By Camille Paglia at Salon
I’m dying for an update from you on Donald Trump. Last summer you called him “not a president” and a “carnival barker.” Do you still feel the same? If you loved Trump, would Salon even let you proclaim it? I mean, they’re kind of as liberal as they come, no?
Santa Rosa, CA
This fiery endorsement blew me away because it demonstrated how Trump was directly engaging with a diverse coalition in ways that the mainstream media had completely missed. I felt, and still do, that Trump is far too impetuous and thin-skinned in his amusingly rambling, improvisational style. The American president, who can spook markets or spark a war with a rash phrase, must be more coolly circumspect. And aspirants to the presidency shouldn’t care what small fry like bobble-head TV hosts say or do. A leader must have the long view and show an instinctive capacity to focus and prioritize.
Nevertheless, Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude. He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal. He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra. But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women. As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices.
Primary voters nationwide are clearly responding to Trump’s brand of classic can-do American moxie. There has been a sense of weary paralysis in our increasingly Byzantine and monstrously wasteful government bureaucracies. Putting a bottom-line businessman with executive experience into the White House has probably been long overdue. If Mitt Romney had boldly talked business more (and chosen a woman VP), he would have won the last election. Although the rampant Hitler and Mussolini analogies to Trump are wildly exaggerated–he has no organized fascist brigades at his beck and call—there is reason for worry about his impatient authoritarian tendencies. We have had more than enough of Obama’s constitutionally questionable executive orders. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s mastery of a hyper-personalized art of the deal will work in the sluggish, murky, incestuously intertwined power realms of Washington.
From my perspective as a fervent supporter of the ruggedly honest and principled Bernie Sanders, Trump with his pragmatic real-life record is a far more palatable national figure than Ted Cruz, whose unctuous, vainglorious professions of Christian piety don’t pass the smell test. Trump is a blunt, no-crap mensch, while Cruz is a ham actor, doling out fake compassion like chopped liver. Cruz’s lugubrious, weirdly womanish face, with its prim, tight smile and mawkishly appealing puppy-dog eyebrows, is like a waxen mask, always on the verge of melting. This guy doesn’t know who the hell he is—and the White House is no place for him and us to find out.
I was especially interested in your discussion around schooling. We recently moved to Australia from Seattle. A BIG part of the reason was our four children and the cost to send them all to college. Our first child was a wake-up call, and while we had been able to pay and work our way through college many years ago, it really wasn’t an option for her. While my wife and I were able to get subsidized loans back in our day, there were none available for her because of our income level. To be honest, if it was just her, we could have invested in her and made it work. But with four children all likely college bound, it was going to be an impossibility. We investigated our options and moved back to my home country Australia so the kids could go to school.