It was June 2013.
Learning that a piece titled “Can’t We All Just Agree to Ignore Donald Trump?” had been published, I responded with an article titled,
Never Ignore Donald Trump
After making the case for then-private citizen Trump as a presidential candidate three years hence, I said this, bold print now supplied for emphasis:
The real point is that Donald Trump is a man who gets up every single day and fights. He creates. He goes about his life each and every day and routinely makes contributions to American life. Some of those contributions are well known, huge and visible; countless others, one bets, are small, unknown and invisible. And in the case of his famous television show, he is more than capable of entertaining along the way. Donald Trump is no apprentice — he’s the real thing.
In this corner — and I suspect many, many corners — he is both respected and admired for what he does. Even if you don’t like Donald Trump, and I am most certainly not in that category, it is a huge mistake to ignore him. He made of his life a great and interesting — and very American — story.
We use to have a saying in the Reagan White House: Let Reagan be Reagan.
Donald Trump, like Ronald Reagan, is an American Original. Let Donald Trump be Donald Trump.
Seven years later, as now-President Trump runs for reelection, constantly assailed by bad polls and supposed “Republicans” who, as was true in Reagan days, cannot abide a president from outside the GOP Establishment?
Nothing has changed. As in 2016, one poll after another insists Trump can’t win. One GOP Establishment type after another is out there disparaging him, some under the cloak of anonymity, others out front. (In the latter case is the so-called “Lincoln Project,” which is composed of GOP Establishment types who, in the unsurprising irony of the moment, cannot even bring themselves to defend the Republican president in whose name they purport to act. A more accurate name for this group would be the GOP Establishment Fraud Project.)
The answer to all this political garbage foaming up from the political sewers is the same now as it was in 2013: Let Trump Be Trump.
For those who came in late, here’s some Reagan-era perspective. Back in late 1982, after Republicans had suffered a serious defeat in that year’s congressional elections, longtime Reagan-covering reporter Lou Cannon (later of the Washington Post) wrote one of his early books on his subject, titled simply, Reagan.
Here are some excerpts from the book’s epilogue. It begins by discussing “opposition from Republican congressional leaders” to his “Reaganomics” proposal of free-market, supply-side economics. Reagan replied of the GOP opposition: “I don’t think they fully understand yet.” Cannon then went on as follows:
By early spring of 1982, Republican congressmen and Reagan’s closest advisers came to believe that it was the President himself who did not understand. As economic recovery failed to meet his rosy predictions and discontent grew over administration foreign and defense policies, Reagan became noticeably more stubborn and isolated. His optimism rescued him from the bitterness which had afflicted several of his predecessors, and he remained gently tolerant of staff members who made no secret that they hoped Reagan would modify his policies. But he did not follow their advice.…
What worried Reagan’s advisers was that his growing rigidity would make him appear so unreasonable that it would undermine his opportunities for leadership and give him less, not more time, in which to carry out his policies.… When I asked the adviser if Reagan realized this, he sadly shook his head.…
Distanced from many of the controversies which engulfed his administration, Reagan kept his own counsel and followed his own timing.…
Reagan was, for all his optimism, running out of time. His reach had exceeded his grasp. His knowledge had proved unequal to his courage. Age and events had dimmed a sense of leadership that was among the best of modern Presidents. By 1982, it was an axiom in the White House that Reagan, like so many of his modern predecessors, would be a one-term President.
I believe that Reagan will not run again….
In other words? As with President Trump today, President Reagan was pictured at the end of 1982 as being unreasonable, isolated, stubborn, and out of touch.
Which is to say, Reagan saw things quite differently than some of the timid “advisers” that were in his White House, not to mention others in the timid precincts of the Republican congressional leadership and the Republican Establishment.
It was out of this kind of sentiment that conservatives on the White House staff began pushing back by saying, “Let Reagan be Reagan.”
Which was not only a political pushback but was in fact a recognition of the obvious — to conservatives — fact that Reagan’s political genius was his own, and indeed far better and more astute than that of those who sniped at him from inside and outside his own White House.
Two years after this Reagan book was written, President Reagan won reelection in a 49-state landslide.
Which brings us back to President Trump.
As this is written the Trump White House is awash in almost the identical kind of political nonsense that engulfed the Reagan White House. The mantra is the same: The polls are a disaster, the president doesn’t get it, he needs to change course, he may withdraw and not run again, he’s going to lose in a landslide.
To wax Seinfeldesque? Yada, yada, yada.
My belief in the 1980s Reagan era was, Let Reagan be Reagan.
And looking back now, that is exactly what Americans loved about him.
And all these years later, as I suggested in 2013 when the political savants of the day said the very idea of a Trump candidacy was absurd?
Let Trump be Trump.
That is precisely why millions of Americans voted for him in the first place. And will again.
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