Barnstorming with The Donald
California was supposed to be the Waterloo of either Cruz or Trump, but the businessman had long ago—it seems now—sealed the deal, so my ride up to a Sacramento campaign event from L.A. on the Trump press plane was not the media gang bang you might expect.
The action had switched over to the Democrats with Bernie on the edge of upsetting Hillary's apple cart in a big way.
So no more than a couple of dozen passengers were on board the chartered Boeing 737-400, something you don't see that much these days, with no press bigwigs like Carl Cameron or Dana Bash among the small crowd of journos.
This was fine with me. It gave me a chance to stretch out in not one but two business class seats of the style that used to be called first class back in the days before flatbed. The fried chicken and crumbled blue cheese weren't half bad either and were delivered by stewardesses who were notably not surly. The generous pour of Jack and Coke on the way back was even better.
Was this the way life would be under Trump? It would definitely be making America great again, particularly the flying part. Somehow I'm skeptical.
But this all gave me time to reflect on Trump's dust up with the press. He may slam them pretty hard, but he sure treats them well—a kind of one-man good cop/bad cop.
To many conservatives the slam part is pretty welcome, almost manna from heaven (see the transcript from Rush Limbaugh linked Wednesday on RCP). Despite Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, we're used to swimming in a media ocean of libo-progressivism. When you realize how many people still get their news from NBC and CBS, it's frightening.
There's power on the other side and Trump knows it. I was almost floored when I read in the Hollywood Reporter that he was considering hiring killer agent Ari Emanuel—he of the notorious lefty Emanuel family of Obamacare and Chicago Murder fame—to do his convention campaign documentary. He must be kidding, I thought. Then I thought, why not—co-opt the enemy.
Cooptation was on my mind when I reached the giant Sacramento jet hangar where several thousand people—I would guess—awaited Donald. Nobody told this audience of down-home middle Americans from California’s Central Valley that Trump had already won their primary. They knew that anyway. They were just out to see their man.
And I thought of cooptation for this reason. Long ago I thought conservatives worrying that Trump wasn’t sufficiently devoted to the cause should have moved to co-opt Trump—the obvious winner—rather than to oppose him. As I wrote then, channeling Arthur Miller, he only wants to be well-liked. His conservative opponents should have learned from the good people of the Central Valley who don’t seem to be so concerned that Donald Trump can’t quote Edmund Burke or doesn't even know who Hayek is. Most of them can’t and don’t either. They just want to take their country back again and may have more sense than my friends—and I do mean that—at NRO and the Weekly Standard. We have all learned from them and now they should learn from the “flyover people.” They are what America’s about, after all. Our country is for those heartland folks—as it it is for all of us.
In the midst of this, and rather apropos, I learned just now from press section gossip that David French, of all people, had at one point grudgingly admitted he too would vote for Trump against Hillary if it came to that. Evidently, there’s video, by the Huffington Post. (I haven’t seen it.) Obviously, French changed his mind but perhaps Bill Kristol should have done a little more due diligence in his selection of a presidential candidate. Or was desperation the mother of invention?
Now Trump is here, speaking to his enthusiastic crowd with his plane as a backdrop. It’s a new form of the old railroad barnstorming done by Truman and Dewey.
He’s talking about his usual themes—building the wall, ending Obamacare and common core, rebuilding the military, lowering taxes, helping our vets, getting rid of Dodd-Frank, putting Constitutionalists on the Supreme Court and protecting the Second Amendment, negotiating new trade deals. Only on the last one does he seem slightly off the conservative reservation—and in that case it’s debatable. I can’t believe the same government that negotiated those nuclear deals with Iran and North Korea could possibly have done much of a job with trade.
Trump gets his biggest response, of course, cries of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “USA! USA! USA!." when he talks about defeating “Crooked Hillary.” (“Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco” may have been exaggerations, but not that one.) After skewering her on everything from Whitewater to Benghazi, Libya and the emails, he compares himself to Hillary as a speaker—she uses teleprompters, he doesn’t. “She has no natural talent,” Trump insists and he has a point. That may prove to be the biggest thing when they debate later in the year.
Last thing: I noticed of late that first in the Weekly Standard and then on NRO, I was referred to as the—perhaps only—"intellectual" in support of Trump. I’m not an “intellectual,” for godsakes. I’m an aging screenwriter who occasionally writes books, most of which were mysteries. Screenwriters, it was famously said, are simply “schmucks with Underwoods.” But I am an American and I love my country. And when I listen to Donald Trump speak—he just this second finished in Sacramento, tomorrow the barnstorming continues in San Jose—I am more optimistic than I have been in years that someone is at least trying to fix it. He may be doing it in a highly idiosyncratic way—too idiosyncratic for some—but considering the ineffectual results of what's gone before him, I'm more than willing to give him a shot.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His next book - I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn't Already—will be published by Encounter Books on June 14, 2016. You can read an excerpt here. You can pre-order the book here.