Election 2020

How to Play the Trump Card

There’s a current presidential candidate who brags of destroying Republicans — but that candidate is not Hillary Clinton.

There’s a current presidential candidate who thinks the government should take private property and give it to others, because the government knows better than the owners how to make good use of it — but that candidate is not Bernie Sanders.

There’s a current Republican candidate who brags of these things, and who gave half a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation, and contributed $50,000 to Rahm Emanuel’s election campaign — but that candidate is not a RINO, or at least so many Republicans say.

This candidate, of course, is Donald Trump.

Look, this is the real puzzle: why is Trump, he of the legendary comb-over and even more legendary self-regard, getting so much attention in the media? Attention which translates to free media for Trump and forces the other GOP candidates to spend more just to be heard?

It’s not like Trump has any coherent policy to look at.

On immigration, he wants to expel Mexicans, because Mexico is sending its rapists and murderers, but he loves Mexicans, so he’s going to make Mexicans build a wall to keep Mexicans in (hmm, a wall to keep your citizens in, where have I heard that before?) but then he’s going to have a “wonderful door” in the wall. And don’t you dare ask where the money and courtrooms for 11 million deportations are coming from, because he’ll handle that by being so good at hiring managers and making deals.

On Daesh, he wants to bomb them all, and kill them and their families, but he wants to get the Russians to do it because we don’t have a real interest there. And he wants to prevent all Muslims from entering the U.S., even U.S. citizens, except then he doesn’t, except well, maybe he does — you figure it out.

Okay, I’ll grant, there does seem to be one coherent policy, on crony capitalism. He loves crony capitalism. He’s made a fortune out of crony capitalism, and — see his position on the Kelo decision — he thinks it’s a great thing that the government can legally take property for a low price and give it to him so he can sell it at a high price. He brags about how he gave money to Democrat politicians to buy their votes for his projects.

It’s hard to think of any historically Republican position he’s taken consistently — but then he was a registered Democrat for much of the time since 2000, and was a registered Republican for only about a third of that time. It seems he is, at best, a ROWC — a Republican Only When Convenient.

There is an explanation, though.

Trump, the media master, has discovered how to get legacy media coverage: Say outrageous things that the legacy media thinks are what Republicans really think. He’s an actor, playing the bombastic Republican stock character of a thousand media political fantasies.

And they love it. He can say all the things they want Republicans to say, and he gets all the free press he wants. He clearly loves it too: whenever anything — terrorism, Clinton’s ongoing email scandal (remember that?), Benghazi and the repeated lies from the administration — threatens to become a political story that’s not about Trump, Trump says something new and outrageous, and the legacy media story is all about the outrageous thing Trump said. Again. No one has benefitted more, politically, from this than Hillary Clinton.

There seem to me to be two explanations for this.

One of them is that Trump really does want to be president, and thinks this is the way to do it, all — in Jonah Goldberg’s phrase — for the Greater Glory of Trump. After all, a term as president and he can really raise his price for a reality show.

The other is that he’s actually doing this to help his great friends the Clintons, who came to his wedding and whom he was very complimentary about just a few years ago.

I just wish I could tell which one to believe.