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Présidence Trump: Attention un président peut en cacher un autre (The Ronald was once a Donald too)

Posté le dimanche 12 mars 2017 par jc durbant

https://i2.wp.com/shoebat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/tumblr_o4epvuw7sL1v8xuvuo1_1280-e1462819596316.jpg
Et si comme le Ronald avant lui le Donald faisait un bon président ?
Même âge avancé, même situation maritale douteuse, même orange décrié des cheveux teints, (quasi) identique slogan de campagne, même passage dans le monde du spectacle, mêmes changements d’étiquettes politiques, même opposition y compris des caciques de son propre parti, même succession à une présidence faible et largement catastrophique, mêmes moqueries continuelles, (quasi) identique surnom dévalorisant, menaces d’assassinat, même retrait du diner annuel des correspondants  …
A l’heure où malgré un premier discours au Congrès pour une fois salué par tous …
Vite éclipsé certes par ses allégations sur la surveillance de ses communications pendant sa campagne électorale de la part d’une Administration Obama …

Qui en son temps n’avait pas hésité à lancer le fisc sur ses ennemis ou faire écouter certains journalistes …

Se confirme, jour après jour et fuite après fuite, la véritable campagne de déstabilisation de la nouvelle administration américaine par la collusion des services secrets et de la presse …

Qui se souvient encore …
Contrastant avec l’étrange complaisance qui avait accueilli son prédécesseur …
Et au-delà d’une indéniable différence d’expérience politique et de style …
Des moqueries et de l’opposition qu’avait attiré lui aussi à ses débuts …

Jusqu’à une tentative d’assassinat le privant notamment pour la première fois d’assister au fameux diner annuel des correspondants …

Avant de devenir le président respecté des historiens aujourd’hui…
Celui que l’on qualifiait alors méchamment de… « le Ronald » ?


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9 réponses à “Présidence Trump: Attention un président peut en cacher un autre (The Ronald was once a Donald too)”

  • 9
    James:

    Flichy de la Neuville en décembre dernier sur Rex Tillerson : Avec cette nomination, il est clair que le courant isolationniste prorusse l’a emporté sur la contre-offensive néoconservatrice. Ce changement de cap rend caduques la plupart des analyses de prospective pour 2017. Les chancelleries européennes apparemment orphelines d’une diplomatie morte, et semblables aux poussières d’empire soviétique maintenant le cap du marxisme après la fin de l’URSS, sauront-elles l’anticiper en sortant de leur autisme? Pour cela, il faudrait qu’un véritable renouvellement géoculturel s’opère au sommet de l’État.

    Rex Tillerson aujourd’hui : Washington pourrait mener une action militaire contre la Corée du Nord.

    Ils sont forts, ces souverainistes. Et c’est la Neuville qui parle d’analyses caduques pour 2017 (sic).

  • 8
    jc durbant:

    Tant mieux parce que vu d’ici, ie. à travers le filtre naturellement partisan de nos médias, ça fait plutôt bunker

  • 7
    Annika:

    J’y suis entré dans la Tour Trump, debut janvier. Il y a bien sur de nombreux special agents à l’extérieur, AK 47s, gilets pareballe, chiens d’attaque… Mais on y est entré tout simplement, avec moins de tracas que lorsque l’on passe la sécurité aux aéroports. C’était sympa !

  • 6
    jc durbant:

    He’s a bastard, but he’s OUR bastard !

    Et pendant ce temps-là, la lutte continue: ils vont rien lui passer !

    Mais qui est-ce qui fait monter les coûts quand la Trump tower est en état de siège permanent ? …

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/trumpometer/promise/1341/take-no-salary/

  • 5
    jc durbant:

    Tout à fait d’accord avec james comme avec madimaxi (merci pour l’excellente compilation, le petit Poucet Trump a effectivement du pain sur la planche s’il veut un jour ne serait-ce qu’approcher un tel niveau), la pointe de ma comparaison (en fait, au départ, je pensais plus à un conditionnel pour le titre) se voulant principalement centrée sur l’opposition et le dénigrement rencontrés au moins au début et toutes proportions gardées par à la fois le Ronald et le Donald …

    Et (on peut toujours rêver: on est effectivement au niveau du « wishful thinking ») si on lui en donne (et s’il s’en donne) la possibilité au lieu de le dénigrer et de pousser à sa subversion à chaque minute comme semblent vouloir continuer à le faire une bonne partie de la presse et les restes des fidèles d’Hussein au sein de l’administration services secrets compris, l’espoir d’une évolution vers un bilan finalement globalement positif ?

