That we have to take Donald Trump seriously confirms my longstanding prognosis that we’ve entered another dimension in which up is down, black is white, and reason is dethroned: in short, we’re living in BizarroWorld, and the landscape is not very inviting. Yet explore it I must, since the reality TV star and professional self-promoter is rising in the polls, and garnering an inordinate amount of media attention – and whether the latter is responsible for the former is something I’ll get into later, but for now let us focus on what practically no one else is paying much attention to, the Trumpian foreign policy.
Right off the bat, we run into trouble, however, since the signature sound-bites that characterize the Trump style don’t really qualify as anything close to a “policy.” Yet his various effusions on this topic do indeed translate into a mindset, which one might call blowhard-ism. And as much as it resembles the semi-coherent rantings of a drunk loudly pontificating in the dark recesses of some hotel bar at a Rotarians convention, it does reflect some “serious” trends to be found in the high-toned precincts of the foreign policy Establishment, not to mention among Trump’s fellow presidential aspirants in the GOP clown show.
On Iraq, The Donald makes much of his alleged opposition to the Iraq war – a position no one has documented to my satisfaction – but now that we’re back there, what’s Trump’s plan? "We shouldn’t have been there,” he opines, and yet “once we were there, we probably should have stayed.” While this may sound bafflingly counterintuitive, not to mention flat out contradictory, you have to remember two things: 1) In Bizarro World, contradictions do exist, A is B, and the sensible is the impossible, and 2) Similar things were said about the Vietnam war by politicians less obviously nutso than The Donald. As Murray Rothbard put it in a 1968 newspaper column he wrote for the Freedom Newspapers chain:
“A lot of people throughout the country are beginning to realize that getting into the Vietnam war was a disastrous mistake. In fact, hardly anyone makes so bold as to justify America’s entrance into, and generation of, that perpetual war. And so the last line of defense for the war’s proponents is: Well, maybe it was a mistake to get into the war, but now that we’re there, we’re committed, so we have to carry on.
“A curious argument. Usually, in life, if we find out that a course of action has been a mistake, we abandon that course and try something else. This is supposed to be the time-honored principle of ‘trial and error.’ Or if a business project or investment turns out to be an unprofitable venture, we abandon it and try investing elsewhere. Only in the Vietnam war do we suddenly find that, having launched a disaster, we are stuck with it forevermore and must continue to pour in blood and treasure until eternity.”
I’m editing a new collection of Rothbard’s work, entitled The Coming American Fascism and Other Essays, due out from the Ludwig von Mises Institute pretty soon, which is where I came upon this, and it got me to thinking: maybe it wasn’t the 9/11 terrorist attacks that tore a hole in the space-time continuum and blew us into Bizarro World – maybe it happened much earlier.
At any rate, The Donald’s bloviations about staying in Iraq are nothing new: the man is a veritable volcano of well-worn bromides which he keeps stored under his toupee and emits when the occasion calls for it. Which wouldn’t distinguish him from most other politicians except for the fact that Trump’s words might as well be coming out of the mouth of a twelve-year-old. For example, in spite of his alleged opposition to the Iraq war, in 2011 he told a reporter:
“I always heard that when we went into Iraq, we went in for the oil. I said, ‘Eh, that sounds smart.’"
Which is precisely what a somewhat disturbed adolescent is wont to do: grab someone else’s lunch money if he thinks he can get away with it. Elaborating on his larcenous plan in 2011, Trump averred:
“I very simply said that Iran is going to take over Iraq, and if that’s going to happen, we should just stay there and take the oil. They want the oil, and why should we? We de-neutered Iraq, Iran is going to walk in, take it over, take over the second largest oil fields in the world. That’s going to happen. That would mean that all of those soldiers that have died and been wounded and everything else would have died in vain – and I don’t want that to happen. I want their parents and their families to be proud.”
Just like the criminally-inclined parents of a juvenile delinquent would be proud of their son’s very first bank heist. As Rothbard was fond of saying: “Are we to be spared nothing?”
Trump’s foreign policy views belie his reputation as an unconventional politician who’s willing to say what others don’t dare even think to themselves. Indeed, he sounds like most of the other GOP presidential wannabes when it comes to the pending nuclear deal with Iran:
“Take a look at the deal [Obama’s] making with Iran. [If] he makes that deal, Israel maybe won’t exist very long. It’s a disaster. We have to protect Israel. And we won’t be using a man like Secretary Kerry that has absolutely no concept of negotiation, who’s making a horrible and laughable deal.”
