Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Donald Trump is Talking ... Do We Want to Listen?

"Hail to the Chief" is replaced by the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money".

Camp David is shut down, and the presidential retreat is shifted south to Mara Lago.

The classic and historic White House furniture is replaced with golden chairs and giant banquet tables.

Air Force One is replaced by a sleek private jet, and Marine One by a flashy jet chopper.

Cabinet meetings would be run with George, Don, Jr., and Ivanka sitting on either saying, "It was a tough decision, but you made the right choice."

I think it goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that these are probably the first thoughts that come to mind when people consider the possibility that Donald Trump may throw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for president. Over the past few weeks, many politicians have stated that they cannot accept him as a legitimate candidate, that he is a joke, and that he has no business in the White House. Journalists, in a more indirect route, are expressing the same sentiment - you need look no further than Candy Crowley's response to answers he provided in a recent interview, or Savannah Guthrie's constant interruption of him during their sit-down this morning on the "Today Show".

But should we in fact be taking him seriously?

As David Brooks points out in his column in today's New York Times, Trump is leading in several GOP polls and is "within striking distance" of Obama in one poll. The website RealClearPolitics, in an average of surveys conducted by CNN, Fox News, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Gallup, and Pew Research, shows Trump trailing only Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, while he leads Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels and Rick Santorum - in that order. Yes, polls - as I and many others know - are only a snapshot of the views of a select group of people at that one particular moment.

But what does it say that he is polling that highly, when so many people claim he shouldn't be taken seriously? And what does it say about the remainder of the potential Republican field when a real estate mogul most famous for a reality television series is doing this well?

Trump is bombastic, loud, cocky, obnoxious, and focused on the wrong issues (Mr. Trump, please get over the Obama birth certificate issue, and no, it's not necessarily true that when countries win wars they can take over the losing country). But is he tapping into something? The same way that the Tea Party tapped American outrage over our nation's fiscal problems, Trump is tapping the base - as described by Brooks - of people who love "abrasive rich" men. And despite the fact that, contrary to what Trump says, we can't tell OPEC what to do, we can't just waltz in and take all of Libya's oil, and we can't necesarily put a flat 25% tax on every single import from China just to show them that we mean business, there's something appealing about it.

I like the fact that Trump says what he thinks, like it or not. I like his don't-give-a-damn attitude when confronting opponents. I like the fact that we have someone who has actually been in business (yes, in hotels, casinos, and apartments I could never afford, but in business nonetheless) is trying to come up with solutions on dealing with America's financial ledger. And he still has my support for firing Omarosa in season one of "The Apprentice".

Are people taking him seriously? No. Should people take him seriously? Perhaps. I only know that, regardless of whether he runs or not, he's added a bit of life to a Republican field that is putting me to sleep.