The media- and political-uproar over Donald Trump’s unconventional and outspoken candidacy and presidency has exposed some of the rules Republicans must follow. These party-specific rules do not apply to Democrats. Millions of grass-roots Republican voters might not understand either the rules or the fact that they apply only to the GOP. In this article I’ll examine the primary rule. We’ll look at others in subsequent columns.
Rule #1. Every Republican must prove that he’s not stupid.
This is absolutely fundamental, since it’s common knowledge among the chattering class that Republicans, on the whole, are incurably stupid – not to mention humorless, over-religious, and priggish. If this sounds like the conventional wisdom voiced in the film Babe – i.e., “Pigs are stupid” – it’s no accident. The rule probably originated during Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980, and has become an article of liberal faith ever since.
Mr. Reagan started out with two strikes against him, as he was both a “fallen” Democrat and an ex-Hollywood actor. (He acted in B movies, for heaven’s sake; what on earth could he know?) He was incessantly smeared as “just a dumb actor reading lines,” even though there wasn’t a teleprompter in sight.
Of course, most of the blow-dry TV dudes delicately ignored the fact that they were basically reading lines, too. Most had never had acting careers, so they had no idea that an actor actually has to be pretty sharp to be successful. In any theater or film scene he has to remember his character’s exact persona, his own lines, the timing of the scene, and the lines of all the other characters – plus his own movements, his physical interactions with others, and any external events that might be occurring during the scene.
I spent some time working in theater, and I can testify that there are no dummies on the stage (or in films) “just reading lines.” It takes a first-class intellect to keep it all straight and come across as a believable character. (Actually, we’ve had some recent experience with a president who always read lines from a teleprompter. How did that work out?) All this annoying detail escaped Mainstream Media reporters and pundits, who were convinced that only a Democrat could have the intellect to sit in the Oval Office with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
The talking heads had also conveniently overlooked the fact that Jimmy Carter – a U. S. Naval Academy graduate and former naval officer – apparently did not understand that a president’s most important skill is delegating difficult tasks to people capable of completing them successfully. In 1980, Mr. Carter tried to run a secret, bare-bones military rescue attempt of the Iran hostages from the Oval Office. It was a completely mad adventure from the get-go, which could not possibly succeed with command decisions being made from that distance. Of course, it failed disastrously, with the loss of several soldiers. The Iranians grotesquely dragged their bodies through the streets of Teheran while crowds shouted: “Allahu Akhbar! Death to America!”
After Mr. Reagan shrugged off the “stupid” label and won the election, American liberals spent the next eight years holding their breath in the expectation that this Hollywood “cowboy” would start a nuclear war. Many Europeans thought the same. In 1987, a Swiss friend expressed the common concern of his countrymen that Mr. Reagan was “crazy enough to do it.”
My friend and his intellectual compadres considered Mr. Reagan far more dangerous than Soviet premiers Andropov, Chernenko or Gorbachev. Andropov – a former KGB chief and a particularly dangerous character – was the “Vlad Putin” of his era. Western journalists thought he was a pretty cool guy, and a kindred spirit, because he evidently preferred scotch to vodka. (I’m not kidding. This passed for “serious political analysis” in the 1980s.)
Ironically, the 1980s Swiss were armed to the teeth, with men in uniform everywhere and mountain caves bristling with hidden tanks and artillery. Every male under the age of 45 was required by law to keep an operable military rifle in his home. I asked our friend if the Italians might invade – or maybe the French. He just smiled and said Switzerland would be ready, whoever it was. It was a strange time – almost as strange as today.
Mr. Reagan disappointed many liberals by not taking us into a major war. Instead, he rebuilt both the economy and the military – ultimately bringing down the Soviet Union by ordering development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (a.k.a. Star Wars). A former Soviet leader said that when Mr. Reagan’s SDI was announced in 1983, he could see in the eyes of his Supreme Soviet comrades that they knew the jig was up. There was no way that they could match the USA’s effort, from an economic standpoint. As Margaret Thatcher famously put it, they had finally run out of other people’s money. And their artificially valued paper money was worthless.
Within 10 years, the Soviet Union collapsed, completely vindicating Mr. Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength.” His intelligence on this point – indeed, his entire presidency – has continued to confound Democrat critics, forty years on. If a “stupid actor” accomplished all that, I’ll take it any day of the week. Millions of ordinary Americans would do the same.
Today, all Republicans labor under the burden of this iron rule. Donald Trump also encountered copious doses of “the IQ treatment.” Hoping to score a knockout punch, liberal pundits and politicians of both parties worked hard to generate articles and sound bites that they thought would hurt Mr. Trump by smearing his intelligence and “temperament.” In return, the outspoken Donald deliberately defied the IQ-rule by issuing brash statements that drove the media – not to mention GOP leaders – totally crazy.
Truth be told, Mr. Trump’s detractors had even less hope of knocking out Donald Trump on the “stupid” issue than they had of kayoing Ronald Reagan, forty years ago. After all, Mr. Reagan was only an actor. He had never run a business, although he was governor of California for eight very successful years. He was also just a month short of 70 when he was inaugurated. After the “amiable dunce” attack crashed under the weight of Mr. Reagan’s resurgent economy, pundits fell back on the “way too old” strategy.
They constantly suggested that Mr. Reagan nodded off in cabinet meetings, and proclaimed the theory that a shadowy “someone” was actually running the country. He was clearly round the bend, they said. He couldn’t possibly stand for another term. But Mr. Reagan demolished this faux issue with a hilarious one-liner in one of the debates with Walter Mondale, when he pledged that he would not make an issue of his opponent’s “obvious youth and inexperience.” Even Mondale cracked up. There was no more mention of Mr. Reagan’s age. His presidency was the most successful in living memory.
Mr. Trump, by contrast, was (and is) an extremely successful businessman. His Republican and Democrat opponents can only dream of having The Donald’s financial resources, connections and name-recognition. Mrs. Clinton is loaded, too, but most of the wealth she and Bubba have amassed was given to them by countries and business interests who hoped (and expected) to have insider-influence, when Mrs. Clinton grabbed the brass ring.
Reports are now emerging that Joe Biden and his family have also garnered millions from both China and Ukraine in return for favorable treatment when Good Old Joe was vice-president, and in anticipation of his elevation to the presidency – as has actually occurred.
Liberal-leaning journalists discreetly avoid these details about Hillary and Joe, but they don’t mind criticizing Donald Trump’s billions because he (gasp!) earned them. (What kind of corrupt economic system would permit that?) This vacuous story-line plays well in the liberal media, but grass-roots voters didn’t buy it in 2016, and they aren’t buying it now.
The Dummkopf label simply will not stick to Mr. Trump. Not only is he not a stupid man, but anyone can see that he’s smarter than the average bear. The media are shouting into a jar on this score. The “prove-you’re-not-a-dunce” rule has been stomped by a strong, confident man who knows what he’s doing and where he wants to go.
The voters will express their view on all this in 2024. My assessment is that the Democratic bench can’t field anyone who can pretend to be the next “mystery candidate” who will persuade voters that he/she will correct the mess that Mr. Biden’s merry gang has left. Another basement campaign featuring Good Old Joe won’t do it, either. That train has left the station. Ditto for scare-talk from Dr. Doom (a.k.a. Fauci) about another pandemic.
Failing presidents – e.g., LBJ, 1964 – sometimes hope that a nice little war will salvage their administrations, so Feldmarschall Biden might actually be thinking that a war will give him a second term. If you’re a praying person, use all your connections with the Almighty to beg for deliverance from that disastrous eventuality. These are dangerous times, and we need all the help we can get.