Is Trump willing to go to war with Iran? He positively drools at the prospect:
“America’s primary goal with Iran must be to destroy its nuclear ambitions. Let me put them as plainly as I know how: Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped – by any and all means necessary. Period. We cannot allow this radical regime to acquire a nuclear weapon that they will either use or hand off to terrorists. Better now than later!”
And speaking of drooling, get this:
“Who else in public life has called for a preemptive strike on North Korea?”
I’m glad you asked. The answer is: Ashton Carter and William Perry, the former the current Secretary of Defense and the latter a former Secretary of Defense. In their jointly authored book, Carter and Perry claim then-President Bill Clinton was minutes away from authorizing just such a strike before Jimmy Carter called with the news that the North Koreans were willing to negotiate. And then there’s Rep. Peter King, another loudmouth New Yorker in the Trump mold, not to mention James Woolsey, Bill Clinton’s CIA Director, as well as this guy.
So you think Trump is crazy? He may well be, but he’s just reflecting the general lunacy that afflicts large portions of the political class in this country. Far from opposing the elites, Trump is merely echoing – often caricaturing – their looniest effusions.
Speaking of loony effusions, Bill Kristol has said that he’s sick of the “elite” media dissing Trump. Dan Quayle’s Brain got out his neocon playbook to declare he’s “anti-anti-Trump.” Which is interesting, since the last time a Republican anti-immigration, anti-free trade candidate arose, Kristol and his fellow neocons were in a lather of fear and loathing: that’s because Pat Buchanan was not only one of the dreaded “nativists,” he was also militantly anti-interventionist. Buchanan dared to call out Israel’s amen corner as the agitators for Gulf War I and its successor: for that, he was branded an “isolationist,” a label affixed to him also on account of his economic nostrums. Yet those same nostrums, when given a far cruder expression by Trump, evince a kind of admiration in the Grand Marshall of the laptop bombardiers. And the reason for this is Trump’s limning of the neocons’ penchant for unabashed militarism and grandiose imperialism: The Donald told a Phoenix audience over the weekend that “I’m the most militaristic person in this room.” And his prescription for what we ought to do to counter ISIS sounds like a Weekly Standard editorial:
“I say that you can defeat ISIS by taking their wealth. Take back the oil. Once you go over and take back that oil, they have nothing. You bomb the hell out of them, and then you encircle it, and then you go in. And you let Mobil go in, and you let our great oil companies go in. Once you take that oil, they have nothing left. I would hit them so hard. I would find you a proper general, I would find the Patton or MacArthur. I would hit them so hard your head would spin.”
Finally, one has to wonder about the provenance of the Trump phenomenon. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, it’s been attributed to a populist upsurge against the regnant elites, who are so out of touch with the people that they never saw what was coming. The media, we are told, are biased against Trump – this is one of The Donald’s chief complaints – and now The People are rising up against the Washington-New York know-it-alls with their “big words” and pretentious airs.
Yet this analysis is lacking in one key ingredient: the facts. For the reality is that the media, far from ignoring Trump, have lavished so much attention on him that he’s eating up coverage that would otherwise go to the rest of the crowded Republican field. And that may be a clue as to what’s really going on here….
The usual “mainstream” media tactics regarding a political outsider they hate is to ignore him or her: the example of Ron Paul should suffice to make this point. Indeed, Jon Stewart pointed this out in a memorable “Daily Show” segment, and it took Paul three runs for the White House to get their attention. Trump has suffered no such fate: quite the opposite, in fact. The Donald’s every demagogic pronouncement is faithfully recorded and broadcast far and wide. Over a hundred reporters crowded into his latest appearances in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Jeb Bush, for all the many millions stuffed into his campaign coffers, couldn’t buy that kind of exposure.
This gift to the Trump campaign is being celebrated by Democratic politicos and consultants as if it were manna from heaven. The Republican “brand,” they aver, is being sullied beyond redemption, and they’re watching this unanticipated and providential miracle from the peanut gallery with unalloyed glee.
And yet … just how unanticipated is it?
