Thursday, April 07, 2016

Donald Trump is no media monster, the people created him

Comment from Australia

Last week, amid laughs and applause from an elite media audience, US President Barack Obama blamed the media for the rise of Donald Trump. In that moment, Obama summed up why the brash, sometimes bizarre contender for the Republican presidential nomination has risen higher than anyone ever thought possible. If you want to understand Trump’s rise, start with Obama’s cluelessness.

Obama said: “A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more.”

Without mentioning the Republican contender by name, Obama bemoaned the fact, in his view, the media had handed Trump “billions of dollars in free media” minus serious accountability. Exasperated by Trump’s popularity, Obama said that “real people depend on you to uncover the truth”.

Saying that politicians don’t like the media when the media doesn’t serve their purpose is like pointing out that the sun rises in the east. Two weeks before he left office, that great media spin-meister Tony Blair complained about coping with the scale and weight of the media. He failed to admit that the sheer weight and scale of his own media operations had fed the beast. Our own Julia Gillard disliked media criticism so much she tried to regulate the media in 2013. Former Greens leader Bob Brown labelled criticism from the fourth estate as “hate media”. Former prime minister Tony Abbott felt betrayed by criticism from conservative media ranks.

Now it’s Obama turn to shoot the messenger rather than admit that the media responds to its audience, an audience that has lost faith in him and politicians like him.

The media is far from perfect. Compare the inherent bias among members of our own fourth estate who filleted John Howard in 2007 for criticising Obama’s plan to decamp from Iraq. Yet last weekend, when Malcolm Turnbull criticised Trump for his comments on nuclear weapons, there was only deafening silence.

The logical method to the madness of Trump’s rise has nothing to do with the media. Trump is a populist. Disaffected voters create populists. And a failed, insular political class creates that deep disaffection among voters.

As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg said on CNN last week, Trump is an immigrant from celebrity culture. His entry visa into politics was granted by millions of Americans who stopped trusting the institutions of power and instead looked to a populist with whom they could connect.

Be it a man in his 40s or a woman in her 20s, be it a blue-collar worker or a stay-at-home mum, be it a moderate Republican from Massachusetts or a conservative one from Alabama, Trump is their man. As one pundit pointed out: “Going back to 1960 … no Republican nominee has won the states of Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia and South Carolina.” Trump supporters across this geographical sweep echo Trump’s campaign mantra. They want to make America great again, the old-fashioned way.

That’s why Trump has been able to break all the rules. He has made offensive comments against women, Muslims, Hispanics, the disabled. Trump ridiculed Marco Rubio as “little Marco” and attacked Ted Cruz’s wife. He said John McCain was “not a war hero” and described his new political friend Ben Carson as a “child molester”. He told the audience during one debate “there’s no problem at all” with the size of his penis. He’s made a mess of explaining his position on abortion and suggested that Japan and South Korea ought to have nuclear weapons. He has denounced NATO as useless and tells the world to start protecting itself rather than look to America. And that’s just the shortlist.

The bigger point is that Trump is unafraid. He may be clumsy, misguided and even gross. He may sound dumb and even dangerous, but he is willing to weigh into debates that much of the political class tiptoes around. Banning Muslim immigration is nonsense but who else among the candidates, Democrat or Republican, has ventured into the difficult debate over clashing cultures? Media deities at The New York Times may shake their head at Trump for pointing out that Brussels today is a world away from Brussels 20 years ago. Meanwhile millions of Americans nod their heads in agreement with Trump.

Obama wasn’t talking about how mind-numbing and stifling political correctness in the media and beyond has given Trump a fillip among ordinary Americans. Obama’s claim that Trump has somehow avoided accountability, enjoying billions of dollars of free advertising, is as dumb as some of Trump’s statements.

From Left to Right, Trump is being eviscerated every minute of every day. Fox News is not cheering Trump on. Remember the early and ongoing stoush with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly? No less than National Review published an “Against Trump” edition, lining up America’s most influential and thoughtful conservative voices against Trump.

Glenn Beck pointed to Trump’s propensity for big government. William Kristol pilloried Trumpism as a “two-bit Caesarism of a kind that American conservatives have always deplored” and implored conservatives “to stand athwart Trumpism, yelling stop”. Michael Medved critiqued “Trump’s brawling, blustery, mean-spirited public persona” as playing directly into the negative stereotypes that left-liberals had long attached to their political opponents. All correct.

And mostly irrelevant to Trump supporters who certainly won’t agree with everything he says. How could they? They may well detest some of the things he says. How couldn’t they? But so far, it’s enough that he says he understands they have been forgotten by the political elites and that he wants to make America great again, the old-fashioned way. Trump’s campaign rallies make news because they are news: they point to a growing phenomenon of political dissatisfaction.

That doesn’t meant Trump will win the Republican nomination or, if that happens, become president. Last week, The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, who has seen her fair share of presidents and presidential wannabes, explained the political theory of The Mess. “The Mess is something a candidate occasionally brings with him that voters can tell is going to cause trouble down the road. The Mess is a warning sign; it tells potential supporters to slow down, think twice.”

