Wednesday, January 04, 2017

"Trumpism Explained"

Take the following for what it's worth: this link is to a somewhat desultory meditation by Newt Gingrich, transcripted (with awkward spoken-English grammar intact, along with additional transcription errors) from a December 2016 speech titled "Trumpism Explained" that Gingrich gave at the National Defense University. Filled with remembrances and chunks of history (Gingrich's doctorate is in history), Gingrich's speech makes several points about the way Donald Trump thinks. To wit (warning: unedited, despite my urge to clean up the prose!):

I want to start by suggesting to you that you should think about November the 8th as a potential watershed. We don't know for sure yet that it's watershed, but the odds are pretty high. It's a watershed in the choice of Trump, he's the only person ever, in American history to win the Presidency without ever holding a public office, or being a General in the military. No one else has ever done this. He did it against 16 Republican candidates of whom at least seven or eight were first class. He did it against the elite media, and he did it against the presumed next president, who had a billion dollars in her campaign.

One thing I recommend all of you, since Mao Zedong said that, "War is politics with blood, and politics is war without blood", Trump's worth studying. What is it that he did? What is it that he understood? If you look at his Cabinet, it leans towards the watershed idea.

The idea that Trump would say, let's have General Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense, that means you have to get the first waiver in 57 years. General Marshall was waved in 1950, during the Korean War. Nobody else has been.

Then Trump would pivot and say, General Kelly is actually, far and away, the best person to be Homeland Security because of his time at Southern Command and his capacity as a person, so let's put a second General officer in the cabinet.

Then Trump said let's have General Flynn as the Director of National Security, the National Security Advisor. By the way, Americans don't mind this because at a time when 75 percent of Americans believe that there's widespread corruption in government, the most respected institution is the military.

If you ask Americans would you rather have three Generals or three lawyers? The country will overwhelmingly prefer three Generals.


I think Trump is worth looking at as a potentially transcendent figure. What does Trumpism mean? First thing it means is, get the best. I'm hoping that the National Security Establishment will think about these principles. Trump is very prepared to find what's the best product, this is why he's raising Cain about the F-35, and Air Force One. He's not at all convinced that they're good deals.

You'll see him negotiate very toughly. He built really big things and he built them so they're really pretty. Go look at Trump Tower. He's also very ruthless about getting good service, and getting good construction. What people never understood in this city is, he is not a financier. He's a builder.


He ran a $10 billion dollar empire, but of course, he didn't know anything. He made Miss Universe a success. They said, yeah, but what do you really know about the voters? Well, he knew that they were consumers. What does he know about consumers? Branding matters. What did he say from day one? Let's Make America Great Again. If you're on the left that's a frightening concept, but if you are a normal, everyday, blue collar American, the kind of people who built Trump's buildings, you thought, yeah, I like the idea of making America great again, so then they bought a hat. The hat didn't say Trump. It said, Make America Great Again.


You have to get it in your head. The current system is broken. It is obsolete, so don't try to fix it. Try to replace it. Trumpism also means they use modern technology. Trump has 25 million people on Twitter and Facebook. His great realization, which occurred around October of 2015, you can actually reach all these people for free. He decides on Tuesday, let's do a rally in Tampa. They email, and Tweet, and Facebook, everybody in Florida that's in their list, and says, hi, I'm going to be in Tampa on Friday at 5 o'clock, and 20,000 people show up.

The other candidates are all buying TV ads. He's showing up at a mass rally, which is covered live on television. He then has 20,000 people with smartphones who take his picture. They all send it out on Facebook and Instagram. If you figure 40 people per person, a 20,000 person rally, is an 800,000 person system, about twice the size of MSNBC. For free. There's no exchange rate you can create that makes sense. It's like trying to compare Polish cavalry and the Wehrmacht in 1939. These are totally different exchange rates.

Trump also understands that you have to be on permanent offense. If you look at the Wehrmacht, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the Israeli Army, they all have the same doctrine. If you are surprised, one third of your forces go into defense, two thirds go on counterattack. You never give up the initiative. That's Trump. Trump's core model is, you hit me, I hit back, and I hit harder than you hit. He learned it in the New York media when he was a business man. He's on permanent offense. He gets up in the morning figuring out, how am I going to stay on offense? He understands that the media has to chase rabbits, so he gives them rabbits to chase, because if he doesn't give them rabbits to chase, they'll invent a rabbit.

