When elections are about issues, Republicans win; when they are about personalities, Democrats win. Today’s national security speech from Donald Trump is an excellent opportunity to transform this election from a disastrous reality TV show that focuses around Trump’s personality to a real campaign that centers on issues of grave importance.
There has been a re-occurring theme in this campaign: whenever Trump’s policy staff write his speeches, especially when it comes to national security and sovereignty, they are on message, more so than past GOP nominees. Yet, whenever Trump is allowed to flail around on his own, he goes off the rails, drawing needlessly negative attention to himself that also taints any of the useful or substantive ideas.
Today’s foreign policy/immigration speech was a perfect example. It was a solid speech that must be used as a reboot to relentlessly focus on Hillary’s dangerous policies. Trump should stick to this message and run endless ads exposing Hillary’s record of chaos in the Middle East, her desire to bring Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, and ensuing homeland security disasters, to our shores.
On foreign policy, Trump struck the right balance. He repudiated the Obama/Hillary policies of nation-building, and charted a new course towards focusing on America’s security interests as it relates to Islamic terror. It would have been a useful to also include Republicans in the list of those who made past mistakes, but it was nice to finally hear a policy that directly repudiates the false choice between isolationism and insane interventionism.
The first part of the speech effectively framed the issue by laying out the history of ‘how we got here’ with the security disasters in the Middle East. Trump pinned the blame right on Hillary for setting places like Libya and Iraq on fire, as we have called on him to do. He also effectively wove together the endless rise of attacks in Europe, pointing out how America’s destiny will be that of Europe’s if we don’t change course from the policies that created this fifth column within their entire continent. He smoothed over his previous comments about NATO, and made no mention of praise for Putin or Turkey’s brutal Islamic dictator. He should keep it that way. And of course, no presidential candidate can mention George Patton too often!
The most effective part of the speech was how Trump interlaced foreign policy and immigration by noting that both problems must be dealt with by waging ideological warfare. This cuts to the core of our failures dating back to the Bush administration. We must identify and understand the threat doctrine of our enemies, and as he mentioned in the speech, “all actions should be oriented around this goal” of halting the spread of islamo-fascism.
Such a strategy begins by not voluntarily bringing that ideology to our own shores through suicidal immigration policies. The following line was very refreshing and clearly has the hallmarks of some of Trump’s policy staff: “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people.”
He went on to say that, “Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.”
In my book Stolen Sovereignty, I dedicated an entire chapter to showing how our founders and political leaders believed exactly in this concept – of only allowing in those whose values reflected our constitutional values. All of our early immigration laws (and even existing ones that are discarded) reflect this desideratum. For example, when discussing immigration during the Constitutional Convention, Madison said that he desired to “maintain the character of liberality which had been professed in all the Constitutions & publications of America” and “wished to invite foreigners of merit & republican principles among us.”
It is, in fact, Hillary’s policies that are completely divorced from our history and traditions on immigration. Trump was right to call Hillary “America’s Angela Merkel,” but it will only make a difference if he runs a relentless campaign honing in on that point.
Trump needs to stay on message, build a real campaign, raise and spend money, and shed the clown show. Not to be nit-picky, but one thing I noticed, Trump kept referring to his immigration policies as “extreme.” “We will be even extreme.” “I call it extreme vetting. I call it extreme, extreme vetting.” For goodness sakes! There is nothing extreme about this, and that’s the point. You illustrate the extremism of the other side, not express self-culpability for your common sense views.
Trump must stop dragging down common sense policies with an “extreme” personality. An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose bringing in more Syrian refugees, according to a newly released poll. Trump must not give an already-zealous media any opportunity to make this about personalities and distract from Hillary’s extreme and unpopular policies.
In politics, the messenger is even more important than the message. Thus far, Trump has allowed a common sense message, at least on immigration and national security (putting aside some of the progressive economic and social policies, and apparent fondness for Putin), to be tainted by his flawed personality. His job from now until November is to elevate his personality to the seriousness of the message, not weigh down the message with his capricious personality.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.