It‘s a pattern of behaviour, maybe scrapes with the law, love affairs or other scandals, she says, pointing out that voters accept that human beings are flawed but they don’t like patterns of bad behaviour that will bring trouble to high office. “Donald Trump’s Mess is his mouth, his indiscipline, his refusal to be … serious.”

Add this to Trump’s Mess. In February at the first contest in the race to the White House, when Iowa voters were asked if their candidate reflected their values, Trump scored the lowest. A measly 6 per cent. Beyond Iowa, polls show that people want a candidate who shares their values. And Trump doesn’t. Maybe red-hot anger among Americans has been masking that so far. Time will tell. But just as Obama is wrong to blame to media for Trump’s rise, Trump can’t blame his mounting Mess on the media either.

That said, whether Trump becomes the Republican presidential nominee or not, understanding the lessons of his success is preferable to the learned ignorance from Obama and the political elites.



Why Do Liberals Hate America?

The idea of American exceptionalism has been embedded in our collective DNA for generations. It is the faith-based belief that, as Ronald Reagan put it, America is a “shining city on a hill.”  Do modern liberals believe that?

I almost never try to get into the other side’s head or ascribe ill motives to those on the left. They are, I’ve always believed, misguided, not malign.

But I’m having second thoughts after listening to Barack Obama’s defense of communism/socialism when he was in Argentina. He advised young people to get behind “what works” economically — as if there is some deep mystery here.

Obama didn’t misspeak. The modern left in America really has come to believe that communism, socialism, Marxism and totalitarianism — or other terms for the monopolization of power into the hands of a ruling elite — are superior to free-market capitalism.

The president of the United States is supposed to be the global spokesman for free enterprise. But, instead of traveling to Cuba to point out to the world the decades of stagnation, deprivation and dehumanization at the hands of the Castros, and instead of using this moment in history to showcase the triumph of capitalism 90 miles away, Obama praises Cuba’s health care and education systems.

He might as well have been praising Mussolini for making the trains run on time. Even more unbelievable: The media applauded.

How far the Democratic Party has fallen. Can anyone imagine Obama, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders having the gumption or wisdom to tell Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”?

It wasn’t so long ago that leading Democrats — JFK, Harry Truman and even the AFL CIO — were staunch enemies of communism. Today, there is no place for such beliefs within the progressive Democratic Party. If it involves ceding power to the state, the left is all for it — as evidenced by the rise of Bernie Sanders.

But for every action, there is a reaction, and the left’s lunacy has given momentum to the tumultuous uprising on the right this year. Millions of voters who support Donald Trump want our government to put America first and focus on our own mounting problems at home, then worry about Europe, Israel, the melting ice caps, AIDS in Africa and so on. If your house is burning down, you put out that fire and save your own children trapped on the second floor, before you go down the street and put the fire out at your neighbors' house.

Here’s just one observational data point that, admittedly, is anecdotal but speaks volumes about the left-right divide in America. At a typical Donald Trump or Ted Cruz rally, you will see American flags waving everywhere. These are patriotic gatherings. At Sanders events, you will see some flags, but not many — because if you are a leftist, it’s not cool to love America. What is much cooler is wearing a Che Guevera T-shirt.

At a Republican rally, you typically meet many veterans who served our country with honor and valor. Some who protest at Trump rallies detest those who are wearing military uniforms and call them fascists and give the Nazi salute. I’ve seen it happen. I want to grab these brats and shout at them like Jack Nicholson did in “A Few Good Men”: “I would rather you just said ‘thank you’ and went on your way.”

Trump voters see America losing both the economic and cultural wars vital to national survival. We have a $19 trillion national debt that has doubled in the past decade. We have wages flat or falling for most Americans. We have a political class that is actively trying to destroy whole industries — coal production, oil and gas, community banks and so many others.

We have a president (along with the intellectual class) pushing a radical climate change agenda that will cost the middle class millions of jobs, but won’t change the global temperature by a hundredth of a degree. Trade deals seem to be drafted to benefit foreign workers and businesses over our own. America pays far more than its share for programs like the United Nations and NATO. Our public schools put teachers first, not kids, and they often don’t adequately educate.

We have courts overturning the will of the people in state after state on issues such as gay marriage. We have speech police. We have illegal immigrants who work here and live here and then wave the Mexican flag at rallies, as if to be intentionally offensive. (And I’m in favor of immigration.) Then they wonder why Americans want a wall.

We have the TSA searching the underwear of infants but letting certain adults pass through without inspection because we wouldn’t want to be accused of profiling. We have a Justice Department thinking about prosecuting people for questioning the climate change “consensus.”

This is the same crowd that seems to prefer the economic systems in Sweden and Greece and Cuba over America’s. They preach human rights, but they don’t seem to understand that economic freedom is a core human right.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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