When my children were young, I would read them bedtime stories from books like William Bennett's "The Book of Virtues" and "The Children's Book of Heroes" – tales of extraordinary people, from George Washington to "Honest Abe" Lincoln and from Jackie Robinson to Helen Keller.
Some of their favorites were stories of great danger and courage, including the biblical account of "David and Goliath," classic stories like "Saint George and the Dragon" and Greek myths like "The Sphinx" and "The Minotaur."
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In such tales, the citizens of a once great and happy kingdom found themselves terrorized by a seemingly insurmountable evil. They grew accustomed to living in total fear, even sacrificing many of the kingdom's youth to satisfy the beast's ravenous appetite. Hopelessness was everywhere.
Then, one day a strong, courageous champion would unexpectedly arrive on the scene and boldly offer to fight and vanquish the great evil oppressing the kingdom.
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At first, the people would laugh at him – as they ridiculed the young shepherd boy David when he offered to challenge Goliath. Or they would warn the would-be rescuer to flee, lest he too be destroyed, just as many knights before him had also fallen. "Go away and save yourself," they would rebuke him. "With one blast of fire from his nostrils, the dragon will incinerate you!"
But we know the rest of the story: This man of extraordinary courage and abilities proceeds to engage the dragon in battle, and, wonder of wonders, though the fight be fearsome and furious, in the end he slays the monster! Freed from this great evil, the kingdom is restored to its former contentment and prosperity.
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Right now, in 2016, tens of millions of American citizens feel exactly like the citizens of these terrorized ancient kingdoms in the classic stories. They see their once great nation ravaged by terrible forces. Their leaders seem to have gone mad – intentionally leaving the nation's borders unguarded, allowing hordes of invaders to swarm into their country, plunder their wealth and commit heinous crimes. Their supreme ruler is widely seen as hating his own country, continually betraying longtime allies while aiding her mortal enemies. The nation's youth are corralled into ivy-covered brainwashing centers and indoctrinated into bizarre beliefs and destructive behaviors. The land's once-robust economy has been decimated, with onerous taxes and regulations strangling businesses, and the nation's major industries – along with the millions of jobs they provide – leaving their homeland for foreign shores. On top of all this, a genocidal, worldwide mind-control cult has declared war on their troubled nation, murdering and maiming people at will, yet their leader won't even utter the enemy's name, let alone fight it. Millions suspect he sides with the enemy.
Americans, beholding their nation's increasing woes, wistfully recall the happier land of their youth, one blessed above all other nations, where despite its flaws, unparalleled liberty, prosperity and opportunity were in abundance.
But now, they watch in dismay as their beloved society disintegrates. Each day, they numbly tune in the news to hear of the latest outrages: Muslim immigrants and "refugees" streaming into this once-Christian country at breakneck speed; undercover videos depicting "doctors" bragging about killing beautiful little preborn children and then selling their body parts for maximum profit; our armed forces being degraded and demoralized in myriad ways by a commander in chief who secretly loathes the military; and the government requiring teenage American schoolgirls to shower with boys who claim they "identify" as girls.
And yet, if you complain – if you dare raise a plaintive cry for decency and reason to prevail once again, before it's too late – you are viciously attacked and branded as hateful, ignorant, racist, bigoted, homophobic, anti-woman or anti-immigrant.
Thus it is that massive numbers of good Americans are desperately looking for a champion – a rescuer – a brave, bold knight in shining armor who will fight and destroy the monster that has for too long been devouring their nation and its inhabitants.
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To many, that man is Donald Trump. However, real life is not a bedtime story, and presidents and candidates are full of flaws, even great flaws. Worse, sometimes our would-be heroic figures are not at all what they appear to be.
Nevertheless, the Trump phenomenon is an astonishing and utterly unique development in American history. Let's take a fresh look.
