him as an affront to God. It isn’t Trump who needs to curb his language and policies; it is leaders of Christian churches who need to understand the danger that Christians are in and to respond assertively. Maybe Trump could lend them his playbook; as it, their abject servility is appalling. Christ was forgiving but He was anything but a door mat.

As a strong America is an essential part of keeping Australia (and other Western nations) free and safe, the relevant question is who is more likely to make America stronger, both economically and militarily. An important precursor to answering that question is to assess who is able to defeat Clinton (assuming the email scandal doesn’t undo her) in November.

Potentially, Rubio could win, but on the whole Trump is best placed to eat into the Democrats’ base. Like Reagan he might be able to attract blue-collar Democrats who want well-paid jobs and who retain patriotic pride in their country and will respond to Trump’s message ‘to make America great again’. He may even be able to attract a larger proportion of Hispanic and Black votes than could other Republicans because of his aspirational message.

OK many Republican voters don’t like him. Here the Supreme Court vacancy will work to his advantage. Many who might otherwise stay at home won’t want to risk Clinton installing a Democrat lackey to stack the court. This is precisely why Obama will try to fill the vacancy (and take the issue out of the election) with a much less activist candidate than he would normally nominate. The Republican establishment, as weak-kneed as it is, will surely refuse to take the bait.

The candidate best able to beat Hillary is also the candidate most likely to do what he says he will do when in office. He is perhaps uniquely fashioned for the times. Cometh the moment, cometh The Donald — warts and all of course.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [19]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    As usual, Peter, you stated your case succinctly. No reasonable argument against it could be mounted. And yet … one shudders at the thought of Trump in the Oval Office. His obnoxious mannerism and careless use of words and expressions, which he seems quite unable to control, would be incredibly dangerous in international diplomacy. He also displays glaring ignorance in the field of national and international economics, in health and other societal matters. Granted, the very best of advice in the world is readily available to the president of the USA, But would Trump ever accept and act on advice he disagrees with? Doubtful, at best. Bind extremely wary about it all is a huge understatement.

    One further comment on your article. You write “What do Australians understand about US politics?” What, in fact, do Australians understand about Australian politics, or what Americans understand about American politics are equally valid questions, and you rhetorical reply applies in both cases. “Not much, in my experience.” That is at least as much cause for concern as a possible Trump presidency.

  2. Marcus Walker says:

    Firstly I would like to thank Quadrant for a quality alternative viewpoint .I am in awe of the very smart people who write and comment on here (my 2 bob’s worth should bring that standard down) I thank you all .
    Because of my exposure to mainstream media I was of the view that Donald trump was a buffoon ,clown and all round waste of space , but after listening to a campaign speech given by “the Don” in late 2015 whilst driving (thanks to Mike Smith news)by the time I returned home I wagered a good friend $100 that the don was going to romp it in (last week he suggested the spoils of my wager would be deposited into my beer account at our local wanky wine bar) I was so impressed and moved by his delivery and ability to inspire that I actually started to follow and try understand the silly US electoral system . Bill Martin is right the Trumpster is an arrogant self serving egomaniac but who in politics isn’t at least the Don might drag others up to do great things from which all should benefit .
    Again , thanks for your time in reading this and I hope my ignorance isn’t too obvious and painful for all (myself included)

  3. I fear for the future of democracy as a valid form of governance if somebody like Trump or Sanders or even Hillary Clinton can ever be seen as potential leaders of the free world. Such people are a potent reminder of why many centuries ago the ‘democracy’ of the Roman Republic was replaced by basically ‘populist’ and/or military dictatorships.
    Much of the blame for the hideous dead end roads democracies are currently being steered into can be sheeted home to the media. The media is just one of the many institutions that have been taken over in a ‘Gramscian’ sense, but is one of the most important. The media sets the ‘cultural’ tone for most societies. For over a century the left have made it plain that Democracy is, and has only ever been, a way of legitimising their desire to ‘legally’ confiscate and control the wealth created by productive people. The media have known about this and rather than analyse it, and comment on it, have aided and abetted it.
    The writers of the American constitution would be spinning in their graves if they knew that the end product of their intellectual endeavours resulted in a Trump or Sanders getting their hands on the reins of power.

    • PT says:

      The Roman Republic was really an oligarchy. They failed because they betrayed and destroyed the smallholder who manned the armies and maintained the loyalty to the state. Burke would doubtless have said the Gracii were the true conservatives.

      Our current “leadership” (and that’s a generous term) simply lacks the imagination. In the U.S. the Dems imagine they’re importing “client/patron politics. The reality is they’ll get much more than they bargained for.

  4. Jody says:

    My sister is in the USA helping with the “Hillary for America” campaign. It’s disturbing to me that she has learned that Hillary is good for America through her studies for her Masters Degree at a university here in Australia. Mired in identity politics, she seems incapable of sorting the wheat from the chaff with Clinton and the US Democrats in particular. That anybody could think Obama was anything more than a preacher man beggars belief. He seems to spend his days on populist causes like holding birthday parties for centenarians, ringing up the mothers of the US to thank them for being mothers on Mother’s Day, appearing on TV and the latest is that apparently he’s resorting to some new token gesture/gimmick involving LGBTI which has turned the White House into a modern incarnation of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey.

    Where are the decent Republic candidates? Surely there must be one man or woman of integrity who believes in the great nation of the USA and that it can be rescued from its torpor and energized with a powerful shot of self-belief!! I’m sad they don’t have somebody of the stature of Colin Powell or “Condie” Rice to go for the top job. I’m praying they can parachute somebody in at the 11th hour.

