Special to WorldTribune.com
WASHINGTON ― Talk about local boy making good, and then look at the case of Donald Trump.
He’s a New Yorker through and through ― looks, talks and acts like one, arrogant, sneering and sure of himself. So what are the New York papers saying about him? Clearly, he’s a bad boy who’s sadly disgraced himself.
Not a day goes by when the preeminent New York Times does not attack the Trumpster, mostly on its editorial and opinion pages but elsewhere too. And the Daily News, once a hard-hitting, deeply conservative blue-collar tabloid, now turned mushy and liberal, chimes in with blaring page-one headlines excoriating him for whatever stupid stuff he does and says.
The New York Times’ attacks on Trump are most interesting and entertaining, the Times columnists all so brilliant. One day it’s Gail Collins telling us “Donald Trump is a nightmare” by way of explaining why the “terrified” Republican “elite” has turned to Ted Cruz, “the most actively disliked Republican politician in America.”
The next day, in the same spot, David Brooks, the paper’s token conservative, declares, “We’ve gone from Rising Tide America” to “Coming Apart America” with Trump, “an angel of destruction,” blowing “to smithereens” the goodwill built up under Ronald Reagan.
Across the page, Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist, begins, “In this year of Trump, the land is loud with the wails of political commentators rending their garments and crying out, ‘How can this be happening?'”
The New York Times’ barrage of catcalls, shrieks, cannonades and fusillades against Trump is so remitting, so endless, you wonder who’s conducting the orchestra, waving the baton, pointing at a violinist here, a clarinetist there, a French horn player on one side and a harpist on the other. They’re all playing the same symphony, though maybe the military analogy ― an artillery barrage, airstrikes and infantry advances ― would be more appropriate.
All of which made me wonder about a column by Nicholas Kristof, who used to visit Korea years ago as a New York Times correspondent based in Tokyo. “My Shared Shame,” was the headline, “The Media Helped Make Trump.” While blaming Trump’s rise “on the Republican Party’s toxic manipulation of racial resentments,” Kristof says “we should also acknowledge another force that empowered Trump: Us.”
Soon enough, it becomes apparent Kristof is talking not about the incessant anti-Trumpism of his op-ed colleagues but about the free ride given Trump, the failure to investigate the facts behind his bombast. (Kristof, of course, is down on Trump like all the other Times columnists. “I’ve never met a national politician in the U.S. who is so ill-informed, evasive, puerile and deceptive as Trump.”)
It’s hard not to agree with a lot of what these smart people are dishing out every day. Trump has a way of saying stuff that’s counter to common sense, that seems based on his own gut instincts without much if any research on facts or grasp of reality.
What’s he mean, for instance, when he says that Japan and South Korea should both have nuclear weapons while relying far less on their American ally for defense? Does he know that Japanese, ever mindful of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, are deeply wary of nuclear weapons even though Japanese physicists and engineers know how to make them? And did any of Trump’s not-very-qualified foreign policy advisers tell him about the long history of U.S.-Korean negotiations under which South Korea is obligated not to try and fabricate nuclear weapons? Or is he saying Japan and South Korea might as well have nukes as long as Kim Jong-Un boasts of North Korea’s nuclear prowess? Is he concerned about a tit-for-tat nuclear war breaking out in Northeast Asia?
It’s possible to ask questions about many of Trump’s outrageous policy declarations ranging from his call to bar Muslims from the U.S. to his idea of a fence to keep “illegal immigrants” from sneaking into the Land of the Free from Mexico. How about his proposal for slapping surcharges on Chinese exports in retaliation for Chinese barriers to U.S. products?
Perhaps The New York Times columnists are doing us a favor by alerting readers to all that’s awful about Trump. You wonder, though, why they’re relatively easy on the Democratic candidates. Are these columnists so busy castigating Trump, and Cruz, they have no time for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, vulnerable though they often appear?
In fact, Trumpism may be a passing phenomenon. He may not be nominated, and, if he does run for president on the Republican ticket or as a disgruntled third-party candidate angry over rejection by the Republicans, he probably would not defeat Hillary.
By zeroing in on Trump day in and day out, maybe the warriors of The New York Times op-ed page will be proud to have had a little to do with his defeat ― even while deepening the great divide in American life between Trump-style conservatism and fashionable “politically correct” liberalism.
Donald Kirk has been covering war and peace in Asia for decades. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org