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By: Dave Gordon

At first nobody took him seriously. Time and time again, after Donald Trump said something that seemed so blatantly stupid that it would end his campaign, he just became even more popular and his poll numbers rose.

Trump is still the front runner in the polls, even though he has no experience in politics and is being ridiculed by Democrats, fellow Republicans, and the media alike.

Supporters appear to pay attention to his themes he espouses, and not just what he says. According to most, Trump’s public comments, have a tendency to be controversial at least, and off-putting, or downright offensive at most.

Trump’s bombastic statements include, but aren’t limited to, his slight of Mexican immigrants (though not all of them), the disparaging remark about Senator McCain (“He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, I hate to tell you.”), and mocking fellow GOP candidate Carly Fiorina for her looks.

Words like these have been in part responsible for Trump being thought of as a “barking carnival act,” as one pundit called him.

Trump, a billionaire, real estate magnate, entrepreneur, author, and a celebrity is described by many – including two people interviewed for this article – to most closely resemble in real life the showman of a reality star.

John Hawkins, of Townhall.com (June 11, 2015), explains that Trump – one of the many GOP contenders for the presidential nomination – has held his poll numbers precisely because of the opposite: there’s nothing fake about him. Hawkins cites authenticity as the topmost reason people are drawn to Trump.

 In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll of Republicans, the top three reasons people supported Trump were: 1) outspoken/says what he believes, not a politician 2) is an outsider, and 3) is a strong leader. 

“Donald Trump is a scrappy, confident and aggressive self-promoter who doesn’t mind taking on a big challenge or letting you know that, yes, he succeeded and he made 10 million dollars in the process. Some people will like that and others won’t, but at least you get the sense you’re getting to see the real Trump,” writes Hawkins.

This is in contrast, he believes, to most other politicians who hold their finger to the wind to see which way they should vote, adjust their tie colors to accommodate the polls, and appear like manufactured soulless products, rather than real people.

Even Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate  and  columnist for The New York Times, writes that  not only does Trump understand the economy better than his opponents, he  comes off as more “real.”

“Am I saying that Mr. Trump is better and more serious than he’s given credit for being?” Krugman asks. “Not at all – he is exactly the ignoramus he seems to be. It’s when it comes to his rivals that appearances can be deceiving. Some  of them may come across as reasonable and thoughtful, but in reality they are anything but.”

As far as the issues, Hawkins maintains that Trump resonates with so many people because he speaks of concrete concerns in a substantial way.

“Too few Americans are working, too many jobs have been shipped overseas, and too many middle class families cannot make ends meet,” Trump writes on
his website.

While other politicians mention issues like prison reform, Trump tends to focus on things likeillegal immigrant crime.

Other distinct issues include his tax plan, which includes zero income tax for people earning less than $25,000, and provides that no business of any size will pay more than 15 percent in taxes. Additionally, the death tax will be eliminated.

Moreover, in terms of where and how our tax money is spent, for example, Trump wants countries such as Saudi Arabia to begin paying for the US military presence there.

“Given that we’re running at a deficit every year, shouldn’t we at leastbe having a real discussion about whether we’re getting enough bang for our buck out of our foreign aid and overseas military spending?” adds Hawkins.

Meanwhile, Dave Shiflett, co-author of Trump’s campaign book, The America We Deserve (2000), says that Trump is a complicated man.

“I like Trump. [He was a] lot of fun,” says Shiflett. “He was a flamboyant person at the time [we wrote the book], already known for being The Donald.” At the point of publishing their book, Trump had already formed an exploratory committee to look into the possibility of running for President. He decided he wanted to introduce his proposed policies through a book, according to Shiflett.

“[He used the book as a means to flesh out some of his ideas driving him toward potential decisions… recognizing public pressure to step forward and lead the country to greatness,” Shiflett says.

As for Donald, the man, Shiflett says he had a “good sense of humor, was very self-deprecating, was kind of passionate about a few things, and was onto the terrorism thing at that time.” That was prescient, a year before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The first World Trade Center bombings had occurred six years prior, and Trump, according to Shiflett, had already heard from a source at MIT aboutminiaturized weapons such as a suitcase bomb, being made by America’s enemies, “that could decimate Manhattan.”

Trump also relayed his concern that some Asian countries were overtaking American jobs, and that the US education system has been failing, says Shiflett. “On education he was passionate… and believed that the education of our youth was not treated with the deference it deserved.”

It wasn’t long after the book was released that Trump decided not to toss his hat in the ring. “He’d gotten his ideas out there. He was just grabbing a few headlines. Running for President is a huge thing… [You] have to spend a lot of money. Once you become a candidate, scrutiny cranks up. Who knows if Trump wants to undergo all that scrutiny or not?”

Ultimately, Shiflett says even he isn’t sure whether Trump really wants to go through with the entire process now.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he got to point where he said, ‘I’ve said what I’ve needed to say. I’ve brought up points that need to be brought up, and I’m going to get behind Cruz.’ He’s rolling now, he dominates the entire race. We are an entertainment crazy culture. If Trump dropped out it would be boring. Whether you agree with him or not, it would be boring; he’s taken things over.”

