In my book Congressional Malpractice (link above), and in this blog on a number of occasions, I have defined the four P’s of Capitol Hill: policy, process, politics, and personality in ascending order of importance. So please forgive me if I tend to dwell on the personalities of our political figures and not their policies. I really have a hard time discerning their true beliefs and associated policies other than that the Democrats want the government to solve all problems and the Republicans think individuals should solve their own problems.
Nonetheless, I have been called to task by a blog reader who believes I spend too much time on Donald Trump’s malformed personality when I should be focusing on the good “his policies” did for the country. Exactly what that was, is beyond me, but my blog reader believes Trump was better on the economy than Biden (hard to argue with that one), better on China (I agree here), better on the Middle East (well, he was better on Israel, worse on Saudi Arabia), and better on support for the military (I think they’re both awful).
But the reader has a point. Maybe we do tend to get riled by the strange personalities from which we have to choose on election day, and we need to examine the policies of candidates more thoroughly.
Trump’s take on policy depends on your point of view.
Obviously, he completely altered the make-up of the Supreme Court thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s unwillingness to step down when Obama was in office, Mitch McConnell’s blocking of Merrick Garland’s nomination, and Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016. If you want a reactionary court, you’ve got it, although on policy, the Court’s decisions on affirmative action, free speech for those who do not support doing business with LGTBQ+ customers, and student loan forgiveness seem right in line with the thoughts of most of the country.
At best Trump’s foreign policy was haphazard. He cozied up to the North Koreans with no discernable benefit. He trusted Putin. Who knows why? He did move the American embassy in Israel to Israel’s capital as is appropriate, but he did love MBS, the killer of Jamal Khashoggi. Trump loves his dictators whether they are leading putative autocracies like Saudi Arabia or putative democracies like Israel under Netanyahu.
For the life of me, I see no appreciable differences between Trump and DeSantis and all of the GOP pretenders thought the Supreme Court decisions at the end of its term in June were great. Frankly, I think Republican primary voters have only personality by which to sort out their choices. For some reason, they like Trump’s. Surely, they must know that Trump’s handling of Covid was amateurish if not down right ludicrous. (I know, I know, he started Operation Warp Speed so he gets some credit even as he pushed hydroxychloroquine and ingesting bleach). He began the Covid federal giveaways that pumped up inflation. Thanks to Biden, it all got worse.
While the blog reader who castigated me about Trump’s great policies may have a point when comparing him to Biden, the Dems think Biden’s infrastructure bill, the CHIPs bill, and his one Supreme Court appointment are all just swell. So, if Biden is so good at policy, why is he so unpopular? I think there are two reasons and neither is about policy. First, he not only is too old, he seems too old. Americans like dynamic leaders. Neither Trump nor Biden fits the bill. Second, there is an overall perception among Americans that they are worse off under Biden than they were under Trump. I actually think we were bad under Trump and worse under Biden. I will give Biden some foreign policy credit for his position on Ukraine and NATO, but overall, we as a country seem to be in a worse position than we have been in years.
I understand my reader’s emphasis on policy, but I really don’t think the policies of the candidates is what makes the difference. It is the personalities that matter.
I find none of the current crop all that appealing and since we know what Biden will do (little) and know what the GOP group will do (follow Trump), we really have some poor policy choices.
I’d love to vote for a visionary who can articulate a bright future and plan a way to get there.
What they taught me in leadership training still matters:
“I have a vision for the future. I have a plan to get there. It won’t be easy. It will be worth it when we succeed.”
I see neither a policy maker nor a personality who can really say those things.
Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:
on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,
directly from the publisher Dorrance at: https://bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com/conflict-of-interest-money-drives-medicine-and-people-die-pb/m