[update below] [2nd update below]
That’s what freelancer Mike Whitney, writing on an ultra-gauchiste website I do not habitually consult, called Donald Trump’s performance in the Fox News GOP presidential debate the other day—a debate that, Whitney opined, “featured the most riveting two-minute political exchange ever heard on national television.” I didn’t see the debate myself but, based on the transcript, Whitney could well be right
FOX News Brett Baier (talking to Trump): Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care. You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?
TRUMP: As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.
What I’d like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state. I have a big company with thousands and thousands of employees. And if I’m negotiating in New York or in New Jersey or in California, I have like one bidder. Nobody can bid.
You know why?
Because the insurance companies are making a fortune because they have control of the politicians, of course, with the exception of the politicians on this stage. (uneasy laughter) But they have total control of the politicians. They’re making a fortune.
Get rid of the artificial lines and you will have…yourself great plans…
BAIER: Mr. Trump, it’s not just your past support for single-payer health care. You’ve also supported a host of other liberal policies….You’ve also donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, and Nancy Pelosi. You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favors. And you said recently, quote, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”
TRUMP: You’d better believe it.
BAIER: — they do?
TRUMP: If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.
TRUMP: I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?
TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why?
She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.
BAIER: Hold on…..We’re going to — we’re going to move on.”
Mike Whitney: “There it is, two glorious minutes of pure, unalloyed truth on national television. How often does that happen?”
Now truth does get told on television but Trump did indeed make two noteworthy truthful statements—on single-payer health insurance and the outsized role of rich donors in politics—that are remarkable for a top-tier GOP presidential candidate.
Matthew Yglesias was particularly impressed by what Trump had to say on health insurance, saying that “Donald Trump had the best policy idea of anyone in [Tuesday] night’s debate.” Yglesias thus began
Donald Trump offered the single best, most original policy idea in the Republican Party debate Thursday night. He also demonstrated by far the greatest understanding of a complicated area of public policy. There, I said it.
If Trump weren’t such a bombastic, megalomaniacal, male chauvinist pig—i.e. if he weren’t Donald Trump—he could be a halfway interesting GOP candidate—and definitely more so than most of the other clowns who were on the stage with him Tuesday night.
But there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that he’ll go the distance, at least not with the Republican party. Nate Silver gives Trump a 2% chance of winning the GOP nomination, which seems generous to me. And with Fox News now out to take Trump down and knock him out of the GOP race, his chances are lessened that much more, as both Silver and Ezra Klein confidently argue.
But Trump continues to influence the GOP debate, e.g. on immigration, as TNR senior editor Jeet Heer observes
Trump’s impact is most clearly seen in Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who during the earlier “undercard” debate among low-polling candidates made this startling pronouncement: “We must insist on assimilation—immigration without assimilation is an invasion…. They need to learn English, adopt our values, roll up their sleeves and get to work. I’m tired of the hyphenated Americans and the division.”
Jindal’s comments are startling because they go against the grain of most of the last century, when ethnic diversity was seen as perfectly compatible with membership in American society.
If Jindal pronounced his words en français, one could take him for Nicolas Sarkozy. Or Marine Le Pen.
On French analogies, I’ve already written that Trump is a mix of Sarkozy, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and Bernard Tapie. Three of the most loathsome, despicable persons in French political/public life.
Back to the Fox debate, Slate’s Fred Kaplan had a commentary on how shockingly ill-informed the Republican candidates were on foreign policy.
And on the general subject of Fox News, Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution strongly recommends a paper (July 27th) by Jackie Calmes, a Joan Shorenstein Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and national correspondent for The New York Times, “‘They don’t give a damn about governing’: Conservative media’s influence on the Republican party.”
À suivre très certainement.
UPDATE: It looks like I may have been a bit off on who will win a Trump vs. Fox News bras de fer.
2nd UPDATE: Jacob Weisberg has a smart op-ed (August 13th) in the FT, “An alpha-male fantasy that trumps reality.” The lede: “Billionaire [Trump] is the only 69-year-old white guy in the US who lives like a rap star…” In his conclusion, Weisberg notes the rather obvious similarities of Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, with “[their] key difference [being] that Mr Trump does not take himself all that seriously as a demagogue, lacking the self-discipline and long-range calculation. He is essentially a narcissist taking his ego out for a joyride.”