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WILLIAMS: Donald Trump: An American icon worth celebrating
After Donald Trump’s speech this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, many were calling The Donald an embarrassment to the Republican Party, senile and even a Democratic mole. Mr. Trump is many things: a shrewd businessman, a tireless self-promoter (many who are successful can make that claim) and an American icon. He is neither an embarrassment nor a mole; he is a man who has a platform to voice his opinions and uses it boldly, unbeholden to anyone but himself.
This is a man who took his father’s construction business and turned it into an empire. He has brought businesses back from bankruptcy (none of them his personally). He has constantly pushed the motto “dream big and go for it,” becoming a living embodiment of that ideal. Whenever foreign dignitaries and businessmen visit the U.S., he is one of the top people they request to meet. Throughout the world, he is respected and seen as an example of the American dream writ large.
Like everyone else in this world, Mr. Trump has opinions. Because of his success, however, he has a worldwide platform to espouse his views. Mr. Trump is unique because he uses his soapbox to tell it like he sees it. Most celebrities with the kind of media reach Mr. Trump has will moderate their thoughts, saying what they think the audience wants to hear. When they roll out ideas, the statements usually have been tested by focus groups to ensure they receive the pre-selected crowd’s best responses.
Mr. Trump eschews this model, and it is refreshing. So often we complain that political and entertainment figures are too scripted, and we relish them (or attack them) when they go off the reservation and tell the world how they really feel. Mr. Trump is unscripted each and every day. Sometimes he may say something you agree with, sometimes not. He is human, after all.
Mr. Trump was embraced by many Republicans for calling out President Obama about his birth certificate. Whether you are a birther or not, you have to admit that The Donald, and only The Donald, was able to get a response from the president. His voice helped put the issue to bed. Folks on both sides of the aisle should be thankful for that.
At CPAC, Mr. Trump was not talking about conspiracy theories; rather, he was doing what he always does: calling it like he sees it. He said entitlement reform is a losing argument, illegal alien amnesty will cost Republicans, and Mitt Romney did not run a good campaign. Maybe Republicans do not want to acknowledge these things, but that does not make Mr. Trump an embarrassment. Rather, he is the cold splash of water — shocking everyone by saying what many were thinking but too afraid to say out loud.
Mr. Trump is right about Americans and their entitlements — they don’t want anyone to touch them. Even when they agree in theory about entitlement reform, once you ask someone to give up their specific entitlement, they balk. It’s a classic case of take their stuff, but leave mine alone. Entitlement reform is obviously something that needs to be addressed, but a frontal assault sends the vast majority of Americans running for the hills. What the GOP needs is a different tack and message that Democrats can’t easily spin into Republicans trying to push Grandma off a cliff.
On amnesty for illegal aliens, Mr. Trump was absolutely correct again. Not one to mince words, he blasted the Republican establishment for trying to rush flawed legislation that they hoped would grab some of the Hispanic vote. Instead, those shortsighted laws would have signaled the party’s doom. Giving 8 million to 11 million likely Democratic voters amnesty will not help Republicans win elections. Former illegals will not credit Republicans for granting citizenship, immigrants who went through the process legally will resent Republicans for giving others a shortcut, and the base will refuse to support such an act.
One accomplishment that Mr. Trump always enjoys discussing is the Central Park ice rink. New York City had let the rink fall into disrepair. When the city attempted to renovate it, the project went over budget and past schedule, resulting in an even greater disaster. To Mr. Trump, this was a stain on the great city he called home. He rang the mayor and said he would repair the rink quickly and under budget. And he did.
Mr. Trump did not do that simply for publicity. Nor did he do it just to prove that private business can do the government’s job cheaper and faster. He was embarrassed that a simple project was such a fiasco and made New York look bad.
When Mr. Trump complained about the tent at a White House dinner and offered to build a ballroom, he was embarrassed for the nation and the president. In many ways, he was using the story as a metaphor for the current state of America. But he also saw it as a simple-to-fix detail that many dismiss as unimportant but nevertheless leaves a bad impression.
Those are the actions of a proud American who wants the whole world to see how great his country is. They are also the actions of a man that knows most people are not willing to speak up when they see a problem for fear of ridicule or ostracization.
It is Mr. Trump’s willingness to shoot from the hip and cut through the fog that has made him the success and luminary he is. It is also what makes his words something to consider even when you do not agree. We can learn a great deal from one of the most celebrated of modern Americans, and I hope he continues to tell it like he sees it.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” Join him from 4-5 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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