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Saturday, April 22, 2017
President Trump: Seriously vs. Literally
Some politicians are Charmers, such as Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and JFK. They have charisma, a personal attractiveness that makes them appealing to a wide swath of voters of all races, genders and ethnicities. Voters of their own party are absolutely sold; Independents are enthralled and interested, and even a fair number of the opposite party can see themselves voting for this candidate. Charmers are always Democrats, since by definition, no purveyor of hard-hearted, business-oriented Republican positions can "charm" anyone.
Then there are politicians who are Masterers, basing their candidacies on a mastery of the issues, logic, and personal competence. Although these candidates can often come across as stiff, overly measured, too cautious and uninspiring, their appeal is that they appear know what's going on, they understand the details and minutia and they not only make sure they cross the t's and dot the i's, they revel in it. Their competence and attention to the small stuff gives their supporters a tremendous level of confidence in them, a feeling that "things will be handled."
Finally, there are the Tough Guys, the ones who won't take any guff from anyone, who will never be taken advantage of, who will show everyone "who's the boss." The Chris Christies and Donald Trumps of the world fall into this category. This is a tricky category, because in order to be able to win the confidence of a majority of voters and prove to the always-skeptical liberal media that they are worthy, the Tough Guy candidate must establish their bona fides regarding their mastery of the issues and knowledge of details very quickly and definitively, or else they'll be painted as being all-bluster-but-no-substance. In addition, tough can't be perceived as cold or unsympathetic; in order to be successful, "tough" can only be relentless and uncompromising in getting things - the right things - done.
This brings us to the wildly disparate views of Donald Trump. Rarely have the supporters and detractors of a president been separated by so wide a gulf. His detractors think he's patently unqualified and no amount or degree of favorable economic or foreign policy progress will ever convince them otherwise. To them, his personal transgressions alone disqualify him from even the most fleeting of serious consideration, and his subsequent daily demonstrations (to them) of his total lack of understanding of basic presidential governing principles only adds to their absolute conviction of his embarrassing unfitness for office. The word that best describes their feeling is 'horrified.' If there is a stronger, more descriptive word, then they'll use that.
Trump's most ardent supporters think his approach and style are exactly what has been missing from the ultra-cautious, overly-soft, pathetically politically-correct governance we've suffered under for far too long. His supporters - remember, enough to have won the Electoral College very, very convincingly - feel that America has veered so far off course economically, socially, militarily and judicially that only a "ToughGuy" can set it straight (or at the very least, stop the bleeding).
A descriptive phrase emerged from the campaign that perfectly sums up the Trump phenomenon:
His detractors take him literally but not seriously, while his supporters take him seriously but not literally.
The phrase emerged from longtime political correspondent Salena Zito, and it's amazingly accurate.
Let's look at two recent examples of this:
The "Look what happened in Sweden last night" comment. On Feb. 18, 2017, while addressing a rally in Orlando, Trump uttered that phrase and the liberal media was quick to pounce. They shouted in unison that nothing specific or reportable happened in Sweden on Feb. 17 -"last night" - and so they were quite satisfied with themselves for proving, yet again, that at best Trump has a very poor command of the facts and issues and at worst he willfully and intentionally lies to mislead his audiences. Just the latest in a long string of such occurrences.
A perfect example of taking him "literally but not seriously."
His supporters are quick to point out that they understood that Trump was not necessarily referring to "last night Feb. 17," but instead, what was happening in Sweden as a result of the overwhelmingly unvetted immigration of Muslims and refugees, and how that was having a hugely negative impact on Swedish society and culture: the non-assimilation of >99% of those immigrants caused a huge increase in gun violence, rape, and property damage. The implications of Trump's comments are obvious to his supporters - that we must not allow a huge influx of that kind of immigration here, or we'll suffer the same consequences. These supporters take him seriously but not literally. That Sweden has since suffered explicit acts of terrorism only adds to the credibility and legitimacy of Trump's underlying contention.
"Obama wiretapped me at Trump Towers." From a literal standpoint, this will never be proven to be true. First of all, Obama would never allow his fingers to be caught in any sort of wiretapping or espionage cookie jar. He's far too crafty a political operative and if any such action were conducted, Obama would have several layers of plausible deniability distance between himself and any wrongdoing. "Obama wiretapped me at Trump Towers" will never be proven to be literally true.
It doesn't have to be. From the very first non-denial denial ("President Obama never ordered any wiretapping on Trump"), the Obama Administration has been careful to parse, slice and dice their exact wording very carefully. Of course Obama never ordered any such thing-presidents don't do that. They nudge-nudge/wink-wink and let "what needs to be done" be done, but without their specific knowledge was what was operative. Since Trump's original allegation, the entire Susan Rice fandango has exploded, where we now know that the Democrats did "something" untoward, dishonest or unethical with regards to illicit intelligence-gathering on their Republican political opponents during the 2016 campaign. Trump's contention of being wiretapped is entirely correct, if wiretapping means the unlawful electronic collection of campaign information. It's inaccurate if it's taken to mean that President Obama ordered a tap be put on Trump's phone so that Obama or someone from his administration could personally listen in.
Once again, it's the perfect distinction between "seriously" vs. "literally." Trump's opponents will never cede the point. His supporters understand it instinctively.
Liberal media double standards are alive and well, of course. When Obama said during the 2008 campaign that he'd visited "all 57 states," there was hardly a mention of it to be found anywhere. Even though every second-grader in the country knows there are 50 states, Obama's "literal" gaffe was ignored with an accommodation that no Republican would have been afforded. When Obama outright lied - quite intentionally, since he knew the ins and outs of his 'signature legacy achievement' better than anyone - by saying, "If you like your doctor and your plan, you can keep them," not a single damaging criticism of his literal lie was trumpeted by the liberal media.
Trump is a big picture corporate CEO. He envisions overall strategy but his subordinates execute the niggling details in his businesses. As head of the Trump conglomerate, he is not used to the media hanging on and parsing every word for nuance and implication on an hour-by-hour basis. Will he get better at this and not be trapped as often by the hostile minions at CNN and the New York Times? Perhaps a little, but never enough to satisfy them on his competence and mastery of the issues. Will the 60-odd million who voted against him ever be convinced or swayed? No.
But his supporters know the difference between literally and seriously. They take Trump's policy proposals seriously, even if what he said literally may not be precisely accurate to that exact moment or specific situation.
He has named the extremely competent Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia. He has re-authorized the Keystone XL pipeline. He has rolled back punitive, job-killing environmental regulations on businesses (regulations that didn't really help the environment, instead serving only to buy green votes). He has pressured big corporations (Lockheed, Boeing, Ford, Carrier, etc.) into reducing prices, keeping factories in America, and expanding their investment in this country. He has shown Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (and all of our adversaries worldwide) that crimes against humanity and contrary to American national interests will not stand and that America will respond quickly and forcefully, without telegraphing its punches weeks in advance. He has redoubled our support for Israel. All this in under three months.
To his supporters, this is serious. To them, that's all that matters.