  • 4
    madimaxi:

    « …et on ne reste pas dans l’histoire parce que l’on est le clone d’un autre mais précisément en raison de sa propre singularité. »

    Expression clé.
    Et puis comment vouloir à se comparer à ça ? Faut être extraterrestre.

  • 3
    madimaxi:

    Oh yeah, wow, quel plaidoyer James !
    Toutifi d’accord avec toi. Faut pas tout mélanger Jean-Claude. Ronnie est seul et unique. Vouloir le comparer c’est déjà le dévaloriser.

    Moi, ce que j’attends c’est de savoir comment un type qui dans un débat désigne son opposante par « what a nasty woman », lui promet des procès en justice et qui lui offre une « standing ovation » à la clé ? Ce comportement porte le nom et ce nom s’appelle : hypocrisie calculatrice. Donald ne sera jamais Ronnie. Ni dans la conviction, ni dans la personnalité, ni dans l’humour. Ce sont deux planètes complètement éloignées.

  • 2
    James:

    Dans la forme comme dans le fond, Trump n’a rien à voir avec Reagan, ni dans les résultats de son élection (raz-de-marée en 1980 autant au collège électoral que dans le vote populaire), ni dans le style (Reagan arrivait à séduire la presse en la mettant dans sa poche et avait beaucoup d’humour, Trump est rentré en guerre contre elle et a purgé les conférences de presse de certains médias) et les époques n’ont strictement rien en commun; Reagan fut gouverneur (élu et réélu confortablement) d’un immense et riche état, la Californie et, a fortiori, largement liberal, Trump n’a jamais eu de fonction politique; Reagan fut un acteur de cinéma à Hollywood et non une simple célébrité de Real TV; Reagan n’aurait jamais prononcé les saillies de Trump durant la primaire et la campagne présidentielle; Trump a succédé à un président démocrate mais qui a fait deux mandats et non un seul, contrairement à Carter; peut-on imaginer Reagan prononcer des paroles aussi flatteuses vis-à-vis de Brejnev ou d’Andropov ou dire de son propre pays « Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too » pour mettre en équation la Russie et les Etats-Unis ? Ce dont on se souvient de Reagan et qui fit florès en son temps, ce n’est pas Make America Great Again mais bien de Morning in America; Reagan n’était pas un milliardaire et venait d’une famille pauvre, contrairement à Trump. Il faut visionner le débat Reagan/Carter pour bien se rendre compte qu’il n’est en rien celui de Trump/Clinton. Il faut aussi se souvenir que Reagan arrive avec un message de faucon contre l’URSS; Trump arrive en ayant plutôt la réputation d’être pro-russe et de faire ami-ami avec Poutine.

    Trump arrive avec une économie qui se porte mal mais pas aussi mal, malgré tout, qu’à l’époque de Reagan où ce dernier arrive en trouvant une inflation à deux chiffres et un chômage très élevé; en outre, Reagan n’aurait jamais eu des mots aussi violents pour Nixon et la guerre du Vietnam. Trump a donné des arguments à la gauche anti-guerre sur l’Irak et les ADM, Reagan a défendu la guerre du Vietnam et ses objectifs contre ses détracteurs.

    Faut-il en conclure que May est la nouvelle Thatcher, le prochain président français un autre Mitterrand et l’actuel Pape un autre Jean-Paul II (!!!) ? Nous ne sommes pas dans les années 80 (où soufflait un réel vent de liberté à l’époque) et Poutine n’est pas Gorbie.

    Ces comparaisons tiennent plus de la métempsycose qu’autre chose. Ceci dit, les démocrates ont fait pire avec Obama où ce dernier était la réincarnation de Lincoln, FDR, JFK, MLK et Reagan également.

    Autant je ne partage pas le biais des MSM sur Trump, autant ces comparaisons avec Reagan desservent les conservateurs. Trump est Trump et on ne reste pas dans l’histoire parce que l’on est le clone d’un autre mais précisément en raison de sa propre singularité.

  • 1
    jc durbant:

    Morceaux choisis

    Governor Reagan does not dye his hair. He is just turning prematurely orange.

