August 17, 2023

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, 1972

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, 1972

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As the first Republican debate approaches, I have an urgent appeal to the candidates: Please adopt the good things Donald Trump did and skip the catastrophic parts (i.e., everything after the campaign ended on Nov. 8, 2016).

Although he presided over the most wasted presidency in history, the 2016 Trump campaign was magnificent, without peer, perfect in every respect. I described the many useful innovations of that campaign in my book “In Trump We Trust.” Please start there, Republicans.

President Trump may have been a pathetic crybaby too ascared to fire his own attorney general — much less ask Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for wall funding — but in 2016, it was all image, and candidate Trump came across as strong.

“Republican voters want issues, not Oprah.”

Don’t fall into these consultant-created traps of presenting yourself as a weakling, candidates. Remember that you’re running to be leader of the free world. Cat ladies aren’t voting for you. Republicans are.

1) Stop using the royal “we,” e.g., “We testified before the grand jury …,” “We did our duty …,” “We decided to run ….” Committees did not do these things. You did. Be a man and say so.

2) Do not tell us about the time you were discriminated against — and yes, I’m looking at you Sen. Tim Scott and Gov. Nikki Haley. We’ve all had obstacles and don’t need to hear about yours, least of all that time in grade school when someone was mean to you.

3) Do not say “When I am president ….” This is a flashing neon sign announcing that you have zero chance of ever being within a thousand feet of the Oval Office.

4) Finally, for the love of God, please stop telling us about your families. We don’t care about your spouse, your parents or your kids. In fact, we’d prefer a first lady who doesn’t speak English.

Quiz: Who is the greatest president of the last century?

Answer: Ronald Reagan.

You think he won because he had the nicest family? He wouldn’t have been elected dogcatcher with that bunch. Yet somehow, Reagan won a 44-state landslide in 1980 and a 49-state landslide in 1984.

His wife, Nancy, badgered him throughout his presidency to be pro-choice. Note that the crucial word in the previous sentence isn’t “pro-choice”; it’s “wife.” Nancy hadn’t been elected to anything. He ignored her — and went on to ignite an economic boom that lasted 30 years, defeat the Evil Empire and restore a nation in decline to its superpower status.

But every four years, campaign consultants convince the candidates that voters are dying to hear about their families. Two for the price of one!, to borrow an embarrassing slogan of the Clintons’.

Let’s review some of the horrors from 2016:

In addition to Sen. Marco Rubio’s strange idea that having a bartender father was a crucial qualification for president, his typical opening statement went something like this:

“My name is Marco Rubio. I’m from Florida. My wife, Jeanette, and I are the proud — we’ve been married 17 years, and we’re the proud parents of four children, two of whom were able to join us here this evening.” (The other two were in bartender school.)

Compare that to Trump’s opening statement: “I’m Donald Trump. … I’ve made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all over the world, and I want to put whatever that talent is to work for this country so we have great trade deals, we make our country rich again, we make it great again.”

[Candidate proceeds to govern like Jeb!, but we didn’t know that at the time.]

Gov. John Kasich introduced himself at the first GOP debate, saying, “Hello, I’m John Kasich, the governor of Ohio. Emma and Reese, my children, and Karen — love ya, girls. Thanks for watching tonight.” Asked why he should be president of the United States, he said: “Just last week, a friend asked one of my daughters …” Asked how he would take on Hillary Clinton, Kasich said, “Let’s start off with my father being a mailman.” Again, at the same debate, he reminded the audience, “my father was a mailman.”

And that’s why we look back at Dwight Eisenhower and say, You know what made him great? His father was a mailman. No, I’m sorry — his father was an engineer.

In explaining why he didn’t trust Trump with a nuclear arsenal, Sen. Ted Cruz began, “You know, my daughters, Caroline and Catherine, came tonight. They’re 7 and 5.”

Answering a question about women in combat, Gov. Chris Christie said, “Can I be really clear on this? Because I am the father of two daughters. One of them is here tonight. What my wife and I have taught our daughters …”

(Just curious, but don’t any of them have sons?)

Jimmy Carter’s invocation of his daughter at the 1980 presidential debate was widely regarded as the reason he lost. Asked about nuclear treaties at the debate, Carter said: “I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day before I came here to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought nuclear weaponry and the control of nuclear arms.” (Her second-most important issue? Why Wendy Smith at school was so stuck up.)

One week later, The New York Times began an article on Carter’s sweeping defeat with this: “Jimmy Carter almost had Leslie Fleisher’s vote … until she saw his debate with Ronald Reagan last Tuesday and heard Mr. Carter mention that his 13-year-old daughter, Amy, regarded nuclear weaponry as the most important issue. Then she decided to stay home.”

Attentive readers will recall Christie’s utter disaster of a convention speech in 2012, which consisted of a full recitation of his autobiography for the hapless audience: “In the automobile of life, Dad was just a passenger. Mom was the driver …” It went on in that vein for another six hours.

Despite gruesome reviews, Christie must have thought the problem was he hadn’t bored us with enough minutia about his family and returned to finish the job in his 2016 presidential run. His closing statement at the first debate began: “Listen, I was born into a middle-class family in New Jersey. My dad came home …”

This humble pie crap began with Bill Clinton, who specifically requested that speakers at the 1992 Democratic National Convention tell stories of childhood deprivation (as documented by Ron Fournier, then of the Associated Press).

The I-Feel-Your-Pain routine was a huge hit with urban liberals, but Clinton went on to lose the working-class vote. Not coincidentally, this was the precise moment the Democrats dumped the working class and became the party of Wall Street and welfare bums.

Republican voters want issues, not Oprah.

Candidates, we don’t care if you were born a poor black child (Steve Martin, “The Jerk”) or your wife is hell on wheels. Please just promise to build a wall and execute criminals.


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