- - Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Donald Trump declared victory in the wake of his impressive five-state sweep through the “Acela Primary” (aka, the “I-95 primary)” so called because the primaries were in the states along the route of both the highway and Amtrak’s signature fast train. The Donald’s declaration might not reflect mathematical accuracy, and his nomination might not yet be inevitable, but it was the right campaign politics.

He followed the next day with his first important “presidential speech,” putting into polished language what he had said many times before, there would be no easy riders among Americas allies if he becomes president. “My foreign policy will always put the interest of the American people and American security first,” he said. He panned President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran again and, with a nod to his likely opponent in November, said “the legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions” is one of “weakness, confusion and disarray.”

He offered somewhat softer words to the Islamic nations, promising that his administration could have good relations with them. “We’re going to be working very closely with our friends in the Muslim world, which [is] at risk for violent attacks.” But, and it was a very big but, “this has to be a two-way street,” and suggested that allies in the Middle East, like those in Europe and Asia, must shoulder more of the cost of security guaranteed by American military might.

Mr. Trump’s message about America is one that is likely to resonate with Americans. His point on trade would hinge on “jobs, income and the security of the American worker. We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.”

No American “would ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of a foreign country. I will not send our finest into battle unless necessary — and I mean absolutely necessary — and I will do so only if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.”

This sounds like isolationism writ large to the internationalists, their think tanks and to certain foreign allies, and the reaction was swift and skeptical. But to many Americans, and particularly to many Bernie Sanders fans, it might be the red meat they have been hankering for. A speech is just a speech, of course, and the devil, and reality, is in the details. Mr. Trump said those details would be coming soon.

Ted Cruz answered the Donald’s announcement with a grenade (i.e., not loud enough to be a bombshell) of his own. He has selected Carly Fiorina as the running mate he is not likely to need. Will John Kasich be far behind with an announcement that he is taking Marco Rubio? But his announcement demonstrates that, irrelevant or not, Mr. Cruz knows the party’s history.

In 1976 Ronald Reagan tried to unhorse President Gerald Ford; he had won a million more votes than the president in the primaries, but as the convention approached the president appeared to have enough delegates to win on the first ballot. The Reagan campaign knew it had to do something dramatic to change the narrative. Mr. Reagan announced he would choose Richard Schweiker, a senator from Pennsylvania, as his running mate.

It was a semi-nice try, but it didn’t work. Sen. Cruz’s ploy of taking Mrs. Fiorina on his ticket, if there is one, comes at the beginning of buzz about the “inevitability” of the Donald, which suggests the race is over. Mr. Cruz, like Ronald Reagan in 1976, had to do something to change the conversation, and that something was to “do a Schweiker.”

Mrs. Fiorina has employed her considerable speaking skills in behalf of the Texan since she endorsed him shortly after she ended her own campaign. Her debate performances and grasp of the issues prior to her dropping out earned her a place on the party’s short list of running mates, but “doing a Schweiker” looks like the “hail Mary pass” first employed by Notre Dame many years ago, when in the final seconds of a losing game the quarterback throws a long one hoping that an eligible someone will catch it and that the eligible someone is one of his own. Such passes sometimes work, but that’s not the way to bet.

The Donald’s first attempt to show himself presidential was a start, and showed himself to be something other than the brash, rude bully his many detractors say he is. He said he’s “the only one” who can fix America’s problems, and drew an analogy between foreign policy and business. “Businesses do not succeed when they lose sight of their core interests, and neither do countries.” If nothing else, he demonstrated that the 2016 presidential campaign is just beginning.

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