The PJ Tatler

For conservatives and libertarians, President Trump would be an entertaining disappointment

I get the attraction to a Trump candidacy. He is Not Boring. It would be priceless to see him tell Obama that he’s fired. But then what? Trump seems like a successful business leader (as long as you overlook the bankruptcies). He seems like the kind of leader who would not only care about America’s swiftly deteriorating position in the world, he would do something about it.

But what specifically would he do about it? ABC broke the story over the weekend that the Donald hasn’t bothered to vote in a primary in 20 years. Ok, not the biggest of deals — he appears to have voted in every general election over the past few decades, except in 2002 for whatever reason. Trump’s daily headline today has him saying he is a “very conservative person.” Is he?

Trump says a lot of things, to the point that he comes across as being in love with talking. But what he says isn’t always what you’d call wise.

“Iowa is very, very important to me,” he said. “I love what Iowa represents. It represents to me a work ethic that a lot of other places don’t have….”

Such as? Name the states that lack a work ethic, Mr. Trump. And:

As he continues to mull a presidential bid, or say he is mulling a presidential bid, business mogul Donald Trump is lamenting the fact President Obama appears to have locked up the black vote. “I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump told Albany’s Talk Radio 1300 Thursday. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

As Jimmy Kimmel put it the day that quote broke, “Not anymore.”

On his foreign policy, so far Trump has told us that he would invade other countries and take their oil. He said that of Libya, and of Iraq. And he said this after calling George W. Bush “evil” for his own Iraq war policies — policies which amounted to invading Iraq to topple a perceived WMD threat, and then attempting to install democracy there. Say what you will of Bush’s war policies, but “evil” just doesn’t describe them. It might describe invading foreign countries for the explicit purpose of stealing their natural resources, though.

On domestic policy, Trump favors more domestic oil drilling and exploration, but otherwise seems likely to preside over an administration that would more resemble China than anything we recognize as American. Like many top level businessmen, he seems to be an autocrat. Trump would empower government (he was for universal health care before he was against it) in a way that would make Tom Friedman weak at the knees. Trump not only supports the Supreme Court’s controversial and despised Kelo imminent domain decision, he has tried to use that policy himself. He sought to use it to knock down an elderly lady’s home so he could build a parking lot for his limos. Seriously. If you like your private property rights, Kelo and Trump together may not let you keep your private property rights.

Trump has also proposed levying a “one-time” tax on the rich to pay off the national debt. Aside from the fact that there aren’t enough rich around to pay off the national debt, there is almost never such a thing as a “one-time” tax. And levying such a tax would do nothing to cure the national government of its spending addiction. It’s a policy that makes for an interesting headline given its source, but it’s not a policy that would actually do anything to fix the problem.

On pure politics, Trump has done what many businessmen have done, and donated to anyone and everyone he thought it would be helpful to donate to. (Note to Matt Yglesias — that’s how the world works.) To the extent that there is a pattern, Trump has donated to more Democrats than Republicans, and to more “centrist” types than conservatives, and to more leaders than back-benchers. The Donald evidently sought to curry favor with dealmakers, which is of no great surprise, but also doesn’t tell us much about his actual principles. That may be because he doesn’t really have any, outside the pursuit of a buck and a headline. He seems to say whatever he thinks is most likely to get him in the news cycle, without regard for having said the opposite on the record not too long ago. Up to now that hasn’t cost him anything, but in politics, once you’re a flip-flopper, you’re a flip-flopper.

Put Trump in the White House and we’re likely to get a lot of sound and fury. Trump now says he is conservative, but I’m not convinced. Put Donald Trump in the White House and you’ll probably get a very frustrated president. The U.S. constitutional system of checks and balances was designed to keep the most ambitious politicians in check. That’s one reason that President Obama is so frustrated these days — the system conspires against him, as it was built to. Frustration would probably lead to a presidency by executive order, the very thing many of us dislike the most about the Obama presidency, as it erodes the Congress’ role of passing the laws the president is supposed to carry out. So while he may come at the job with different instinct, it’s likely that President Trump would end up behaving much like President Obama.

Trump may be Not Boring, but Not Boring is Not Enough. I’m enjoying the way he’s unapologetically jabbing President Obama across the issues and I hope he keeps at it for a while. But for those of us on the right, caution should override however much we enjoy Trump delivering The One some deserved comeuppance. For conservatives and libertarians, on policy President Trump would end up being an entertaining disappointment, and he would probably drag the right farther into statist policies.