Why Trump is so loved, so popular, so high in the polls, and yet so vilified, has many explanations, Shiflett believes.

“The thing is, public speeches become so constricted. There was a time when you had to watch what you said about many things. Trump doesn’t have to watch whathe says because he’s figured out that a lot of professional politicians would like to say his words, but they can’t or won’t,” Shiflett explains.

“They’re conditioned not to say things that may offend. Trump realizes people are tired of that. He knows people are ticked off at the governing class. He’s not afraid to talk that way.”

The talk is one thing, but what about the walk? With regard to Trump’s policies and platforms, Shiflett says that most people aren’t completely familiar with the details. They’re enchanted, rather, with the bluntness and candidness – much the same way, but in a mirror form, people were enchanted with Obama’s oratory skills.

“I think most people don’t know what his economic ideas are; they don’t know what he thinks about healthcare, because he’s been all over. At one time he supported a single payer system, then not. He doesn’t have to be too specific because he’s just got the thematic thing going. People think he’s tough. People think he’s better in dealing with terrorists than anyone else. I don’t know why he would be really, but he’s got the people believing that, and that’s good for him.”

For Shiflett, terrorism might ultimately be the trump card for Trump.

“If there’s another terrorist attack, he might be taken into the White House by acclamation,” Shiflett says.

“People are scared about terrorism and Trump seems to be tougher on that [than the other candidates]. If elected, I don’t know how he would be tougher than anyone else. Legend has it that he’s a tough guy, and stared down concrete contractors. But he’s never stared down Vladimir Putin, a guy who has his enemies actually disappear.”

The Islamist-inspired attack in San Bernardino, where
14 people were murdered and 22 others were injured by two people with semi-automatics, reminded Americans of the dire threat of homeland terrorism.

“That’s all it takes to captivate everybody’s attention, the idea that Obama hasn’t been tough enough,” says Shiflett.

“Trump stepped right into that, and came out with his (anti-Muslim) immigration ideas. And people just kind of said, ‘Hey, this is the guy who should be doing that.’ If there’s another attack or two, it makes it better for him, I hate to say it. He’s perceived to be stronger.”

Donald Trump
and the Jewish Question

Unlikeany of the other candidates – whether Republican or Democrat – it appears as though Trump comes out on top in terms of Jewish connections, unwavering support for Israel, and puts his money where his mouth is.

Trump’s executive vice president is a Jewish lawyer, Michael Cohen, who also serves as a top campaign aide.

 Meanwhile, closer to home, daughter Ivanka Trump  converted to Orthodox Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner, son of New York Jewish real estate mogul
Charles Kushner. 

Last February, Trump was honored  at a gala run by Algemeiner, a Jewish news organization, where Ivanka introduced her father. “He has used his voice often and loudly in support of Israel, in support of developments within Israel, in support of security for Israel and in support of the idea of the Israeli democracy.” It was at that even that Trump himself said, “We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100 percent, 1,000 percent. It will be there forever.”

Trump recorded a video message endorsing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2013 elections saying, “You truly have a great Prime Minister in Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s a winner. He’s highly respected. He’s highly thought of by all… Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.”

He wasn’t shy to criticize President Obama’s treatment of Israel either, telling radio host Michael Savage that, “This is the worst enemy of Israel.”

According to Haaretz(Nov. 3, 2014), in a Fox News interview, Donald Trump criticized the White House’s treatment of Israel, saying, “There has never been a greater enemy to Israel than Barack Obama… I think he treats our known enemies much better… Look, they don’t like him [Netanyahu] and they don’t like Israel.” Furthermore, Trump said, Obama is, “the worst thing that has ever happened to Israel… Now what’s going to happen, is, the way it’s going, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and it’s very close.”

Putting his money where his mouth is, Trump had at one time scooped up Israeli realestate, purchasing land in Ramat Gan, but later selling it.

Interestingly, what might come to be expected is a shoot-from-the-hip
remark that ended up rubbing people the wrong way. At last fall’s Republican Jewish Committee’s presidential forum, where all candidates spoke, reports say that Trump commented that he didn’t want “your Jewish money” – which was met with a chorus of boos. It was later interpreted by some as not so much a slight, but rather a way to indicate that he is underwriting his own campaign, and doesn’t desire having his hand out for financial support.

Whether Trump wins or loses the nomination or the election, what he has demonstrated is that many Americans have become tired of the same old political canned lines, the diplomatic doubletalk, and the neat, meticulously crafted packages. Trump won’t be boxed in; his unpredictability excites supporters, and garners him limitless media attention. He speaks his mind, scriptless, from the podium.

Is he a showman, a television star through and through, or merely a big personality with a mouth to match? What’s for certain is that a large percentage of Republicans have thrown their support behind him, perhaps because of the bombast, but also, they believe, because he has the courage to speak the raw, distilled – sometimes painful – truths about what needs to be fixed in America.