The lure of Trump: No more rip-offs
The stunning rise of a narcissistic blowhard like Donald Trump may be absurd, irrational and even embarrassing, but there’s a very rational idea that is keeping the Trump phenomenon alive: A large number of Americans are sick and tired of seeing their country get ripped off.
No, it didn’t start with Barack Obama. It was President George W. Bush’s $3 trillion escapade into the quicksand of Iraq that kicked off the rip-off era. Think of what America could have done with that money. For starters, it could have repaired decaying infrastructure, fed every homeless person for 10 years, upgraded an outdated education system and secured the nation’s electrical grid from a catastrophic terrorist attack.
Instead, the government squandered thousands of lives and trillions of dollars on a war it could never win. President Obama made things worse by pulling out too soon and allowing an evil Iran to take over much of Iraq, with the unintended consequence of a medieval terror group like ISIS spreading through the region. Talk about a bad deal.
There are also many Americans who believe President Obama got swindled in his nuclear deal with Iran. They see the deal as empowering, enriching and legitimizing a genocidal theocracy that is already wreaking havoc across the region. Even in a best-case scenario, where Iran doesn’t cheat, the deal allows the regime to continue spreading terror and then to build nuclear bombs within 10 to 15 years that will threaten Israel and America.
So, we’ve gone from Bush the reckless to Obama the feckless. If you’re counting, that’s 15 years of many Americans feeling ripped off.
It’s easy to malign Trump supporters as yahoos who don’t have a clue, but there are also supporters who are simply fed up with seeing America lose and who value a tough negotiator.
As much as people abhor Trump’s narcissism, shallow grasp of policy and offensive ideas on immigration and other issues, on one important thing you must give the Donald his due: The man knows how to win, and he knows how to make deals.
Everything about Trump conveys the image of a crafty negotiator, a guy who understands leverage. When he lost leverage with his failing casinos, he regained it through his own brand. He hustled fame-hungry Asian billionaires to pay a fortune for the Trump name on golf courses and other real estate. He then made a killing with ratings-hungry television producers by playing himself on a reality show.
This guy wrote the book on making deals. He knows all the tricks. He understands, for example, that you can never get a good deal unless you show the other side that you can walk away.
His New York swagger and winning track record only add to his aura as a fearless negotiator who can crush it in the boardroom. Even friends of mine who can’t stand the guy admit he would have given Iranians a run for their money.
For one thing, he would have figured out that Iran was desperate for $150 billion in sanctions relief and he would have used that leverage to squeeze more concessions. Instead, of course, the reverse happened. It was the wily mullahs who squeezed the Americans for concessions when they saw how desperate President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were to make a deal.
Can you imagine Trump ever looking desperate to make a deal? In Trump’s moral universe, that is a grave sin, made even graver if you have the leverage of the most powerful country on Earth.
Add it all up and it’s easier to understand the lure of the Donald: He promises to use his formidable experience as a tough negotiator to make better deals for America. After 15 years of seeing America get ripped off, Trump is saying, “Enough!” and lots of people are listening.
His genius is that he has convinced many frustrated Americans that his skill as a winning dealmaker can be a cure-all for a host of problems—from unemployment and health care to immigration and foreign policy. It may all be an act, but at a time when independent dealmakers look like winners and corrupt politicians look like losers, his no-nonsense shtick is resonating.
It’s also buying him some forgiveness. If people believe you’ll negotiate really hard on their behalf, they don’t need too many policy papers. They trust that you’ll have their backs. They’ll even forgive your wacky and offensive side.
I’m not a Trump supporter, but I like to understand why certain things happen. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has figured out how to use his best asset to seduce angry Americans, and he’s offering a deal many of them can’t refuse.
David Suissa writes opinion columns for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.