The biggest political shock of this new century, so far, isn’t Brexit. Donald J. Trump trumped that, for it is almost certainly his accepting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination last week at the party’s Cleveland convention that makes the epoch.
Still, the mainstream media seemed unimpressed with his “negative” oration.
“Donald Trump’s convention speech was the most negative in more than 40 years,” the Washington Post headlined its report. The progressively extra-progressive Vox compared the Donald’s speech to Richard Nixon’s 1968 convention address, ever-so-objectively concluding that “Trump’s was even scarier.”
German Lopez argued in a separate Vox story: “If you listened to Trump, you would think that the U.S. is in a total state of chaos, where murder rates are skyrocketing, police officers are regularly assassinated, and terrorists are constantly killing Americans. But if you break down the numbers, Americans are . . . safer than they have been in decades.”
Where has Lopez been hiding? “Even if the murder rate — the most reliable crime statistic, which Trump used as a proxy for crime — rose by 17 percent in 2015, it would remain far below the peaks of the 1970s and ’80s and any point in the ’90s,” he argues, concluding, “America is nowhere close to a full reversal.”
In his speech, Mr. Trump certainly acknowledged that crime has been declining for decades, but specifically decried the recent spike in murders, most notably several assassinations of police, not to mention the terrorist massacres in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida.
As for the downbeat tone, it’s difficult to be upbeat about rising murder rates and increased terrorism. At the very beginning of his hour-plus oration, Trump made abundantly clear that, “It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.”
Trump listed numerous complaints, including that “Household incomes are down more than $4,000 since the year 2000,” that “President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion,” while nonetheless “Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are Third World condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.”
And, accordingly, Trump offered many promises of change:
• “We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration”
• “I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great trade agreements”
• “I have proposed the largest tax reduction of any candidate”
• “I will appoint the best and brightest prosecutors and law enforcement officials”
• “Lift the restrictions on the production of American energy”
• “Repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare”
• “Completely rebuild our depleted military”
• “We will take care of our great veterans”
• “And we will fix TSA at the airports!”
• He even pledged to “work with all of our students who are drowning in debt”
What exactly Mr. Trump will do policy-wise to achieve all of these results (as well as where the money will come from) is often left unresolved. As Trump said, “Believe me, believe me.”
Many of the seemingly intractable government problems Trump cited, as well as the solutions he proposed, amount to standard Republican or conservative fair. But when it comes to foreign policy, Donald J. Trump has been quite different than the run-of-the-mill Republican — or even Democrat, for that matter.
Trump has been roundly criticized for his willingness to question the cost and benefit of the NATO alliance, and for demanding that those countries counting on the U.S. to defend them pay their fair share of the cost for that defense. This seems like common sense, not wild-eyed radicalism.
In his address to the convention, he also laid bare much of modern U.S. foreign policy: “After 15 years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.”
Trump called that, “the legacy of Hillary Clinton.”
But surely not hers alone. Honest folks will acknowledge that her greatest foreign policy mistake — at least, prior to creating regime change and chaos in Libya — may have been voting for Republican Pres. George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
“We must abandon the failed policy of nation building and regime change that Hillary Clinton pushed in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and in Syria,” Trump declared on the Cleveland stage. Yet, he also promised to “work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terrorism and doing it now.”
Trump is right to reject nation-building, but “destroying ISIS” isn’t so simple. And once ISIS has been “stamped out,” who or what will rise in its place?
Where’s the plan to actually “win” in such a way that American soldiers will be brought home? To stay.
Trump said that with Hillary Clinton “things will never change.” But the question remains: How much will it change with a President Trump?
If Trump is serious about “no nation-building,” then why not leave the problems of the Middle East to be decided by the people of the Middle East? What are we doing in Iraq and Afghanistan today that cannot honestly be called “nation-building”?
Maybe if journalists ever get over their love/hate relationship with Trump — if they can ever get over the flash, the hair, the plagiarism, or even the blunt words — they’ll ask him these questions.
And, if the ever-so-carefully-handled Hillary Clinton ever submits to a news conference or takes questions from the press, she should be asked as well.