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Donald Trump's Political Balance Sheet

February 1, 2016

Though many staunch conservatives strongly oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy, they’re beginning to acknowledge the real possibility that he may win the Republican nomination. Though Trump, himself, seems to view his campaign as nothing less than a juggernaut, there is no denying that it has been extraordinary.

There are a couple of reasons for his impressive run as a first-time presidential candidate. Yes, there’s the name recognition and his outsider status, but there is also his uninhibited rhetoric - his willingness to say without hesitation the things so many Americans are thinking. As many pundits have said, he seems able to tap into the anger of those voters frustrated with the direction our country is headed.

This immensely successful businessman clearly has valuable assets he would bring to the Oval Office. Unlike the current President, who had accomplished virtually nothing before assuming the reins of power, Mr. Trump has already made his mark on the world. His success could not have been accomplished without intelligence, business savvy, hard work, determination, and tenacity, all attributes important to the presidency.

As Trump so often reminds us, he knows how to get things done. That would be a welcome change from the bureaucratic approach to problem-solving: first forming a committee, then keeping it occupied with countless meetings and hearings before it arrives at a recommendation…for further consideration.

Yes, the ability to get things done would be an asset. But no candidate is perfect, and Donald Trump also has liabilities.

The first, suggested by his conservative critics, is Mr. Trump’s late arrival to the party. More than just fashionably late, Trump has spent a good part of his life embracing liberal values. In 1990, he called for the legalization of drugs. In 1999, on “Meet the Press,” he said that, though he hated the concept of abortion, he was “very pro-choice.” During another interview around that same time, he acknowledged he was very liberal on healthcare. In fact, he’s been a long-time advocate of the Canadian healthcare system. And even today, he agrees with the concept of eminent domain, but only if it creates jobs. It’s why his critics question his conservative pedigree.

They also point to his once-cozy relationship with the Clintons. It’s fairly well-known that he has contributed significantly to the Clinton Foundation, and has even praised the now-Democratic frontrunner as a “fantastic senator.”

Then there’s that mysterious telephone conversation between Trump and Bill Clinton just weeks before Trump announced his candidacy. We’ll never know what was discussed, but Trump’s past ties with the Clintons and the timing of the call should make even the most naïve observer a little curious.

Trump has explained all of those issues, at least to the satisfaction of his followers. But there’s more.

We should all pay attention when a potential world leader judges others, not by their words or deeds, but what they say about him personally. Trump suggested that his presidency would bring about better relations with the Russians after Putin said some “nice things” about him. Conversely, we’ve all seen first-hand just how thin-skinned and ruthless Trump can be whenever he’s criticized.

That arrogance, petulance, and immaturity are the very same character flaws that are so destructive to Barak Obama’s presidency.

Trump’s arrogance was also reflected in his recent comments about his loyal followers, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any votes.” We’d like to think that was just hyperbole, but Trump has said and done things that would have ended other campaigns. His demeaning comments about Senator McCain’s prisoner of war status and the disgraceful mocking of a reporter’s handicap are two examples. Maybe that shooting reference was not far from the truth. That’s the kind of blind loyalty Obama enjoys and conservatives have always deplored. It was that blind allegiance to the administration that caused so many civil servants to betray their non-partisan responsibilities. It has no place in government, and shouldn’t play a role in the elections.

Here is the bottom line: Donald Trump has become not much different from other politicians, evolving when he needs to, and promising whatever makes his supporters happy. What makes his campaign so extraordinary is his name recognition and ability to find just the right promises to make. Though his liabilities should raise some deep concerns, his loyal supporters don’t seem to care. Just like the gamblers at the Trump Plaza casino, they’re ready and eager to toss the dice.

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Peter Lemiska has spent more than 28 years in government service. He is a former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service and an Air Force veteran. His political commentaries have been widely published online and in print.