JONATHAN COHN FEBRUARY 10, 2011
The big news out of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)? Donald Trump—oh yes, Donald Trump—might run for president in 2012, as a Republican. He was a last-minute addition to the speaker's roster, and after he bounded up on stage here at the Marriott Wardman in Washington, D.C.—to calls of "You're Hired!"—he told the ecstatic crowd of conservatives that he'd make a decision by June. "The United States has become a whipping post for the rest of the world," Trump said. "I deal with people from China, I deal with people from Mexico, they cannot believe what they're getting away with." The Don can take it no longer; it's time to step in and save America.
Could Trump really survive the Republican primaries? Trump revealed to the CPAC audience that he was pro-life, against gun control, and that he "will fight to end Obamacare." (His supporters are already launching a write-in campaign for this week's CPAC straw poll.) As for his qualifications to be president, well, isn't a titanic ego enough? I mean, hadn't you heard that Bloomberg Businessweek named him the "world's most competitive business person"? If not, Trump was happy to remind everyone. And: "Steve Forbes stated that I was one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the history of free trade," Trump said. What more do you want?
The trouble, Trump said, is that great men, men of accomplishment, "men who have been in wars"—and Trump wants you to know that he's "won many wars"—those sorts of world-historical figures have trouble winning elections. They have too long a track record, too much in their past to criticize. (Trump theorized that that's how Obama got elected: "nobody knew who the hell he was.") "The right type of people never run," Trump lamented. "But this country is in serious trouble, we need it now."
Okay, but even egomaniacs need some sort of policy platform—some logic to their candidacy. And all Trump promised was that he would bluster and bluster (and bluster) until the rest of the world respected us. On China, he noted that "they're building the greatest airports in the world, the best of everything, all because we buy their products because their currency is so low." His answer? If he's elected, "we'll be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries that are screwing us." How? By manipulating our own currency? Slapping a 25% tariff on Chinese imports? Exacting tribute? Who can say?
And here he is on energy policy: "Gas prices are going to get much higher, because we have nobody who can say to OPEC—and they're only there because of us—and tell them, 'That price better get lower, and it better get lower fast.' " Say what you will about the GOP's drill-baby-drill idea—it's at least more coherent than Trump's "I'll talk to OPEC and insist they lower their prices." (A finger jab or two should do the trick.)
Trump also offered a glimpse of his Somali pirate policy: "Give me one good admiral, and a couple of ships, and we'd blast them out of the water so fast…" Still, a big mouth doesn't always go hand in hand with shrewd political acumen. Out of nowhere, Trump decided to inform the Paul fanatics at CPAC, "By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected, I'm sorry to tell you." Massive booing ensued. His response was vintage Trump—he doubled down on the Paul-bashing, only to face even louder catcalls. At least he knows how to work a crowd.
(Flickr photo credit: F Sigorski)