    Gerald Ford (Gridiron Dinner, 1974)

    Ronald Reagan has absolutely confounded prediction… Today, at the age of 77, he relinquishes the office so many people thought he never could get, being, it was said eight years ago, too old, too ideological, too conservative, too poorly informed, too politically marginal — in short, too out of it. But there he is, going out in a rare end-of-the-term surge of good feeling, his critics — on key issues, we are emphatically among them — still at a loss as to how to assess and finally even understand this man.

    The Washington Post (1989)

    With a year left in the Gipper’s administration, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker scandal signaled “the end of the Age of Reagan” and his time in Washington was marked by “more disgraces than can fit in a nursery rhyme. (…) Before he went to Washington, and after he left Washington, the dominant culture loathed Ronald Reagan, had always loathed Reagan, would always loathe Reagan, and spent many an hour trying to tear him down. Simply understood, Ronald Reagan had made a lifetime of challenging conventional wisdom. Even in the hours after his death, they attacked and criticized him, even taking time to lambaste his movie career, which had ended exactly fifty years earlier in 1964.

    Craig Shirley

    Au cours de ces 100 premiers jours, qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus surpris sur la présidence ? Qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus enchanté ? Vous a ramené à la réalité ? Et vous a le plus inquiété ?

    Jeff Zeleney

    Vous avez accumulé beaucoup de victoires au cours des dernières semaines que beaucoup de gens pensaient difficiles. Êtes-vous prêt à vous appeler le »comeback kid’ ?

    Carry Bohan

    You racked up a lot of wins in the last few weeks that a lot of people thought would be difficult to come by. Are you ready to call yourself the ‘comeback kid’ ?

    Carry Bohan

    During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?

    Jeff Zeleney (the New York Times)

    “There are a lot of people who have a lot of reason to be fearful of him, mad at him. But that was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period. And he did something extraordinary, and for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment. For people who have been hoping that he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often does, they should be a little worried tonight. That thing you just saw him do, if he finds way to do that over and over again, he’ll be there eight years. There was a lot he said in that speech that was counter-factual, not true, not right, and I oppose and will oppose, but he did something you can’t take away from him, he became president of the United States.

    Van Jones

    Clashes among staff are common in the opening days of every administration, but they have seldom been so public and so pronounced this early. “This is a president who came to Washington vowing to shake up the establishment, and this is what it looks like. It’s going to be a little sloppy, there are going to be conflicts,” said Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s first press secretary. All this is happening as Mr. Trump, a man of flexible ideology but fixed habits, adjusts to a new job, life and city. Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters — an important source of feedback and validation — and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week.

    NYT

    The media suffer the lowest approval numbers in nearly a half-century. In a recent Emerson College poll, 49 percent of American voters termed the Trump administration “truthful”; yet only 39 percent believed the same about the news media. Every president needs media audit. The role of journalists in a free society is to act as disinterested censors of government power—neither going on witch-hunts against political opponents nor deifying ideological fellow-travelers. Sadly, the contemporary mainstream media—the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN), the traditional blue-chip newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times), and the public affiliates (NPR, PBS)—have lost credibility. They are no more reliable critics of President Trump’s excesses than they were believable cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s policies. Trump may have a habit of exaggeration and gratuitous feuding that could cause problems with his presidency. But we would never quite know that from the media. In just his first month in office, reporters have already peddled dozens of fake news stories designed to discredit the President—to such a degree that little they now write or say can be taken at face value. No, Trump did not have any plans to invade Mexico, as Buzzfeed and the Associated Press alleged. No, Trump’s father did not run for Mayor of New York by peddling racist television ads, as reported by Sidney Blumenthal. No, there were not mass resignations at the State Department in protest of its new leaders, as was reported by the Washington Post. No, Trump’s attorney did not cut a deal with the Russians in Prague. Nor did Trump indulge in sexual escapades in Moscow. Buzzfeed again peddled those fake news stories. No, a supposedly racist Trump did not remove the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the White House, as a Time Magazine reporter claimed. No, election results in three states were not altered by hackers or computer criminals to give Trump the election, as implied by New York Magazine. No, Michael Flynn did not tweet that he was a scapegoat. That was a media fantasy endorsed by Nancy Pelosi. (…) We would like to believe writers for the New York Times or Washington Post when they warn us about the new president’s overreach. But how can we do so when they have lost all credibility—either by colluding with the Obama presidency and the Hillary Clinton campaign, or by creating false narratives to ensure that Trump fails? (…) There are various explanations for the loss of media credibility. First, the world of New York and Washington DC journalism is incestuous. Reporters share a number of social connections, marriages, and kin relationships with liberal politicians, making independence nearly culturally impossible. More importantly, the election in 2008 of Barack Obama marked a watershed, when a traditionally liberal media abandoned prior pretenses of objectivity and actively promoted the candidacy and presidency of their preferred candidate. The media practically pronounced him god, the smartest man ever to enter the presidency, and capable of creating electric sensations down the legs of reporters. (…) Obama, as the first African-American president—along with his progressive politics that were to the left of traditional Democratic policies—enraptured reporters who felt disinterested coverage might endanger what otherwise was a rare and perhaps not-to-be-repeated moment. We are now in a media arena where there are no rules. The New York Times is no longer any more credible than talk radio; CNN—whose reporters have compared Trump to Hitler and gleefully joked about his plane crashing—should be no more believed than a blogger’s website. Buzzfeed has become like the National Inquirer. Trump now communicates, often raucously and unfiltered, directly with the American people, to ensure his message is not distorted and massaged by reporters who have a history of doing just that. Unfortunately, it is up to the American people now to audit their own president’s assertions. The problem is not just that the media is often not reliable, but that it is predictably unreliable. It has ceased to exist as an auditor of government. Ironically the media that sacrificed its reputation to glorify Obama and demonize Trump has empowered the new President in a way never quite seen before. At least for now, Trump can say or do almost anything he wishes without media scrutiny—given that reporters have far less credibility than does Trump. Trump is the media’s Nemesis—payback for its own hubris.

