Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, until out country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on."
- Donald Trump, 7th Dec 2015¹.
Granted that this is in the aftermath of 14 people being killed in San Bernandino and the country was in the middle of demanding answers but I can't help but feel that Mr Trump apart from speaking without any modicum of tact, is trading on that most effective of political currencies - fear.
I've seen this in previous political cycles in the United States. In the opening rounds of speech giving; before the first round of caucuses, potential presidential candidates tend to shoot their mouths of in a scatter gun approach because they know that at this stage of the running, it's of almost zero consequence. When talk is this cheap, it is spent frivolously.
Usually in the first few weeks after the new years and when the caucuses start to meet and vote, as hopefuls drop out, the rest tend to move in from the lunatic fringes in an attempt to woo more moderate voters.
If you look at Obama's speeches of late 2007, he tended to trade in the softer currency of hope and unity and as 2008 wore on, his calmness which was being played against a backdrop of stock market and financial meltdown was an asset. That same calmness which he currently displays, works well for a President who will not be elected again but it can not possibly work for someone wanting a tilt at his job; hence the reason I think why Trump can talk the talk of a madman and get away with it. It is a very different task to run for President than to actually be one.
Part of the reason why I think that Trump in particular has managed to achieve such high polling numbers is that because he is perceived as being so rich that he can't be bought by outside interests (I'm not sure his true that is) and as such he his prepared to say what he thinks; however crazy that happens to be. He can afford to be vague about his opinions too because it's far easier to ask general questions than to try and implement policy.
It's almost certainly true that his idea to build a massive wall along the Mexican border is nothing more than blowing smoke on his part. His idea to shut out Muslims although it might sound like a passionate response, would probably almost certainly run straight into problems with the First Amendment and even he must surely know that organisations like the CIA and FBI need the goodwill of the Islamic community who are already within the borders of the United States and indeed US Citizens, if he is to have any hope of mounting effective policy once he's at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, if he ever gets there.
I think that what's worth considering is that nothing like this level of insanity was heard even in the fortnight after the World Trade Centre came down; the reason for this is that 2001 wasn't an election year. Had it been September 11 2000 and with an election just eight weeks later, the climate would have been very different.
As it was, even George W Bush starts to look like a statesman in comparison to Donald J Trump.
"America counts millions of Muslims amongst out citizens and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads, and they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect."
- George W Bush at the Islamic Center of Washington, 17th Sep 2001².
Admittedly W was in the same sort of position as Obama and it has yielded the same sort of response. The President's job is to lead with calm and clarity. Again, it's far harder to answer questions than to ask them.
Donald J Trump isn't necessarily some self made man, he took over the family property development business well after it had gained enough critical mass to roll profits back into itself. Having said this, he must have developed a fair amount of business acumen to remain relatively successful.
Having said that, the business of Donald J Trump is to promote the business of Donald J Trump. In the run up to February 1 2016 and the beginning of the caucus circuit, Donald J Trump's business remains the same. At this stage of the game and with 14 candidates with their hats still in the ring, any publicity of good publicity right? This is like the floating of a hot air balloon, in that you can fill it with air and smoke and as long as it stays afloat, you're still moving.
Will that much hot air be enough to carry Donald J Trump into the Oval Office? Donald J Trump hopes so.
¹Video of this from NBC: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/trump-calls-for-total-and-complete-shutdown-of-muslims-entering-the-u-s-581768771855
²AP Archive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liudIJFg8UQ