    • Bill Martin says:

      There is Ben Carson, Jody, a towering giant among all the pygmies, but the Americans are too dumb to realise that.

    • Peter says:

      Jody, that is the same Colin Powell who voted for Obama – twice. I think the US can manage without him. On the other hand, Ms Rice would make a good VP for Donald, maybe. Sometimes I think we ask too much of potential candidates. There are no supermen or women in waiting ever – Churchill aside in the modern era. I think Marco Rubio is impressive for example and I would put him as my strong second choice behind Trump. But if you wanted a solid kind of chap Kasich is pretty good. Ronald Reagan didn’t have ‘stature’ nor did Margaret Thatcher at the start but they grew into the job and ended up with stature. I think Trump would do a great job and bring good people around him He is not a fool. And he would certainly keep the Iranians, Russians, North Koreans and Chinese on edge. That can’t be bad. Peter

      • Jody says:

        Well, I didn’t know Colin Powell voted for Obama!! He is more shallow than I imagined he could be. Ms Rice is a no-nonsense operator and could do well enough in the top job and she was involved in some minor scandal (much less significant than Hillary) which put an end to her aspirations! She’s an intelligent, cultured and educated woman – unlike her opposite number in the Democrat camp.

        I feel Rubio is too young for the job, to be honest, and I’d be surprised if most Americans don’t agree with me!!

        More fundamentally, I think a popularly elected President is a dreadful way to run a Republic and we should take note here in Australia.

      • acarroll says:

        Peter, have you heard of Stefan Molyneux?

        Youtube search for “The Truth About Marco Rubio” to get an idea of how uninspiring — indeed corrupt and duplicitous — Marco Rubio really is.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      Powell was badly burnt as Secretary of State. He was a great military leader but not a politician. Trump has the hide to accept the arrows of his enemy whereas many of the “good” men and women could not stand the strain. Besides I think Trump will be a good president because he won’t be at the beck and call of the PC mob.

      • Jody says:

        Trump is a vacuous narcissist and it’s appalling to think he’d become the leader of the free world. I’m hoping Americans will come back from the edge of the precipice before it’s too late. They’ll probably get the execrable Hillary anyway, and that raises the question of “what are we going to do about Bill”?

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Jody: Yes. All that.
      But remember Obama was the man who had to give the green light to the US Navy Seal mission that got bin Laden in Pakistan. That could have come seriously unstuck and Obama would have been stuck like a shag on a rock.
      Peter Smith:

      “But who in the 21st Century is going to potentially attack us in that sort of a geographic sense that it matters that we’re an island nation?” Response: Politico-bafflegab.

      I remember back to the Dibb Report (early 1970s?) on Australia’s defence, which said bluntly that any attack on Australia would most likely come from or through Indonesia.
      That’s not rocket science. That was the way things have always stood since WW2, though Pinchgut (Fort Denison) is still there in Sydney Harbour, ever ready to foil any attack by the Russians.
      (The Crimean War could always flare up again.)
      ;-)

  5. Homer Sapien says:

    Thank you Peter for this excellent article and I notice you are the first among our august authors to mention Dr Ben Carson who just about stands for everything the average Quadrant reader aspires. I have been reading his Kindle book “One Nation”, a tonic for our malaise! Ps Don’t write him off just yet, he is the prime candidate to beat Hillary, the secular left media knows this best….

    • Peter says:

      Homer Sapien, Thanks for your kind comment on my piece. Yes I like Ben Carson too. But I am not sure the job wouldn’t be too big for him. But,again, what do I know? Whatever we think of him he is likely to drop out of the race fairly soon; maybe this week. So it will become academic. Peter

  6. Bran Dee says:

    The public likes a leader who will ‘put on the gloves’ so to speak. Recall the long serving colorful Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen who instilled pride in his state and as a conservative leader performed generally much better than Queensland Labor premiers have ever done. Donald Trump is similarly colorful and he is level headed enough to run a huge business with great success. It would be difficult not to agree with Peter Smith that Trump can do it!

  7. Ian MacDougall says:

    It would be difficult not to agree with Peter Smith that Trump can do it!

    That still leaves room for debate over what the ‘it’ is that he can do. And room for doubt. Trump has as far I can see never held public office, so unlike H. Clinton can not be blasted for poor decisions affecting soldiers in the field.
    But a cool head in a crisis is what the POTUS needs: witness the masterly performance by President Kennedy in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. I doubt Trump would ever be in that league, though I am sure he could provide plenty of hot air and bluster.

    To put it delicately, this is a difficult moment in the education of Donald Trump. For a candidate who leads every stump speech bragging about his poll numbers, there is less and less material every day. Ergo the polls – just like the media, Clinton and democracy itself – must be crooked.
    It would be nice to call this a logical fallacy, but those are two words that should never be placed within physical proximity of Donald J Trump.
    “I see some great polls,” he told a rally in Virginia on Tuesday. “I see one from the Los Angeles Times, just came out, where we’re ahead by four or five points. I see one from CNN where we’re down. I think these polls, I don’t know. There’s something about these polls. There’s something phony.”
    That was the day after he told voters there was an even bigger problem with this confounding election. “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged,” he told voters in Ohio. “I have to be honest.”

    You could not make this stuff up.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/05/donald-trump-week-campaign-turning-point-2016-election