President Donald Trump’s most powerful weapon is what makes him Big Government Democrats’ worst nightmare and the trait that most baffles Establishment Republicans who don’t have it.
This fact came home to me in a Facebook post Wednesday by an old Tennessee friend from the early days of blogging, Bill Hobbs, who offered the following analysis on his Facebook page. It’s lengthy but well worth the reading:
For all his boorishness and other faults, Donald Trump has a singular talent and it may explain a whole lot of his governing style, and his success. Donald Trump instinctively knows almost immediately where his opponent’s jugular vein is, and that is where he attacks, and that is where he exerts the most pressure and the most leverage to get the best deal.
For example, in the primary, Jeb Bush was the odds-on favorite to win. He had the money, the Establishment, the résumé, and the name. All of the other candidates tried to attack him on his record and his ties to the Establishment, and all of them failed. Except Trump.
Trump didn’t attack him on any of that. He simply noticed that voters wanted action, and that Jeb Bush was a very slow, deliberate, plodding sort, and labeled him “Low Energy Jeb,” and it was over. Bush’s jugular vein was crushed.
Fast-forward to last week, when Trump is negotiating with the head of the European Union. Having threatened the EU with high tariffs, to get better leverage in trade negotiations, Trump sat down with the head of the EU and hammered out a decent first-step deal.
The most important part of that deal? It got little notice by the press. It was the EU’s commitment to a large increase in purchases of liquid natural gas from the U.S. This has nothing to do with the EU’s “jugular vein,” by the way.
This was all about Russia. Russia is, basically, a well-armed gas station. Without high profits from the sale of oil and natural gas, Russia’s economy is nothing. And so, with his trade deal with the head of the EU, Trump went right for Russia’s jugular. He said overly nice things to Putin in Helsinki, then went back to Washington and, through his EU deal, stomped on Russia’s throat.
Now we’re on the verge of what may be huge tariffs on Chinese imports. Trump has stated over and over that he wants a tariff-free world — he wants free trade — but we aren’t there, and China has long used tariffs and other protectionist measures to advantage itself at U.S. expense.
But China’s economic jugular vein is their reliance on exports, with the U.S. being their largest customer. Meanwhile, the U.S. exports very little, comparatively, to China. Simply put, they can’t win a trade war with the U.S. We slap big tariffs on all their exports, they respond in kind, and it’s their economy that crashes, not ours.
And they know that. And Trump knows that. He knows what their jugular vein is, and he’s about to stomp on it. Trade wars are bad. People on both sides get hurt. But in the end, it will be China that loses, and it will be China that opens its doors to more U.S. exports, and it will be the U.S. that wins.
Hobbs, by the way, is a former journalist and GOP political activist now working as a construction photographer in Nashville. A very smart guy.
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Many on the Left, such as The Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, mistake Trump’s laser radar for his opponents’ weakest links as the tyrant’s attempt to distract his subjects with manufactured foreign threats.
Referring a year ago to a Trump attack on the “fake news” media during a Phoenix rally, Sullivan said that when “under siege, Trump needs a foil more than ever, so these media attacks are only going to grow in intensity.”
Trump is quite happy for the Margaret Sullivans of the world to continue fooling themselves in that way.
As for congressional Republicans, their reaction to Trump’s threatened government shutdown if border wall funding is not provided this year sent them scurrying for cover, fearful of being called “irresponsible.”
Trump recognizes that Democrats’ jugular on the immigration issue is illustrated every time an illegal immigrant commits a horrendous crime like that of Alejandro Alvarez Villegas, who allegedly tried to kill his wife in front of their three children in San Diego. Villegas is what ICE calls a “serial immigration violator” who has been deported at least 11 times.
Villegas is why the more Democrats and not a few Republicans demand open borders, the more Trump points to the countless horrors illegal aliens commit in this country and predicts “crime like you’ve never seen before” if the border wall isn’t built and related immigration reforms aren’t adopted.
Trump thus is the guy trying to protect Americans, while his opponents in both parties refuse to make the hard decisions required to keep people safe. Conventional wisdom says that’s an untenably risky tactical gamble on Trump’s part.
In fact, it’s his opponents’ tactical jugular. Trump’s not the conventional president. What if the shutdown happens and Trump lets it go on long enough for voters to see Social Security checks still go out, essential services remain in place and maybe those hundreds of thousands of furloughed bureaucrats aren’t needed after all?
Trump’s opponents know he just might push a shutdown that far. And if he did, it would be catastrophic for them. The president is targeting their strategic jugular.
When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the two greatest threats to American liberty were the Cold War with Soviet power abroad and aggressive Big Government at home. Reagan won the Cold War because he was willing to walk away from the Reykjavik summit.
Funding the border wall may be Trump’s Reykjavik moment in stopping Big Government. As deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters last week on Air Force One, en route to the Tampa rally, “There’s much more at stake here than political fallout. This is about protecting a country and protecting a nation.”
And not just from chainsaw-wielding illegal aliens.