    Victor Davis Hanson

    The final irony? The supposedly narcissistic and self-absorbed Trump ran a campaign that addressed in undeniably sincere fashion the dilemmas of a lost hinterland. And he did so after supposedly more moral Republicans had all but written off the rubes as either politically irrelevant or beyond the hope of salvation in a globalized world. How a brutal Manhattan developer, who thrived on self-centered controversy and even scandal, proved singularly empathetic to millions of the forgotten is apparently still not fully understood.

    Victor Davis Hanson

    Trump is a unique figure in American political history, but the nature of his singularity is not necessarily appreciated. He appalls people on both ends of the spectrum because his behavior and statements are not what we expect from our political leaders. His vulgarity, lack of impulse control, and willingness to ignore the truth and to spew abuse at anyone who criticizes him are — in the context of normative conduct among our power elites, let alone polite society — abnormal. His stubborn refusal to conform to conventional ideas about how leaders should behave still shocks those who consider themselves the gatekeepers of American politics. It isn’t so much that Trump is wrong on the issues in the eyes of those gatekeepers; it’s that they think his behavior makes him unfit for the presidency. While we give lip service to the notion that class distinctions shouldn’t matter, what is truly galling about Trump is that he won’t bow to the expectations of the powerful; instead, he has refused to assimilate into their culture. When they suggest that democracy is failing or accuse of Trump of being authoritarian or even anti-Semitic, what they are really doing is voicing dismay at the way he breaks the rules they hold sacred. What they are not doing is credibly asserting that he is a threat. But Trump’s refusal to live by the behavioral rules of our governing class heightens his appeal to many Americans who are sick of conventional politicians and the culture that produced them. He is a living, breathing rebuke to the deadening hand of political correctness that has gained such a grip on public discourse for just about everyone except Donald Trump. (…) Trump didn’t come to politics through the usual paths of law school, issues advocacy, or low-level political involvement, during the course of which standard-issue politicians learn how to behave in the manner we expect from members of the governing and chattering classes. He comes from great wealth and attended elite institutions, but he is the product of outer-borough New York, with its chip-on-the-shoulder sensibility, and the rough-and-tumble of the real-estate business. He spent the decades before his presidential campaign running a high-stakes business that placed him in the unorthodox worlds of the gaming industry and entertainment, not the corridors of political power. His niche was in celebrity culture, where people who more or less own permanent space in the gossip pages of New York tabloids, as Trump did throughout much of his adult life, might mix with those who run the country and sometimes donate to their campaigns but are not considered their peers. It might seem odd to claim that a billionaire who lived in a gold-plated Fifth Avenue penthouse has more in common with blue-collar Americans than with the country’s elites. But this is exactly the way Trump is perceived; it is also the way he acts. Despite the vituperation against his immigration policies or the effort to inflate alleged Russian connections into a new Watergate, it is this class factor that is at the heart of anti-Trump sentiment. If you are a member of our educated professional classes, Trump’s manners and statements appall you no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. They might also lead you to believe that his refusal to abide by the accepted rules of public discourse constitutes an encouragement of bigots — the tiny number of Americans who dwell in the political fever swamps and think Trump’s intemperate statements echo their own hate. But the belief that Trump is “dog whistling” to hate groups makes his critics largely blind to their own misjudgment: They cannot distinguish between, on one hand, their disgust with his manners and, on the other, policy disagreements with Trump, even though he is advocating either traditional conservative beliefs or populist stands that are likely to generate significant support across the political spectrum. Tuesday’s speech to Congress was not the beginning of the “pivot” that pundits have talked about since he started running for president. Trump will always be Trump in that he will never entirely conform to the cultural norms of the governing class, and its members within the media and the bureaucracy will continue trying to undermine him every chance they get. Yet his performance illustrates that he can also play the Washington game. And he can play it in a manner that could marginalize those who are still convulsed by the mad rage he generates in those who are offended by his conduct. Stories about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia help Democrats keep the national conversation focused on the administration’s illegitimacy. As long as such stories are front and center, Democrats can avoid confronting the source of their anger at him. Yet the shock when he speaks in a way that reassures the country that he can govern — as he did in Congress –unnerves his opponents because it illustrates that he can transcend class differences. And it’s Trump’s non-elite class affiliations that make them think they can eventually cast him out of power without having to appeal to the voters who put him in the White House. Unless the Russia stories become a genuine scandal that undoes his administration, a few more such presidential moments point the way to a Trump presidency that could be more successful than either his liberal or conservative critics could have imagined.

