The problem with asking people why they like Donald Trump after you just told them why they shouldn’t like Donald Trump is they tend to just brush aside your careful arguments and continue to cheer him anyway.
On the bright side, the number of responses supporting last week’s column against Trump outnumbered the Trump fans 2 to 1, even though I didn’t ask for their reaction.
The responses basically fell into three categories: people who think Trump is nuts and would never vote for him, people who haven’t made up their mind but think he makes some good points, and people who think he’s just what this country needs after decades of career politicians bungling everything in Washington.
Let’s run through some of the main points in defense of Trump:
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1. Trump is smart. You don’t become a billionaire without some brains.
This is true to some extent, although many of the ultra-rich are also cutthroat, merciless and ethically challenged. In addition, many are lucky, often born into privilege and flush with wealthy connections.
But I get the point. At the least, he is savvy and disciplined. If not, he probably would have squandered his fortune by now.
2. Trump’s American values will keep us safer.
The point here is that we can no longer pander to those people who don’t recognize that Islam is a murderous religion. (Their words, not mine.)
They say politicians on the left don’t appreciate the gravity of this situation and worry more about the possibility of offending people than putting a stop to those who actually might be out to kill us.
We must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure those forces of evil are eliminated.
3. Trump’s a real leader and won’t take crap from anybody.
He’s the kind of decision-maker we need, they say, not someone like Hillary Clinton, who wasn’t ready for a crisis like Benghazi.
He isn’t one of these Beltway insiders who can’t stand on their own two feet.
We’ve had more than enough of those, and it’s time for a new approach.
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So that’s kind of the summary in a nutshell, only minus the requisite tunnel vision and purging of the U.S. Constitution.
Because, as you can guess, there was some of that, too.
One reader wrote, “Everything you need to know about Islam you can learn by studying just what happened in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.”
I think most of us can agree that is not a fair statement and unjustly disparages millions of peaceful Muslims.
Another reader thinks Trump would be a far more honest and truthful option than Clinton, whom he called “an extreme liar.”
Yet Politifact, under the auspices of the Tampa Bay Times and the Poynter Institute, has judged 76 statements made by Trump and found more than three-quarters to be mostly false, false or so egregiously inaccurate they’re labeled “pants on fire.” Not one of the statements was judged honest enough to actually be called true.
A third critic is fed up with political insiders and big business dominating Washington.
“Our federal government has not worked for the American people for so long that to continue putting politicians in the Oval Office at a time like this would be like putting a 5-year-old in high school and expecting him to grasp all the classes,” he said.
But that’s precisely one of the arguments I’d make against a Trump (or Ben Carson) presidency, not for it.
It always boggles my mind that some people believe the most important job in the world can have few or no prerequisites that inform the actual duties and responsibilities of the position.
You wouldn’t hire a supervisor at McDonald’s without either experience in fast food or management — or both. Yet, so many people seem willing to turn over the keys to the country to people whose résumé is sorely lacking.
Carson may be a great neurosurgeon, but he couldn’t debate his way out of a wet paper sack, and he’s pretty clueless on world affairs.
Finally, my most extensive exchange in the wake of last week’s column was with a spirited reader who was very wary of becoming the victim of media spin, but who still went so far as to suggest that if we let in 100,000 Syrian refugees, they should be held in internment camps like Manzanar until they can be vetted properly.
“These are dangerous times,” he said, “and it is a mistake to think our values will prevail by playing nicely with two hands tied behind our backs.”
I agree we’re not always going to play nice, but no one believes we should submit unconditionally.
Our values have the best chance of prevailing because they are right and good, first and foremost, and because we lead by example, demonstrating a steadfast honor and decency that endures from generation to generation.
When applied appropriately in this manner, American exceptionalism keeps both hands firmly at the ready and relies on knowing both when to make a fist and when to offer a handshake.
What it doesn’t call for is carelessly flipping the middle finger, which is what the Trump candidacy amounts to and which will never be a solution to our problems.