Travel Ban: Brilliant Politics

The travel ban affecting people from seven mostly Muslim countries that Donald Trump implemented the other day was brilliant politics. Even though he has never been a politician, Trump is outmaneuvering the Washington establishment with ease.

Think of all of the benefits to Trump of the executive order that implemented the ban:

  • Trump did it himself and did not have to rely on Congress. He shows that he can get things done without them
  • It was implemented during his first 10 days in office, showing that he can act fast
  • It probably won’t stand up in court, so he can reap the political gain from the ban without having to deal with any long term consequences, economic or otherwise
  • The turmoil around the ban distracts attention from anything else the Trump administration or Congress is doing
  • The ban has no effect on 99.99% of Americans. In fact, most would probably support closer scrutiny of people coming from those countries, just because they are paranoid about terrorism
  • The ban energized the left into protesting.
    • Trump will belittle the protests, showing that he can beat them
    • The average American will not relate to the protests for reasons described above, showing that the protesters don’t really represent them
    • At some point, the left, the media and the American people will get protest fatigue. These protests just move us closer to that point

The Washington Post instituted a Pinocchio-based fact checker. Trump may be a Pinocchio, but he’s also doing a masterful job of pulling Washington’s strings right now.

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Misdirection and Media Manipulation

The media continues to have a hard time with Donald Trump. Like a magician doing card tricks, he manipulates the media into focusing on trivia instead of the more important thing he is doing. His usual m.o. is to tweet something. Tweets are like catnip to the media – they can’t resist.

For example, last week he tweeted about voter fraud which dominated the morning news. Instead of focusing on the executive order of the previous day regarding regulatory streamlining, the media spent its time trying to prove a negative (there is no voter fraud), which is, of course, impossible. Even if one could prove it, it doesn’t matter as it won’t change anything in the US. However, freezing and rolling back EPA and Agriculture regulation can change quite a bit.

Eventually the media will (hopefully) figure this out and focus on the right things. After all, they are supposed to be professional skeptics. But for the time being, Donald the Illusionist is making them look like rubes.

Trump and The L Word

Donald Trump has no issue calling his opponents liars. First it was Lyin’ Ted Cruz, but after he defeated Cruz in the primaries he transferred the moniker to Lyin’ Hillary Clinton. Give Trump credit – he states it very plainly and clearly.

Washington’s media and political class, however, cannot seem to bring themselves to use the word “lie”. Instead, they use alternatives like:

  • Factually incorrect
  • Misstatement
  • Untrue
  • Falsehood
  • Fabrication

Why not just call it a lie? All of these euphemisms make a lie sounds like not such a bad thing. It signals that the speaker does not have the guts to tell the unvarnished truth about a lie. Trump’s supporters, and in fact everyone, have very good ‘gutless’ detectors. Until the establishment media and politicians can get over their aversion to using the L word, they will be at a disadvantage.

In recent history, there were two times that the press and politicians called the president a flat out liar, and not just a misstater of the facts. One was when Richard Nixon denied having anything to do with the Watergate break in. The other was when Bill Clinton denied having an extramarital affair. In both cases, the president was impeached.

If everyone starts using the L word about Trump, he could be in for a rough ride.

Trump’s Invincibility

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump had an important epiphany and verbalized it at a rally:

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?  (1/23/16)”

His point was that once a voter decided to support him, it would take something truly massive to get them to change their minds about that support.

He was correct.

And he still is.

This is not just because he is so good at getting his message to his supporters. It is also because his opponents are so frightfully bad at communicating with Trump’s supporters.

On paper, there are plenty of issues with Trump. But none of his opponents, Republican or Democrat, have figured out a way to get these across to his core supporters. For one thing, they have not figured out the new media rules (e.g., how to bypass the press and use Twitter instead).

They are also not willing to be as crass as he is. But as Trump’s supporters know, crass is another word for telling it like it is. They are tired of politicians that speak in politically correct B.S.  They don’t, why should their politicians? It is similar to George W. Bush: many people did not agree with his positions, but they admired his ability to take a position and stick with it. They may not agree with all of Trump’s positions, but they admire his street fighter approach to standing up for them.

Until one of Trump’s opponents is willing to engage him in a street fight, Trump will hold onto his supporters through thick and thin.Who will that be? So far, the only possibility from the 2106 campaign season is Bernie Sanders, and it is not clear that he wants that fight.

#DrainTheSwamp 2.0

Donald Trump got quite a bit of political mileage over the corruption and incompetence of the politicians in Washington DC. Real or imagined, it hit a nerve with the public and his Drain The Swamp Twitter hashtag proved very popular. Even after he was elected, he used it to shame the Republican congress into not gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Trump himself is Teflon. He has been associated with swampy behavior, but nothing sticks to him (so far). It will be interesting to see if that holds true for his team. His cabinet appointees, especially those from the private sector, may find that the Washington microscope is particularly good at ferreting out slimy, swampy actions. And since Trump is invincible, there will be all the more incentive for the press, etc. to go after his surrogates.

It will be ironic if Trumps opponents are successful in turning a 2.0 version of Drain The Swamp against him.