A few weeks ago I used this space to discuss the viability of the "dark horse" presidential candidacy of
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. I would do the same for another "dark horse" (albeit a dark horse of a different color), Donald Trump. If Barbour is the quintessential southern politician (if in mannerism if not governance), then Trump is the ultimate New York businessman. Tough, cocky, flamboyant (although not in the way Robert Gates might prefer), and in-your-face.
Trump's ever more vocal public toying with a run for the Republican nomination draws eye-rolling from most of the establishment, and I think he's seen more as a side show with the general public. Let's face it, Trump hasn't done anything to help this image over the last couple of decades. He's the businessman-turned-celebrity, with a high profile divorce and a few notable failed financial ventures thrown in to boot. But I would argue that doesn't mean a Trump candidacy can not or should not be given some consideration. Think what you will about the course Trump has taken, he is a bona fide American success story. Failed ventures aside, it is unquestionable that most of what Trump has put his finger on has been wildly successful, and in a few cases this seems to have come mostly by sheer force of his personality.
Is he conservative?
To paraphrase Rush, Trump has conservative positions, but he is not a conservative in the sense of being part of the movement. But then again we've only really ever elected one movement conservative in modern times (three guesses . . . and the first two don't count), and looking at the rest of the Republican field its hard to argue that any potential candidates are really part of the movement. I could make a case for Haley and Newt, but they've been around a long time and Newt particularly may have outgrown some of the those movement principles. Palin - about whom I have stated I do not believe is running - is close but also has a pronounced populist streak. If Michele Bachmann seriously jumps into the running, I would accept her a movement conservative, but its not clear yet how far she's willing to take a 2012 run.
So back to Trump's conservative bona fides. Yes, he bolted the Republican party a decade or so ago for the Reform Party. But you know who else did? Patrick Buchanan. Trump has previously supported abortion as a right (although to his credit he's always been against partial birth abortion). Now he seems to have shifted his position to pro-life. Same flip-flop on supporting-to-opposing gay marriage. Know who else did the same? Mitt Romney. Going on one of my trademark tangents here, for the life of me I've never understand why, when some prominent person changes their position from pro-abortion to anti-abortion, many conservatives come down hard on them as a "flip-flopper." Isn't that the whole point of our position, to change other people's position??? "But they're just being opportunistic . . . they're just saying that to appease the base . . . blah, blah, blah." If that's true, so what? Our cause is still advanced, right? I will gladly take a used-to-be-pro-but-now-I'm-against-abortion anytime. Sorry for the rant, that's another diary entry I suppose.
Now back to Trump -
What Would President Trump Do?
First, let's speculate how President Trump would perform on the world stage. I could be wrong, but I don't see The Donald making an American Apology Tour, or kowtowing to Vlad Putin. He's definitely not bowing to Saudi sultans or waiting on the United Nations to tell him what he should be doing with OUR military. Furthermore, I think he's got a great understanding of how free trade should be FAIR TRADE (looking at you, Hu). As much as Trump is identified with American Enterprise and finance, I actually think his assets could be best utilized on the world stage.
Let's not forget that Trump is a New Yorker. He carries with him, as do all New Yorkers, a particular sting from 9/11 that is particular to those intimately effected. I don't believe he's a warmonger. War is bad for business. But I do believe that he's tough as John Wayne toilet paper, and wouldn't think twice about hitting terrorists hard. Would Trump have gone into Iraq? Probably not. Would he stare down Iran? I'm betting he would.
Domestically its a little harder to say. I don't think he's a social crusader but I also don't think there would be any big boat-rocking. Economically, assuming he keeps it simple, I think we might be looking at a simplification of the tax code. I doubt Trump has the fire in the belly to tackle social security and medicare, but Obamacare would be toast. Something that I do believe Trump would tackle is reform of the capital gains and corporate tax structures, which if done correctly could prove to be the most effective economic "stimulus" since Reagan cut the top marginal income tax rates.
Is he serious?
Who knows. At this point, probably not even Trump. He's definitely stepping up his media exposure . . . but then again this is Trump. The whole birth certificate thing may seem a distraction, but then again it fits Trump's M.O. pretty well. Point is, if he is serious about contending for the nomination, we as the voting public should be willing to give him serious consideration.