As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders points out, Trump is not really any kind of Republican, and, what’s more, his links to the Clintons are well-documented and close:
“In 1987, Trump registered as a Republican in New York. But in 1999, he registered with the Independence Party. In 2001, he registered as a Democrat. In 2009 he was back in with the GOP.
“Hillary Rodham Clinton sat in the front row at Trump’s 2005 wedding with Melania Knauss.
“According to Politico, Trump has donated more than $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
“In the 2006 cycle, Trump donated $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $20,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but only $1,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“When Trump flirted with running for president in 2012, CNN reported he had given $541,650 to federal Democratic candidates and committees since 1990 – more than the $429,450 he contributed to GOP candidates and committees.”
National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg rips the veil off Trump’s alleged nativism in a by turns anguished-and-amused plea to his fellow conservatives not to be taken in by The Donald’s act:
“You seem to think he’s an immigration hardliner, and he’s certainly pretending to be. But why can’t you see through it? He condemned Mitt Romney as an immigration hardliner in 2012 and favored comprehensive immigration reform. He told Bill O’Reilly he was in favor of a ‘path to citizenship’ for 30 million illegal immigrants:
“Trump: ‘You have to give them a path. You have 20 million, 30 million, nobody knows what it is. It used to be 11 million. Now, today I hear it’s 11, but I don’t think it’s 11. I actually heard you probably have 30 million. You have to give them a path, and you have to make it possible for them to succeed. You have to do that.’
“Question: Just how many rapists and drug dealers did Donald Trump want to give green cards to?”
Trump has been playing the media with his supposed presidential ambitions for years, but it was clear then that it was just The Donald doing what he does best – promoting himself. So why now has he suddenly turned “serious”? I give that word scare quotes because 1) Serious is not a word one associates with a clown, and 2) It’s not at all clear that, for all his megalomania, he really thinks he can win the White House. He may be a lunatic but he’s far from stupid.
And so the question jumps out at us: Why now?
Although I have no concrete proof of my theory, there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence. His ties to the Clintons, his past pronouncements which are in such blatant contradiction to his current fulminations, and the cries of joy from the Clintonian gallery and the media (or do I repeat myself) all point to a single conclusion: the Trump campaign is a Democratic wrecking operation aimed straight at the GOP’s base.
Donald Trump is a false-flag candidate. It’s all an act, one that benefits his good friend Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party that, until recently, counted the reality show star among its adherents. Indeed, Trump’s pronouncements – the open racism, the demagogic appeals, the faux-populist rhetoric – sound like something out of a Democratic political consultant’s imagination, a caricature of conservatism as performed by a master actor.
Now I realize this is a “conspiracy theory,” and, as we all know, there are no conspiracies in politics. In that noble profession, everything is completely aboveboard and on the level – right?
Like hell it is.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
One final note: Trump’s appearance at the “libertarian” conference known as “Freedom Fest” was an absolute disgrace. You can witness this repulsive event – which resembled nothing so much as a “libertarian” version of a certain rally that took place in Nuremberg, Germany, in the 1920s and Thirties – in its disgusting entirety here. Mark Skousen, the organizer of this annual “festival,” having made a mess out of his mercifully brief association with the Foundation for Economic Freedom, has now apparently decided to discredit and wreck the broader libertarian movement with his shamelessly unprincipled antics. Trump belongs at a purportedly libertarian conference as much as Huey Long or George Wallace, i.e. not at all. To see Trump drag up on stage the father of a boy who was murdered and tout the fact that the murderer was an “illegal alien” was vomit-inducing, not to mention dangerous, as Bob Wenzel trenchantly points out.
What was particularly nauseating was the presence at this event of so many “libertarians” who made a big show of denouncing Ron Paul’s ancient “newsletters” – yes and this guy, too – and yet had no compunctions about appearing on the same stage with someone spouting racist venom in real time right in their faces. According to this news account, there was a single lone protester outside the hall objecting to Trump’s presence.
As my old friend and mentor Murray Rothbard used to say: “Are we to be spared nothing?!”
By the way, Skousen is now spreading the story that Trump asked to be invited to “Freedom Fest,” perhaps in order to evade his own despicable role in this public relations disaster for the libertarian movement, but fortunately Trump himself debunked this in his opening remarks to the conference. Listen for yourself. Which just goes to show that Skousen is not only an intellectual fraud, he’s a coward and a liar as well.
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.