Many Americans, wondering if they and their exceptional nation can even survive the final year of an agonizing eight-year orgy of Obama madness, gaze ahead just a few months and realize they may soon be facing a third Obama term in the form of "President Hillary Clinton" (along with "First Gentleman Bill Clinton," a lifelong serial sex predator).
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Enter Trump, now virtually assured to be the GOP's "champion" in November's battle with Hillary. Every pundit has a different explanation for the "Trump phenomenon." Some analyses are insightful, some shallow, some simply idiotic.
Though his critics denigrate the billionaire real-estate developer and entrepreneur as "a carnival barker," "reality TV star," "huckster" and worse, one thing is undeniable: Trump has, in some ways, already started slaying dragons.
In his unusual, unpredictable, almost off-the-cuff campaign for president, this first-time politician has already stood up to the news media in a way no one else has done in our lifetime. Most people are intimidated by the news media, especially politicians, who need decent press coverage to get reelected and maintain their "good reputation." Trump, astonishingly, has called the media "disgusting" to their faces, has publicly called out specific journalists and news organizations and has even skipped (or caused to be canceled) prime-time presidential debates.
Reality check: Speaking as a 35-year journalism veteran, I can confirm that the "mainstream media" are, to use Trump's strong language, indeed "disgusting." Americans couldn't possibly have twice elected such a catastrophically bad president as Barack Obama were it not for the disgraceful cheerleading and gross journalistic malpractice of the entire elite media. The same media, if they can manage, will give us Hillary Clinton, who is more deserving of prison than the presidency. As I observe in "The Marketing of Evil," "no institution [is] more complicit in making evil appear good and good appear evil to Americans" than the news media.
In fact, "disgust" is a pretty good word to describe how voters today feel about not only the deceitful media, but about politicians and the "ruling class" in general. Hence, the rise of Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left. The only problem with Sanders is that his proposed solutions would quickly destroy America, driving what little is left of her productive industries out of the country to escape the massive tax increases Bernie would require to pay for his delusional, "free-everything" socialist utopia. Bernie is the feel-good candidate for "disgusted" Americans who, ignoring the lessons of history, simply have no clue how the world really works, how economies work, how human nature works and how societies thrive. They just like to "feel the Bern."
So, would Trump be able to vanquish the many dragons bedeviling America if elected president?
While no one can foretell the future, already Trump has neutered not only the news media, but another of the intimidating beasts guarding the inner sanctum of elite power – the monster called "political correctness."
In an era when disapproving of same-sex marriage makes you a bigot, when saying "all lives matter" makes you a racist, when saying "illegal alien" makes you "anti-immigrant," and when the president of the United States is unwilling to identify the religion responsible for the orgy of terrorism ravaging mankind on a daily basis, Trump routinely makes official statements like: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," "We're going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it" and "I think Islam hates us."
This drives the establishment stark raving mad – and causes millions of long-suffering middle-class Americans not only to cheer, but to feel revived, as though there might still be hope for their country.
After all, consider what political correctness really is: Historically a Marxist totalitarian tool of social control, political correctness basically amounts to nothing more nor less than a prohibition on speaking the truth. As they say, "the truth hurts" – honesty is always "offensive" to someone. Expressed differently, when you hate the truth, then truth becomes "hate." Americans are tired of being unwilling participants in a perverse, real-life "Emperor's New Clothes" story in which, if they don't play along – if they don't lie and pretend – they're punished. So it's more than refreshing, it's liberating when someone very high-profile with a great deal to lose, like a leading presidential contender, refuses to play the game, and yet still thrives.
What about Trump's negatives?
Trump has obvious faults, as his detractors continually highlight. There are his sometimes vulgar and crude language and gratuitous attacks on critics (including his Twitter attack on Cruz's wife). There are his former liberal positions on abortion and other issues, as well as his past campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats as a businessman. There are his three marriages and supposed past infidelities, and the various business controversies involving bankruptcies, eminent domain and Trump University. Trump is egotistical, rarely admits to mistakes or apologizes (at least not publicly), is not well informed on some issues, and has made at least a few outrageous statements – such as that George W. Bush launched the Iraq War knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction there (a statement Trump later walked back into a reasonable formulation). His always-on-offense modus operandi – "If someone punches me, I punch back twice as hard" – actually works admirably well in many cases, but not all cases, and sometimes causes significant problems.