    Jonathan S. Tobin

    Reagan’s and Trump’s opposing styles belie their similarities of substance. Both have marketed the same brand of outrage to the same angry segments of the electorate, faced the same jeering press, attracted some of the same battlefront allies (Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Phyllis Schlafly), offended the same elites (including two generations of Bushes), outmaneuvered similar political adversaries, and espoused the same conservative populism built broadly on the pillars of jingoistic nationalism, nostalgia, contempt for Washington, and racial resentment. They’ve even endured the same wisecracks about their unnatural coiffures. (…) Though Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan (“Let’s Make America Great Again”) is one word longer than Trump’s, that word reflects a contrast in their personalities — the avuncular versus the autocratic — but not in message. Reagan’s apocalyptic theme, “The Empire is in decline,” is interchangeable with Trump’s, even if the Gipper delivered it with a smile. (…) Grassroots Republicans, whom Reagan had been courting for years with speeches, radio addresses, and opinion pieces beneath the mainstream media’s radar, were indeed in his camp. But aside from a lone operative (John Sears) (…) “the other major GOP players — especially Easterners and moderates — thought Reagan was a certified yahoo.” (…) Only a single Republican senator, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, signed on to Reagan’s presidential quest from the start, a solitary role that has been played in the Trump campaign by Jeff Sessions of Alabama. What put off Reagan’s fellow Republicans will sound very familiar. He proposed an economic program — 30 percent tax cuts, increased military spending, a balanced budget — whose math was voodoo and then some. He prided himself on not being “a part of the Washington Establishment” and mocked Capitol Hill’s “buddy system” and its collusion with “the forces that have brought us our problems—the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business, and big labor.” He kept a light campaign schedule, regarded debates as optional, wouldn’t sit still to read briefing books, and often either improvised his speeches or worked off index cards that contained anecdotes and statistics gleaned from Reader’s Digest and the right-wing journal Human Events — sources hardly more elevated or reliable than the television talk shows and tabloids that feed Trump’s erroneous and incendiary pronouncements. Like Trump but unlike most of his (and Trump’s) political rivals, Reagan was accessible to the press and public. His spontaneity in give-and-takes with reporters and voters played well but also gave him plenty of space to disgorge fantasies and factual errors so prolific and often outrageous that he single-handedly made the word gaffe a permanent fixture in America’s political vernacular. He confused Pakistan with Afghanistan. He claimed that trees contributed 93 percent of the atmosphere’s nitrous oxide and that pollution in America was “substantially under control” even as his hometown of Los Angeles was suffocating in smog. He said that the “finest oil geologists in the world” had found that there were more oil reserves in Alaska than Saudi Arabia. He said the federal government spent $3 for each dollar it distributed in welfare benefits, when the actual amount was 12 cents. He also mythologized his own personal history in proto-Trump style. As Garry Wills has pointed out, Reagan referred to himself as one of “the soldiers who came back” when speaking plaintively of his return to civilian life after World War II — even though he had come back only from Culver City, where his wartime duty was making Air Force films at the old Hal Roach Studio. Once in office, he told the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that he had filmed the liberated Nazi death camps, when in reality he had not seen them, let alone (as he claimed) squirreled away a reel of film as an antidote to potential Holocaust deniers. For his part, Trump has purported that his enrollment at the New York Military Academy, a prep school, amounted to Vietnam-era military service, and has borne historical witness to the urban legend of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Even when these ruses are exposed, Trump follows the Reagan template of doubling down on mistakes rather than conceding them. Nor was Reagan a consistent conservative. He deviated from party orthodoxy to both the left and the right. He had been by his own account a “near hopeless hemophilic liberal” for much of his adult life, having campaigned for Truman in 1948 and