I’ll say it at the outset, lest I be misunderstood. I’m not a Donald Trump supporter.
I support many of the ideals he seems to mock with alarming regularity. I’ve argued against some of his harebrained ideas in my columns (No Room for Xenophobia, for example). I detest everything the man stands for!
It would be very easy to think we could laugh him off the stage, but we’re well past that point. He’s not the clown some of us seem think he is. As Roger Cohen put it in the New York Times, “He is in earnest. And he’s onto something. It is foolish not to take him seriously.”
Just what is he on to? The mood of the country, that’s what!
This is how Cohen described the way many Americans feel these days — “A near perfect storm for his rabble-rousing is upon the United States. China is rising. American power is ebbing. The tectonic plates of global security are shifting. Afghanistan and Iraq have been the graveyards of glory. There is fear, after the killing in California inspired by the Islamic State, of an enemy within. Over more than a decade, American blood and treasure have been expended, to little avail. President Obama claims his strategy against Islamist jihadist terrorism, which he often sugarcoats as 'violent extremism,' is working. There is little or no evidence of that.”
The fear, frustration and anger are real and they’re widespread. We’re looking for leadership and all we see is a massive black hole. Almost everyone in the Western world is sensing this. The Los Angeles Times recently described how Frenchman Joseph Camus felt after the recent Paris attacks that killed more than a hundred: “Frustrated by the government’s failure to revive a moribund economy, fearful of rising immigration from the Middle East and North Africa, and convinced that recent terrorist attacks in Paris won’t be the last, Camus says he has lost all faith in the country’s mainstream leaders.”
Camus lives an ocean away from us, but his fear and loss of faith are every bit as real to millions of Americans as they are to him. We’ve lost faith in our leaders and Donald Trump has jumped in to fill the void.
His rhetoric is reckless: “I’ll build a wall.” “I’ll bomb the shit out of ISIS!” “I’ll put the Chinese in their place.” “I’ll refuse to let Muslims into the country.”
Like a gunman running amok in streets, he lets the words fly. They sound like the ravings of a madman, but they’re striking home. The adoring throngs seem to be growing.
Why is it working? Is our leadership deficit that bad?
This past summer, ISIS was still in the business of beheading Christians, Yazidis or anyone else they considered to be infidels. They were expanding their caliphate into Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were more than likely in the final stages of planning their attack on Paris. The Iranians were launching mid-range ballistic missiles, in violation of the agreement they’d signed in Lausanne. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeeen Malik, who killed fourteen and wounded 21 in a terrorist rampage a few weeks ago, were more than likely discussing jihad over candlelight dinners.
What was the President of the United States doing this summer? He was cavorting around Alaska with Bear Grylls, preparing for an episode of "Running Wild.” According the British tabloid the Independent, he was sipping tea made from a wildflower called catkin and eating the remains of a salmon that a bear had left behind.
Thankfully, the President was adequately protected during his great adventure. He and Grylls were accompanied by a food taster (shades of the Old Testament cup bearers), 50 Secret Service personnel, helicopters and a few snipers, just in case ISIS was lurking around. According to Grylls, Mr. Obama said it was “one of the best days of his presidency.”
Good God, what was the President thinking? Did he give any thought to the optics of his adventure? The world is on fire. ISIS and other enemies are moving on our flanks and the President is cavorting around Alaska. It’s like being a passenger on a jumbo,jet and seeing that the engines are on fire while the captain is heading for the exit wearing a parachute.
Sadly, America is in that kind of shape right now. Our ship of state is about to go down in flames and our captain is donning a parachute while the rest of us wait anxiously for the next shoe to drop.
Is it any wonder, then, that a lunatic like Donald Trump is gaining in popularity?