Here is President Trump’s press conference on 2018-11-07. I have watched press conferences of every president since JFK, and I have never seen such a masterful performance in the face of a uniformly hostile (and often aggressively rude) media.
It is not easy to do this, and he makes it look effortless. He is a natural.
One technological question: why on Earth don’t they have multiple wireless microphones they hand out to questioners that can be muted if the reporter doesn’t shut up after the question is dealt with?
L. Neil Smith, a libertarian’s libertarian (one of the first members of the Libertarian Party, he was a candidate for Colorado State legislature on the Libertarian ticket in 1978 with essentially zero budget, outperforming any third party candidate in the district before or since, the 2000 Presidential nominee of the Arizona Libertarian party, and a participant in drafting the party’s platform in 2004). He is the author of more than 35 books of science fiction, fantasy, and political analysis, including Down with Power, a practical guide to hard-edged libertarianism. He is the founder and publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, a weekly publication which has, on occasion, even featured some of my scribblings.
In 2016, he dismayed and even enraged some prominent libertarians by endorsing and voting for Donald Trump in the presidential campaign. On several occasions he published articles explaining his rationale, to little effect. This week’s edition of The Libertarian Enterprise contains a new attempt titled “Once More, with Thinking”. He begins:
The other day, I was perusing the Internet, as one does, when I saw a message from a longtime friend of mine telling some third party that he thought I might have made a mistake, voting for Donald Trump. Two responses came immediately to mind: first, that I have been engaged in politics since 1962 and I don’t make mistakes like that; second, that I thought I had made my reasons for voting that way “perfectly clear”.
Apparently I had not, so I’ll take one more shot at it now and then forget it. If I can’t teach this lesson, then nobody can, and given that most people’s reaction to Trump is more visceral than cerebral, it probably can’t be taught. I don’t vote with my gut, or by the seat of my pants, I vote with my brain.
He then goes on to analyse the actual choices available to the electorate in 2016, why from his standpoint Trump was the best of those on the menu, and why he no longer considers not voting (which he calls “electoral pacifism”) an option. He concludes:
Donald Trump is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He is certainly not a Libertarian, nor does he claim to be. For once, that’s quite all right. When I need my roof fixed, I don’t ask about the roofer’s politics, only if he can fix my roof. Trump is an uncategorizable one-off, possibly unique in history. He has traits in common with Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and even Lyndon Johnson. He built beautiful tall buildings in the business-hostile environments of the world’s biggest, most-corrupt cities. He’s just the guy to fix the American roof that was shot full of holes by three previous Presidents who happened to be evil morons.
On Monday evening I took the time to watch Darkest Hour, wherein Gary Oldman gives an epic performance as Winston Churchill during the days and weeks after he rose to the prime ministership on May 10, 1940. Toward the end of the film, there was a scene where Churchill decides to ride the London Underground to Westminster. While on the subway, he speaks with a woman carrying a five-month old baby on her lap. Now while that woman and her baby were likely fictional, it struck me that were that baby still alive today, he would be five months younger than my own father, who turns 79 next month.
As William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Churchill, who led the United Kingdom during my father’s lifetime, refused to back down against Hitler’s brutal war machine which had overrun Western Europe and threatened to do the same to Britain, ignoring the advice of his own senior cabinet ministers who wished to pursue a negotiated peace.
I think of my Great Uncle Phil, a dual Canadian-American citizen who answered the King’s call and volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, receiving a commission as a flight lieutenant as the Battle of Britain was underway in the fall of 1940.
I think also of my great-great-great grandfather Juan Francisco, a prominent politician in the then northern Mexican city of Laredo, suffering under the heel of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s brutal oppression, but ultimately leading his fellow Laredoans into an alliance with Texas and the United States. On April 25, 1847, he was administered his oath of American citizenship by none other than Mirabeau B. Lamar, former President of the Republic of Texas.
History is not made by the weak, but by those who have the courage to stand fast.
We face a similar reckoning at present, being told that to secure our southern border against alien invaders is inhumane and heartless. No less a personage than former First Lady Laura Bush has called for compassion in dealing with illegal alien children and their alleged parents.
Well I dare ask, where was this vaunted Bush compassion during her husband’s presidency, when on Thanksgiving night in 2005 some Mexican cartel members decided to have a shootout in my parent’s tony upper middle class neighborhood in Laredo, Texas? Nowhere.
Where was this vaunted Bush compassion when hundreds of innocent Mexicans were killed as a result of the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious? Silence.
What of the confederacy of dunces and rats known as the Democratic Party? They make common cause with the illegals and other foreign interlopers against their own people.
And then there is the vile nest of copperheads in the Republican Party who call themselves NeverTrump. What is NeverTrumpism, but the philosophy of despair, the creed of arrogance, and the gospel of surrender?
I will have none of it. Like Horatius at the bridge and Churchill before the Nazi menace, it is time to stand and fight.
Why is it that so many of President Trump’s critics seem to have trouble comprehending that the real world does not operate or conform to abstract ideological principles?
Perhaps, as James Day Hodgson observes in American Senryu, what is fundamentally at issue is the inability of the innocent to understand evil:
Ignored evil —
The price too often paid for
Purity of heart.
“Absence of guile achieved by wearing mental blinders is a dubious virtue. The late British humorist Malcolm Muggeridge was deadly serious when he reminded us that purity of heart has a dangerous two-dimensional shallowness unless accompanied by penetrating perception. An uncorrupted heart must be coupled with a ruthless eye.”
I would add that those presidents with the most successful foreign policy achievements – Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan among them – understood that one must deal with the world as it is, not how he wishes it to be. An uncorrupted heart is far less valuable an asset in diplomacy than a relentless pragmatism.
Per EThompson’s recommendation in the comments to my last post, I will share James Day Hodgdon’s verse on Machiavellianism and diplomacy from American Senryu:
Cynics first dictum: For persuasion to succeed, Conceal the intent.
“Polls show that the title ‘diplomat’ draws a reaction of great respect among the public. How puzzling! From the time of Machiavelli through Metternich and beyond, diplomacy has been associated with duplicity. Can it be that the triumph of the diplomat lies in his ability to use tools associated with duplicity to fashion a humane result? Possibly.”
Like Ronald Reagan with the fall of the Soviet Bloc a generation earlier, Donald Trump has made great progress toward a goal once thought impossible: peace on the Korean Peninsula. Trump’s success is a direct result of spurning the conventional wisdom and hidebound ideologies of both the left and right.
That observation is just as applicable on the domestic front. Buckleyite conservatism is the political equivalent of prevent defense in American football: ceding ground to the opponent for the purpose of achieving victory. Such an approach has not worked and will never work. One cannot win by continuously retreating. Any ideology that advocates such must be rejected outright.
In American Senryu, James Day Hodgson ruminates on the subject of enemies with the following verse:
The capacity To gain the right enemies Is part of genius.
“No man in his right mind deliberately sets out to make enemies. But few men of character and virility of thought can escape gaining some. In public life, a man is often respected as much for the disrepute of his enemies as for the worth of his friends. What holds true for men, holds true for nations.”
Although this verse was written nearly a quarter century before the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, it is more than applicable. An astounding number of the president’s political opponents come off as inveterate social climbers, moral poseurs, and silver-tongued pillocks. That is no coincidence.