- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NEWS ANALYSIS:

Donald Trump, in making the Republican presidential nomination contest about competence, already has altered the terms of the debate.

To the ear of a good chunk of GOP voters, he talks with an ineloquent authenticity that is the opposite of the candidate-speak people hear from other candidates, including his rivals.

With Mr. Trump’s presence, candidates will have to go where no previous GOP hopefuls have gone — not because they want to, not because they no longer fear to, but because The Donald has introduced extreme politics to the quadrennial ritual of finding an acceptable party nominee.

In hammering the theme that he has made more money on more smart business deals than all his rivals combined, he reinforces the idea that he has the competence to get it done that people’s common sense tells them they should prize in a nominee.

He induced Sen. Ted Cruz, considered the most stubbornly (and, for many conservatives, courageously) outspoken candidate in the contest, to defend the Trump brashness while adding that he would not use language so “colorful” as Mr. Trump‘s.


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When Hillary Rodham Clinton called him “desperate,” Mr. Trump retorted, “It’s not about being nice, it’s about being competent.”

He has relentlessly made the case that she is not competent, that President Obama is not competent and that the rest of the GOP presidential field mostly is not competent.

He’s said there’s no sense in considering his rivals’ policy proposals since they wouldn’t know how to implement them if given the chance. Nor would they know how to make a deal favorable to America if one was handed to them, Mr. Trump has argued.

In making the 2016 GOP nomination contest about competence, he also has made it possible — perhaps obligatory in some cases — for his Republican rivals to address the subject of violent crime committed by some illegal aliens.

Illegal immigrant crime statistics have been virtually unmentionable in American politics since Pat Buchanan tried to make immigration a winning issue in the 1992 GOP nomination campaign — and got labeled as a lover of Adolph Hitler by none other than, yes, Donald Trump.

Now it’s Mr. Trump who’s turning illegal immigrant crime into an undodgeable issue.

“Crime is raging and it’s violent, and if you talk about it, it’s racist,” Mr. Trump told Fox News after an illegal immigrant, whom the U.S. government had deported five times before, was accused of wantonly killing a woman in the safe-for-illegals city of San Francisco.

That city above the blue and windy sea is only one of 276 “sanctuary jurisdictions” in the United States.

Until Mr. Trump strode on stage, discussing the extent of alien crime was mostly forbidden territory. It was as much the third rail in American politics as was social security, as GOP presidential campaign adviser Paul Erickson first observed after Mr. Trump’s triumphant July 11 FreedomFest appearance in Las Vegas.

Mr. Trump’s incendiary accusations about illegals are moving his rivals to address the sanctuaries.

“It doesn’t make any sense for our cities to be harboring violent criminals,” Mr. Cruz told Fox News on Thursday, “and it doesn’t make sense for the federal government to be releasing violent criminals.”

The most notable Trump impact has been on Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor whose nomination run is the best-financed after Mr. Trump‘s.

On July 7, Mr. Bush called Mr. Trump’s views “extraordinarily ugly” and “way out of the mainstream of what Republicans think.”

By July 16, after Mr. Trump had surged ahead of him, Mr. Bush changed his tune by a few degrees.

When Yahoo’s Jon Ward asked Mr. Bush how he interprets Mr. Trump’s lead over the whole GOP field in several polls, Mr. Bush’s response was in effect a concession that his upstart rival was right.

“What it tells me is that people are deeply disaffected,” Mr. Bush said. “They’re angry. They see the country kind of moving away from its foundational principles. They see the rule of law not being applied.”

Applying the rule of law to illegal immigrants had become a nonsubject for most of the GOP nomination contestants this year.

Warned by their party leaders that the Hispanic vote is crucial to GOP success next year, GOP presidential wannabes have seemed unable to bring themselves to even mention the 276 U.S. cities and towns that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency identified as sanctuary jurisdictions in 2014.

These jurisdictions in effect flout the federal rule of law by enacting local ordinances that ban city employees and police from turning over to federal authorities known illegal aliens — even those sought for violent crimes — or even asking people their immigration status.

“Over an eight-month period in 2014, more than 8,100 criminal aliens who were the subject of detainers were instead released back to the streets as a result of local noncooperation policies. Approximately two-thirds of these individuals had a serious criminal history at the time of their release,” according to Center for Immigration Studies testimony before a U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee on July 23. “Nearly 1,900 have subsequently reoffended. Only 28 percent have been re-apprehended by ICE.”

Among the 276 sanctuary jurisdictions are the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.; America’s three most populous cities, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles; as well as Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver and Portland.

Mr. Bush, in acknowledging that Mr. Trump has a point, said that people fed up with the illegal immigration situation “see here in San Francisco, a sanctuary city, where a person who had been deported five times commits a violent crime — he should have been in prison to begin with — and was released, and this city does not cooperate with ICE.”

“They see this stuff and they’re legitimately angry,” said the brother of a former U.S. president and the son of another. “Now the challenge is do we prey on their fears and angst — legitimate fears and legitimate concerns — or do we offer solutions? I totally respect and get why people are upset about this, completely.”

Of the 17 GOP presidential aspirants, only former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has joined Mr. Trump in calling for denying federal dollars to sanctuary cities.

A further measure of the Trump effect may come in the first GOP debate next month, when he may call upon his rivals to join Mr. Perry’s call to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities.

Mr. Trump has a long list of other irritants he can be expected to prod and push his rivals into addressing — from China to Russia to Saudi Arabia. The Trump view is that Republican and Democratic leaders alike have allowed the governments of those countries to make an Uncle Sap out of Uncle Sam.

Depending on the thinking of each rival, the change Mr. Trump brings to the GOP race may be superficial or substantive.

“Candidates will follow one of two strategies,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

“One, try to make the nightly news by leveling the toughest anti-Trump zinger. Or two, ignore Trump and make their best case for themselves, thereby demonstrating message discipline and self-confidence.”

The Donald’s impact will not be limited to illegal alien crime and sanctuary cities.

Trump’s statements about immigration are simply the ‘gateway drug’ to candid statements about everything else,” said Mr. Erickson. “I don’t believe the GOP primary will be solely defined by immigration screeds.”

Why?

“People are desperate for candor and non-Beltway speak, period, whatever the topic,” Mr. Erickson said.

Some in the Democratic Party agree Mr. Trump is altering the debate — ultimately to the benefit of the Democratic Party, to which the peripatetic Mr. Trump once belonged.

Donald Trump will flush out and expose the extremism that some want to hide,” said former Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron. “And by saying outrageous things, Trump will determine the issues that others must address.”

As for the sarcastic and sardonic denigrations of Mr. Trump’s impropietous language by bigwigs in and out of government, Mr. Erickson said, “No one cares or is listening to the tut-tutting of the ‘responsible’ candidates over The Donald’s remarks.”

Instead, voters are, consciously or not, trying to determine if a President Trump could be the successful negotiator with Congress and the rest of the world as he appears to have been in the boardroom.

“Voters in uncertain numbers are watching HBO Trump and deciding whether to take him seriously,” Mr. Erickson said. “And until they do, every other candidate is PBS.”

In the meantime, the most profound change that voters will detect in the GOP contest, thanks to the Trump presence, “is the honesty and tone of the debate more than the specifics of policies,” said California GOP activist Larry Eastland. “Trump changes the real subject from whatever the debate of the moment is to the larger question of ‘what is this guy made of?’ None of the candidates will get away with partial answers, parsed words, comfortable position pieces. He has changed what they will say on everything.”


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