I'll leave it up to you as to whether you read the rest. Personally, I'm a bit wary of hagiographies too early in a president's career. Barack Obama was unduly and undeservedly lionized early in his first term, before he'd done anything substantial, and certainly well before he'd done anything to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize (which, frankly, he doesn't deserve, given our many military entanglements and the continued existence of Guantanamo's prisons eight years after strong promises to get rid of them). Of course, you might quibble that Gingrich's speech isn't a hagiography, per se, but I can say that I smirked when I read how Gingrich had already written at least three different treatises on Trump (The Principles of Trumpism, Electing Trump, and Understanding Trump), which sounds like something a hagiographer would do. (But as one Instapundit commenter reminds us, this is the selfsame Newt who once dismissively said, "Little Trump is frankly pathetic." Is it to his credit that Trump made a believer out of Newt, or is Newt merely weather-vaning, i.e., not a true believer?)

And here's a tangential thought: Trump owns the media primarily through Twitter, a platform that gives him direct access to the masses (and, apparently, the ability to instantly influence Congress even before having been sworn in). But at the same time, people are saying that Twitter is dying given its tendency to delete or suppress right-leaning accounts while allowing left-leaning accounts to spew hatred at will. Twitter's stock price is on a five-year downward trend; divestment continues apace. So what happens when Trump loses one of his most effective megaphones, assuming Twitter's ultimate collapse?

I can already anticipate some answers: (1) a more pro-free-speech Twitter alternative will fill the vacuum; (2) Trump will lean harder on other social media, like Facebook or YouTube (which Trump took advantage of to make a quick "first 100 days" speech); (3) something new and unanticipated will come along. Most successful businessmen are roll-with-it people: when adversity hits, they quickly get back up and start plugging away again. While losing Twitter might hinder Trump, it probably won't stop him.

In the meantime, it seems to me that Newt Gingrich has appointed himself Donald Trump's faithful chronicler, a bit like Mako's character in those two Conan the Barbarian movies. It was quick thinking for Newt to rush in and occupy that niche. He now needs to work on focusing his writing instead of being so digressive. People who are natural raconteurs might be enjoyable to listen to, but they're seldom all that coherent on paper.


TheBigHenry said...


"Barack Obama was unduly and undeservedly lionized early in his first term, before he'd done anything substantial, ..."

I agree 110% (as they say in sports talk, though I understand one can not agree more than 100% because it doesn't compute). The only thing 0bama has done of any substance, as his term is blessedly nearing its end, is the substantial catastrophe of 0bamacare.

But if you are implying the same sort of "undeserved" lionization for Trump, you must not ignore his very substantial accomplishments, namely his nomination and his election.

Kevin Kim said...

It's true that Trump fought against amazing odds to attain the Oval Office, but my own personal "presidential-accomplishment clock" is set to begin on January 20. What is past is prologue.

TheBigHenry said...


It always pays to proceed with caution, unless you relish egg on your face. But as far as I am concerned, and I integrate a tad of jinx superstition, Trump has earned a bit of my own personal optimism for the future. If nothing else (and it is no small matter) he has dampened my severe pessimism that was due to my expectation of an HRC presidency.

Kevin Kim said...


Egg was all over my face last year, hence my circumspection.

I do like Trump's circumvention of the usual guardians and gatekeepers in the mainstream media; his effective use of Twitter and YouTube must be terribly frustrating to all the people hoping to distort his message and agenda. I also like how his recent grumpy tweet brought Congress back into focus, at least for a while. I suspect that managing the government is going to be a lot like classroom management for a high-school teacher: there'll be a lot of "siddown, shaddap, get focused" before the machine really starts chugging along smoothly.

Newt Gingrich was right about one thing: modern government contains at least 40% superfluity. If Trump can manage to cut away much of that bureaucratic adipose, that will be an achievement in itself.

I've told friends in Korea that I'm going to do my best to keep an open mind about Trump for at least a year. We'll see what he can do, and I'll "grade on a curve," so to speak, because it's unrealistic to expect any president to manage to keep all of his campaign promises. Meanwhile, I have new sources that I go to for news analysis, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with the lying mainstream media.

TheBigHenry said...

I would expect nothing less from a sensible guy like you, Kevin. You are more skeptical than I am about Trump, but that is as it should be because of your previous egg facial. But at least you have an open mind to give Trump a reasonable (I might even say ample) amount of time to prove himself in office.

The Left, of course, is, and will undoubtedly continue to be, unwilling to acknowledge even the legitimacy of his administration. And their intransigence is based on the pettiest of reasons -- they didn't get their way.