Did anyone happen to catch David Brooks’s latest column, “Donald Trump’s Lizard Wisdom,” in the New York Times? I about fell out of my chair, because Brooks almost tacitly admits that maybe he was wrong about Trump. Referring to Trump’s experience dealing with the mobbed-up New York construction scene in his long real estate career, Brooks says:
And yet I can’t help but wonder if that kind of background has provided a decent education for dealing with the sort of hopped-up mobsters running parts of the world today. There is growing reason to believe that Donald Trump understands the thug mind a whole lot better than the people who attended our prestigious Foreign Service academies.
The first piece of evidence is North Korea. When Trump was trading crude, back-alley swipes with “Little Rocket Man,” Kim Jong-un, about whose nuclear button was bigger, it sounded as if we were heading for a nuclear holocaust led by a pair of overgrown prepubescents.
In fact, Trump’s bellicosity seems to have worked. It’s impossible to know how things will pan out, but the situation with North Korea today is a lot better than it was six months ago. Hostages are being released, talks are being held. There seems to be a chance for progress unfelt in years.
Maybe Trump intuited something about the sorts of people who run the North Korean regime that others missed.
The second piece of evidence is our trade talks with China. Over the past few decades, the Western diplomatic community made a big bet: If we all behaved decently toward Chinese leaders, then they’d naturally come to embrace liberal economic and cultural values and we could all eventually share a pinot at the University Club.
The bet went wrong. . . The president has pushed back harder on the Chinese and has netted some results. After some Trump swagger, Xi Jinping promised to “significantly lower” Chinese tariffs on imported vehicles.
About Trump’s policy toward Iran, Brooks adds:
Maybe Trump is right to intuit that the only right response to a monster is to enclose it. Maybe he’s right that when you sense economic weakness in a potential threat, you hit it again.
Please don’t take this as an endorsement of the Trump foreign policy. I’d feel a lot better if Trump showed some awareness of the complexity of the systems he’s disrupting, and the possibly cataclysmic unintended consequences. But there is some lizard wisdom here. The world is a lot more like the Atlantic City real estate market than the G.R.E.s.
I imagine that Times readers must be freaking out about this. (I can’t find the comments section on the Times redesigned web format.) Now, Brooks is not a leftist, But Willie Brown, the legendary for speaker of the California State Assembly and mayor of San Francisco, and one of the smartest politicians in America, certainly is a leftist, and he wrote this yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle:
It’s time for the Democrats to stop bashing President Trump.
It’s not going to be easy, given his policies and personality. It might even mean checking into a 12-step program. But setting a winning agenda is like maneuvering an aircraft carrier. It takes time to change course. And if they want to be on target for the November midterm elections, the Democrats need to start changing course now.
Like it or not, a significant number of Americans are actually happy these days. They are making money. They feel safe, and they agree with with the president’s protectionist trade policies, his call for more American jobs, even his immigration stance.
The jobs growth reports, the North Korea summit and the steady economy are beating out the Stormy Daniels scandal and the Robert Mueller investigation in Middle America, hands down.
So you are not going to win back the House by making it all about him.
If Brown is saying this, you can bet he’s on to something, and knows his party is poised to blow it.
Bonus: Later in his rambling column, Brown tells this interesting story:
Cruise control: Got into a taxi the other day, and the cabbie promptly introduced himself as “Cadillac Jack.”
“I’ve owned 29 Cadillacs, all of them new,” he said, and proceeded to tell me about each and every one of them as we drove across town.
Finally I had to ask.
“How old are you?”
“Sixty,” he said.
“How did you manage to go through 29 Cadillacs?”
“Well, you know, if you don’t pay for them, they take ’em back.”