All of this and more make some voters uncomfortable with him – unsure of what they would get with a Trump presidency.
In fact, one of the most perplexing aspects of the current GOP primary race is the extreme antipathy some on the conservative right have not only for Donald Trump, but for all those who support him, from Dr. Ben Carson to Sen. Jeff Sessions to Gov. Sarah Palin to Gov. Chris Christie to Gov. Rick Scott and dozens of other public figures, whom they insist must be "blacklisted" for life! Glenn Beck has claimed "no real Christian" could possibly support Trump. Mitt Romney and other GOP elitists long advocated essentially stealing the nomination from Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz at this summer's nominating convention, completely ignoring the express wishes of GOP primary voters and drafting instead a "consensus" candidate more to their liking, like Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, John Kasich or Romney himself – all failed candidates. Now that Trump is the presumed nominee, some conservatives still openly proclaim they will never vote for Trump and will, in fact, favor Hillary Clinton as president!
Remember, if a Trump presidency poses reasonable questions and doubts as to what kind of president he'd actually be, a Hillary presidency poses none; she has a decades-long record as a breathtakingly dishonest, corrupt, dissembling, ambitious, soulless, left-wing political elitist who lies as easily as breathing and whose presidency would further debase the very soul of America, especially its youth. Moreover, as president, she would appoint several progressive-left, Constitution-despising Supreme Court justices, who would in turn determine America's destiny for the next generation and inevitably result in the end of fundamental rights like that guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
Yet, to some "conservatives" in the "Never-Trump" movement, Donald is worse than all that.
I think it is reasonable to describe this better-Hillary-than-Trump attitude as insane, infantile and suicidal for the nation.
Donald Trump has serious flaws. But he also has remarkable talents and abilities that many miss, or misinterpret. After all, he didn't become one of the planet's most dazzlingly successful real-estate developers, entrepreneurs and best-selling authors by being a stupid, ignorant, racist buffoon, as his critics would have you believe.
Others can speak better to Trump's proven abilities to get massively big and complicated projects done on time and under budget, to his legendary leadership and negotiating skills that pave the way for accomplishing such endeavors, and also to his long record of philanthropy and helping people, most of which is not widely known.
However, I want to mention some other, more subtle but all-important attributes that have enabled Trump to succeed, including his spectacular and utterly unexpected rise to the pinnacle of the presidential field as a first-time politician. Remember, he has never done any of this before.
Underlying Trump's spontaneous and unscripted manner and his refreshing candor on the campaign trail, as well as the tremendous personal strength, confidence, fearlessness, energy and stamina he demonstrates daily, are a unique mixture of experience – at 69, he has for decades been a world-class doer of very big things – and an uncommon level of common sense, perception and intuition.
Recently on "The O'Reilly Factor," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich commented thoughtfully on Trump: "This guy has been unbelievably successful since June 16 when he announced [his candidacy], he does it in a way I can't understand, he does it out of a pure intuition. He's not surrounded by pollsters and consultants and all that other stuff …"
Likewise, celebrated feminist and cultural critic Camille Paglia, who wrote a provocative piece in the left-wing website Salon, headlined "I was wrong about Trump," now sees the front-runner in a new light after having trashed him early in his run for the nomination: "Trump may be raw, crude and uninformed, but he’s also smart, intuitive and a quick study who will presumably get up to passable speed as he assembles a brain trust over the coming months."
And the Washington Times' Charles Hurt, after Trump's big foreign-policy speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in late March, commented on the first-time politician's uncanny instincts and rapid learning curve, noting, "It was his first major address of the general election. And he aced it."
The speech was downright thrilling at moments.
