A quiet man

I was just reading this interview with former US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, about Donald Trump. You could see the cutting edge of Trump apologetics, on the way to determining that the Republican establishment has always been allied with Trump. The trick is to reinterpret Trump’s crude thinking as simply crude (or bold, down-to-earth) formulation of very clever, even sophisticated thinking. And then there’s this:

Isaac Chotiner: You were at a meeting on Monday with other Washington figures and Trump. What did you make of him?

Newt Gingrich: Well, Callista and I were both very impressed. In that kind of a setting he talks in a relatively low tone. He is very much somebody who has been good at business. And he listens well. He outlined the campaign as he saw it. I think he did a good job listening. He occasionally asked clarifying questions. He was very open to critical advice. I am not going to get into details, but I will say my overall impression was that in that setting he was totally under control…

Does none of Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans or Muslims worry you or upset you?

I think he was too strong in talking about illegal immigrants in general, although if you look at the number of people who have been killed by people who aren’t supposed to be here, there is a fair argument on the other side too.

It makes him seem like a reasonable guy who occasionally gets carried away when speaking with the common folk.

Hitler comparisons are almost never useful, whether for insight or political rhetoric. Trump is not Hitler. Even among 1930s fascist dictators, Hitler is not the one Trump most resembles. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be reminded of something Albert Speer wrote, explaining why as a young academic he found himself drawn to Hitler:

What was decisive for me was a speech Hitler made to students, and which my students finally persuaded me to attend. From what I had read in the opposition press, I expected to find a screaming, gesticulating fanatic in uniform, instead of which we were confronted with a quiet man in a dark suit who addressed us in the measured tones of an academic. I’m determined one day to look up newspapers of that time to see just what it was he said that so impressed me. But I don’t think he attacked the Jews….

Change of venue

In the most recent Republican debate this exchange occurred:

TRUMP: If people — my plan is very simple. I will not — we’re going to have private — we are going to have health care, but I will not allow people to die on the sidewalks and the streets of our country if I’m president. You may let it and you may be fine with it…

CRUZ: So does the government pay for everyone’s health care?

TRUMP: … I’m not fine with it. We are going to take those people…

CRUZ: Yes or no. Just answer the question.

TRUMP: Excuse me. We are going to take those people and those people are going to be serviced by doctors and hospitals. We’re going to make great deals on it, but we’re not going to let them die in the streets.

Obviously, Trump recognized the trap of promising the great expense of keeping people from dying on the streets and sidewalks, so he quickly fell back to this compromise position: During the Trump presidency, poor people will be permitted to die on the sidewalks, but not in the streets. This leaves open the question of whether they will receive medical attention or merely cited by medical personnel to the sidewalk. It’s a win-win, since the dying would no longer impede the free flow of traffic.

It’s quite a bit like UK asylum policy: it would be unconscionable to send civilians back into a war zone, and we can’t just let them fend for themselves on the streets of London. So we need to make sure that as many as possible drown at sea, pour décourager les autres.

Of course, this may increase pressure to build barriers between the streets and sidewalks, at least in the vicinity of hospitals. Jobs!

The American Cavalieri

The British tend to view Donald Trump as an unprecedented only-in-America freak. Self-glorifying libertine billionaire turning his media ingenuity and unbounded reserves of cunning ignorance into a nativist political career. Racism and misogyny lightly disguised as heroic candour. The strongman allure, and the tendency of opponents to dismiss him as a buffoon. He’s the American Berlusconi. Which should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks he can’t possibly win.