for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her senatorial race against Nixon in California in 1950. He didn’t switch his registration to Republican until he was 51. As California governor, he signed one of America’s strongest gun-control laws and its most liberal abortion law (both in 1967). His vocal opposition helped kill California’s 1978 Briggs Initiative, which would have banned openly gay teachers at public schools. As a 1980 presidential candidate, he flip-flopped to endorse bailouts for both New York City and the Chrysler Corporation. Reagan may be revered now as a free-trade absolutist in contrast to Trump, but in that winning campaign he called for halting the “deluge” of Japanese car imports raining down on Detroit. “If Japan keeps on doing everything that it’s doing, what they’re doing, obviously, there’s going to be what you call protectionism,” he said. Republican leaders blasted Reagan as a trigger-happy warmonger. Much as Trump now threatens to downsize NATO and start a trade war with China, so Reagan attacked Ford, the sitting Republican president he ran against in the 1976 primary, and Henry Kissinger for their pursuit of the bipartisan policies of détente and Chinese engagement. The sole benefit of détente, Reagan said, was to give America “the right to sell Pepsi-Cola in Siberia.” For good measure, he stoked an international dispute by vowing to upend a treaty ceding American control over the Panama Canal. “We bought it, we paid for it, it’s ours, and we’re going to keep it!” he bellowed with an America First truculence reminiscent of Trump’s calls for our allies to foot the bill for American military protection. Even his own party’s hawks, like William F. Buckley Jr. and his pal John Wayne, protested. Goldwater, of all people, inveighed against Reagan’s “gross factual errors” and warned he might “take rash action” and “needlessly lead this country into open military conflict.” Trump’s signature cause of immigration was not a hot-button issue during Reagan’s campaigns. In the White House, he signed a bill granting “amnesty” (Reagan used the now politically incorrect word) to 1.7 million undocumented immigrants. But if Reagan was free of Trump’s bigoted nativism, he had his own racially tinged strategy for wooing disaffected white working-class Americans fearful that liberals in government were bestowing favors on freeloading, lawbreaking minorities at their expense. Taking a leaf from George Wallace’s populist campaigns, Reagan scapegoated “welfare chiselers” like the nameless “strapping young buck” he claimed used food stamps to buy steak. His favorite villain was a Chicago “welfare queen” who, in his telling, “had 80 names, 30 addresses, and 12 Social Security cards, and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexistent deceased husbands” to loot the American taxpayer of over $150,000 of “tax-free cash income” a year. Never mind that she was actually charged with using four aliases and had netted $8,000: Reagan continued to hammer in this hyperbolic parable with a vengeance that rivals Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for a wall to fend off Hispanic rapists. The Republican elites of Reagan’s day were as blindsided by him as their counterparts have been by Trump. Though Reagan came close to toppling the incumbent president at the contested Kansas City convention in 1976, the Ford forces didn’t realize they could lose until the devil was at the door. A “President Ford Committee” campaign statement had maintained that Reagan could “not defeat any candidate the Democrats put up” because his “constituency is much too narrow, even within the Republican party” and because he lacked “the critical national and international experience that President Ford has gained through 25 years of public service.” In Ford’s memoirs, written after he lost the election to Jimmy Carter, he wrote that he hadn’t taken the Reagan threat seriously because he “didn’t take Reagan seriously.” Reagan, he said, had a “penchant for offering simplistic solutions to hideously complex problems” and a stubborn insistence that he was “always right in every argument.” Even so, a Ford-campaign memo had correctly identified one ominous sign during primary season: a rising turnout of Reagan voters who were “not loyal Republicans or Democrats” and were “alienated from both parties because neither takes a sympathetic view toward their issues.” To these voters, the disdain Reagan drew from the GOP elites was a badge of honor. During the primary campaign, Times columnist William Safire reported with astonishment that Kissinger’s speeches championing Ford and attacking Reagan were helping Reagan, not Ford — a precursor of how attacks by Trump’s Establishment