He ranks among the top three contenders in a number of 2012 opinion polls and he has had more news coverage over the past month than most prospective GOP candidates combined, but as Donald Trump continues to steal the media spotlight, a number of prominent pundits are offering a few words of warning to voters.
Although Trump has yet to declare if he even intends to run, his dramatic comments, his vigorous self promotion, his penchant for redirecting America's attention away from serious policy concerns to more trivial topics (i.e. birth certificates, college grades, his TV show), and the fact that he has regularly contributed to the election efforts of a number of Democratic candidates (including Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), leave many to wonder (and worry) about his impact on the GOP's campaign for 2012.
While there are still a number of weeks to go before he announces his decision (he did promise before June) here's a quick look at what a number of conservative pundits have said recently about Trump's potential presidential bid:
Jonah Goldberg wrote in the LA Times last week:
Trump is a protectionist who made billions gaming some of the most corrupt and politicized real estate markets in the world (and, according to documents on Smokinggun.com, his philanthropic foundation is stingy beyond reckoning). Still, I understand why the Republican electorate is so fickle. The GOP field is boring and cautious (though boring is an asset in a matchup against Barack Obama), while Trump is entertaining and seems fearless. It's fun to watch the media fall for Trump's act and the White House seethe over his "birther" crusade. So have your fun. But remember the next election is a very serious thing, and with a Trump candidacy, the joke will be on us.
In his most recent Washington Post column, Charles Krauthammer offered the following analysis of Trump's presidential pursuits:
He’s not a candidate, he’s a spectacle. He’s also not a conservative. With a wink and a smile, Muhammad Ali showed that self-promoting obnoxiousness could be charming. Trump shows that it can be merely vulgar. A provocateur and a clown, the Republicans’ Al Sharpton. The Lions have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.
Peter Worthington in a blog post via FrumForum:
Trump, being Trump and something of a blowhard, may actually challenge for the Republican nomination. And his blunt, in-your-face message, devoid of political correctness, may resonate among those who yearn for America to stop pandering to the rest of the world, and to start advancing its own itinerary. America, and its constitution, are a beacon of inspiration to the world, whether the world realizes it or not. Just look at refugees and the oppressed – all aspire to reach America, seen (often erroneously) as a paradise, or sanctuary, of prosperity and freedom. “Yearning” is a far cry from wanting Trump as president...Remember, this is a guy with a huge ego; vanity as big as all outdoors, who has his own reality shows and feeds on controversy. Likely he started his blustering to be president as a gimmick, and then when O’Reilly and others began taking him seriously, at face value, he began to think maybe it was more than a ploy or attention-getting stunt. He now talks of running as an independent if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination—which he hasn’t a snowball’s chance of getting. Running as an independent, like Ross Perot in 1992, will simply guarantee that Obama is re-elected. And Trump doesn’t want that.
Columnist George Will said in a recent roundtable discussion on ABC's This Week that:
Trump’s more important because he can make a shambles of the Republican debates...Just by being there, he can hurt the Republican Party. He is what is called a ‘blatherskite.’ That is a word my grandmother was fond of as someone who blathers promiscuously.
Weighing in on Donald Trump's continuous comments about President Obama's birth certificate, Pete Wehner commented in an op-ed in the WSJ:
When prominent figures in a party play footsie with peddlers of paranoia, the party suffers an erosion of credibility. While certain corners of a party's base might be energized by conspiracy theories, the majority of the electorate will be turned off by them. People are generally uneasy about political institutions that give a home to cranks. There's more than a partisan cost to all this. Mr. Trump is succumbing to a pernicious temptation in American politics: not simply to disagree with political opponents, but to try to delegitimize them. The argument isn't simply that Mr. Obama is wrong on almost every public policy matter (which I believe he is). Rather, the argument is that his presidency is unconstitutional and that he is alien....Something like this happened with Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, who inspired such rage in some of his critics that they deemed his presidency illicit. In self-governing societies, there have to be unwritten rules by which we abide. Among them is that we accept the outcome of elections and keep our public debates tethered to reality.
While not specifically mentioning Trump in a recent column in the WSJ, Peggy Noonan issued a warning for 2012 with regard to "antic" prone candidates:
Republicans voting in recent presidential primaries have tended to pick the candidates who are viewed as the moderate in the race—Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, John McCain in 2008. But in truth, there are some pretty antic candidates out there this year. The great question of the coming year is not, “Will Obama reignite his base?” or, “Will the Democrats outraise and outspend the GOP?” It is: Will the GOP be serious? Will Republicans be equal to their history, their tradition and the moment? If they are—if they recruit and support candidates who can speak to the entire country, who have serious experience and accomplishments, who are grounded and credible, then they will win centrist support. And with it they will likely win the thing without which they cannot achieve the big changes they seek, and that is the presidency.
Calling Trump's potential candidacy a "joke" due to the his unrepentant focus on President Obama's birth certificate, Karl Rove said in an interview last week with Fox News:
[H]e was an interesting candidate who had a business background and could have contributed to the dialogue. But his full embrace of the birther issue means that he's off there in the nutty right and is now an inconsequential candidate.
I'm shocked. The guy's smarter than this. And you know, the idea that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, being -- you know, making that the centerpiece of his campaign, means that he's just -- you know, now, you know, a joke candidate. Let him go ahead and announce for election on "The Apprentice." The American people aren't going to be hiring him, and certainly, the Republicans are not going to be hiring him in the Republican primary.