"When you live in a society where the firefighters are the heroes, little kids want to be firefighters," he said. "When you live in a society where athletes and movie stars are heroes, little kids want to be athletes and movie stars."
"You cannot achieve peace if terrorists are treated as martyrs. Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace."
In short, the speech terrified people who have at every step of the way been so eager to dismiss Mr. Trump as a ridiculous buffoon. Even better, the speech terrified Democrats.
Seven months of Mr. Trump giving speeches like that will erase this notion that he is some kind of carnival barker. After seven months of this kind of measured, presidential campaigning, Republicans will be happily unified behind a statesmanlike leader and ready to support him against a lying, dissembling, washed-up politician who has a remarkable career of failure on the world stage.
"In November, Mr. Trump will face a lifelong politician who is so disengaged from the threat of terrorism that she will not even speak its name, for fear of offending someone." And, concludes Hurt, Trump "will win in a landslide."
And consider this further observation by Gingrich, surely one of today's most experienced and perceptive political analysts, in a thought-provoking piece titled "Understanding Donald Trump." Commenting on the billionaire's phenomenal, rule-breaking, gravity-defying ascension in the Republican primary contest, Gingrich confides, "As a step toward understanding this amazing performance, I spent part of the Christmas break reading his first best-seller, 'The Art of the Deal,'" the classic business book Trump wrote in 1987 when he was only 41 and already hugely successful.
The portrait that emerges from this easy-to-read and remarkably interesting book is of an aggressive, ambitious person who is constantly pushing, constantly learning, and always seeking the next challenge.
Reporters and analysts who are trying to understand Mr. Trump would be well served by slowing down and reading this nearly three-decade-old bestseller.
They would discover that Donald Trump has developed a remarkable set of rules and principles that allow him to make decisions with incredible speed.
Mr. Trump knows a lot, but what is amazing is how rapidly he figures out what he doesn't know.
My favorite story is of the Wollman Skating Rink in New York's Central Park.
The Wollman Rink was a heavily used public skating rink which had fallen into disrepair in 1980.
New York City tried for six years to fix it, spent $13 million, and the rink still was not ready to open.
In June of 1986, Mr. Trump, who could see the rink from his apartment, finally got tired of the embarrassment and offered to fix the rink at his own expense.
At first the city turned him down because its bureaucracy did not want to be embarrassed by someone fixing something they couldn't fix. Mr. Trump kept pushing and finally out of embarrassment the city gave in.
The key part of the story is Mr. Trump's reaction to being put in charge. He promptly recognized that he didn't know anything about fixing a skating rink. He asked himself who built a lot of skating rinks. "Canadians!" he concluded. He found the best Canadian ice skating rink construction company.
When the Canadians flew in to assess the situation, they were amazed at how bad the city had been at solving the problem. They assured Mr. Trump that this was an easy job.
Mr. Trump fixed the 6-year-old embarrassment two months ahead of schedule and nearly $800,000 under budget. (The city did end up paying for the work, and Mr. Trump donated the profits to charity.)
After reading this chapter you begin to think that maybe Donald Trump really could build a wall along our southern border for a lot less than our current government estimates.
Could Trump really accomplish what others have not – safeguarding our border as Gingrich suggests, finally bringing much-need jobs back to America to relieve a dying economy, reviving the abused American military, and at long last dealing boldly and decisively with the fast-metastasizing cancer of Islamic jihad whose stated No. 1 target is the American homeland?
Trump, like all other candidates, is a strange brew of good and bad qualities. Despite those defects, he has a powerful leader-fighter personality that many believe is exactly what a decimated and demoralized America needs right now. He speaks from the heart and millions strongly resonate with him.
The real question is: Is Trump's heart good? (Most everything else can be helped out by the right advisers.)
I think it is.
Besides, Trump may just turn out to be the bold outsider – the flawed but fearless knight – who surprises everyone and slays the dragon.
And that would certainly be better than electing a new dragon in Hillary Clinton.
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