adversaries have backfired 40 years later. Much of the press was slow to catch up, too. A typical liberal-Establishment take on Reagan could be found in Harper’s, which called him Ronald Duck, “the Candidate from Disneyland.” That he had come to be deemed “a serious candidate for president,” the magazine intoned, was “a shame and embarrassment for the country.” But some reporters who tracked Reagan on the campaign trail sensed that many voters didn’t care if he came from Hollywood, if his policies didn’t add up, if his facts were bogus, or if he was condescended to by Republican leaders or pundits. As Elizabeth Drew of The New Yorker observed in 1976, his appeal “has to do not with competence at governing but with the emotion he evokes.” As she put it, “Reagan lets people get out their anger and frustration, their feeling of being misunderstood and mishandled by those who have run our government, their impatience with taxes and with the poor and the weak, their impulse to deal with the world’s troublemakers by employing the stratagem of a punch in the nose.” The power of that appeal was underestimated by his Democratic foes in 1980 even though Carter, too, had run as a populist and attracted some Wallace voters when beating Ford in 1976. (…) Voters wanted to “follow some authority figure,” he theorized — a “leader who can take charge with authority; return a sense of discipline to our government; and, manifest the willpower needed to get this country back on track.” Or at least a leader from outside Washington, like Reagan and now Trump, who projects that image (“You’re fired!”) whether he has the ability to deliver on it or not. (…) Were Trump to gain entry to the White House, it’s impossible to say whether he would or could follow Reagan’s example and function within the political norms of Washington. His burlesque efforts to appear “presidential” are intended to make that case: His constant promise to practice “the art of the deal” echoes Reagan’s campaign boast of having forged compromises with California’s Democratic legislature while governor. More likely a Trump presidency would be the train wreck largely predicted, an amalgam of the blunderbuss shoot-from-the-hip recklessness of George W. Bush and the randy corruption of Warren Harding, both of whom were easily manipulated by their own top brass. The love child of Hitler and Mussolini Trump is not. He lacks the discipline and zeal to be a successful fascist. The good news for those who look with understandable horror on the prospect of a Trump victory is that the national demographic math is different now from Reagan’s day. The nonwhite electorate, only 12 percent in 1980, was 28 percent in 2012 and could hit 30 percent this year. Few number crunchers buy the Trump camp’s spin that the GOP can reclaim solidly Democratic territory like Pennsylvania and Michigan — states where many white working-class voters, soon to be christened “Reagan Democrats,” crossed over to vote Republican in Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Many of those voters are dead; their epicenter, Macomb County, Michigan, was won by Barack Obama in 2008. Nor is there now the ’70s level of discontent that gave oxygen to Reagan’s insurgency. President Obama’s approval numbers are lapping above 50 percent. Both unemployment and gas prices are low, hardly the dire straits of Carter’s America. Trump’s gift for repelling women would also seem to be an asset for Democrats, creating a gender gap far exceeding the one that confronted Reagan, who was hostile to the Equal Rights Amendment. And yet, to quote the headline of an Economist cover story on Reagan in 1980: It’s time to think the unthinkable. Trump and Bernie Sanders didn’t surge in a vacuum. This is a volatile nation. Polls consistently find that some two-thirds of the country thinks the country is on the wrong track. The economically squeezed middle class rightly feels it has been abandoned by both parties. The national suicide rate is at a 30-year high. Anything can happen in an election where the presumptive candidates of both parties are loathed by a majority of their fellow Americans, a first in the history of modern polling. It’s not reassuring that some of those minimizing Trump’s chances are the experts who saw no path for Trump to the Republican nomination. There could be a July surprise in which party divisions capsize the Democratic convention rather than, as once expected, the GOP’s. An October surprise could come in the form of a terrorist incident that panics American voters much as the Iranian hostage crisis is thought to have sealed Carter’s doom in 1980.

    Frank Rich















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