Dave Begley: Trump’s long, strange trip

Omaha attorney Dave Begley covered the presidential candidates for us Iowa and Nebraska over the past two years. Today he recalls Donald Trump’s 2015 stop in Sioux City, Iowa, and looks back:

It has been a long and strange trip for President Donald J. Trump from the first time I saw him at Sioux City West high school on October 18, 2015 to his inauguration on January 20, 2017. I can write with confidence that he is the same man whom I first saw on that day but he has grown greatly and improved. That result, I submit, is from his hard work meeting people from all over the country, including those from “the windswept plains of Nebraska.”

One thing is clear to me that few are able to admit: he has a genius for connecting with average people who are not the typical Republican voter. My long conversation with meat packer “Janet Jackson” in Sioux City that day convinced me that Trump had a chance.

Trump is also a political genius. He came up with the slogan “Make America Great Again” by himself. He didn’t have to pay consultants six figures to conduct focus groups and polls in order to come up with a tag line. During the campaign he used the phrase “drain the swamp” and he initially didn’t like it. But the crowds loved it; he adapted and he then adopted it as a principal campaign theme.

Our new president campaigned relentlessly throughout the country. There he met the people who he spoke of in his Inaugural Address, “The forgotten men and women of our country [who] are forgotten no more.” The “America First” and populist themes are not by any means typical Republican rhetoric but Trump was never a typical Republican candidate.

Begley29 On the night of the Iowa caucus, I attended the vote for Carter Lake: the bluest of all the blue collar areas of Pottawattamie County. The photo I snapped of the woman in a Trump knit stocking hat captured, I thought, Trump’s appeal to an enthusiastic nontraditional Republican voter. President Trump won that caucus with 47 percent of the vote and in the general election he won Pottawattamie county with 57 percent of the vote. Blue collar voters outside the big cities proved instrumental to his success in the general election.

I was agnostic about the candidates when the campaign started but I was clear in my own mind about one thing: Hillary Clinton would be a disaster. My initial reluctance about Trump was based primarily on his high negatives and, as I asked in December 2015: “Are the media sandbagging the public on Trump’s past with the idea of springing the ‘news’ on the public after he wins the nomination? What kind of dirt is the Clinton campaign and MSM going to dish on him later?” The fact that Trump could overcome the Billy Bush tape speaks loudly to the strength of his appeal.

The other part of his speech that made me so optimistic was his emphasis on action. “We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

That kind of talk echoes the wordly wisdom of the Jesuit Baltasar Gracian, who wrote: “Distinguish the man of words from the man of deeds…. To retain their worth, words must be backed up with deeds” and “Words and deeds make a perfect man….Words are wise, deeds are mighty.”

President Trump is already off to a great start as his Cabinet nominations are stellar. Now the tough work begins but one would be foolish to bet against him and his team of all-stars.

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