The Trump Message and Messenger

Every president has both a personality and an agenda. Sometimes they work in tandem, sometimes they don’t.

Bill Clinton’s charm enhanced his platform—until his sexual appetites nearly wrecked it. Barack Obama was both charismatic and snarky, sometimes turning off and sometimes wooing his opponents. Richard Nixon’s neuroses finally empowered his enemies and ruined his foreign policy initiatives. Ronald Reagan’s upbeat persona helped convince the public to “stay the course” with his bitter anti-inflationary medicine.

The outsider Donald Trump faces the same dilemma but in a fashion rarely seen before. For now there are two manifestations of Trump. First is Trump’s message: that of the populist counterrevolutionary determined to recalibrate the last half-century of liberal and therapeutic government and its affiliated culture. Second is Trump the messenger: the ex-reality TV star who tweets nonstop in the early morning hours often to the outrage of his enemies, to the delight of his supporters, and to the embarrassment of the undecided.

The media focus on Trump the messenger, either because they are not interested in his message or because they see the personal destruction of Trump as essential to the implosion of his agenda.

As a  result, we know all about Trump’s alleged intrigue with Russia, his defense of his daughter’s businesses, his attacks on movie stars and celebrities, his 4 a.m. tweets and loud accusations, but very little about what is otherwise going on policy-wise.

Even as Trump tweets, quietly he is also attempting—both through executive orders and anticipated congressional action—landmark deregulation, tax reform, and health care reformulations. If successful, he will remake the economy, tilt the Supreme Court rightward, and prune the deep state. He has greenlighted energy production, including coal, natural gas, and oil, whose consequence could prove an increasing bonanza for the United States and its allies.

His cabinet contradicts conventional opinion; Trump has brought in experts and reformers from the private sector and the military to reformulate education, environmental, energy, immigration, defense spending, and fiscal policy. Academics, think-tankers, and career bureaucrats in most cases have been passed over.

Trump may well remake the Republican Party, by bringing in many millions of the working class, at the expense of alienating hundreds of thousands of conservative elites.

The supposedly vindictive Trump is proving unusually magnanimous for a politician, welcoming in former rivals and critics including Rick Perry, Ben Carson, and Jon Huntsman. His foreign policy team of Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and H.R. McMaster is non-ideological and centrist, wedded largely to the successful traditions of bipartisan postwar policies, albeit with a realist rather than neoconservative bent.

The stock market and employers, even if prematurely so, apparently have reacted to both Trump’s reformist rhetoric, and his executive orders, as stocks soar and job growth improves. For all the talk of Trump’s impulsiveness and unsteady leadership, allies are not in fear as the media alleges.

Privately, friends in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are less worried than they were a year ago about the assurance of the American defense umbrella. Europe’s voters are moving more toward Trumpism than Obamism. It is likely that Israel and the Gulf States are more confident—and Iran more worried. China and Russia are more likely to assume the United States will be unpredictable rather than characteristically compliant as it has been over the past eight years. And that it is largely a good thing in a dangerous world.

The point is not that after two months Trump has achieved radical reform or has won over skeptics, only that he embraced a conservative correction of progressivism beyond what most past Republican presidents have envisioned or what congressional conservatives believed was possible after 2008. Because he has rhetorical gifts and personal charm, Trump could prove to be a dynamic president if his own excesses do not eventually empower his enemies.

For all of Trump’s blasts, so far he has survived the press assaults and faux-scandals. We have reached a point of progressive exasperation in which New York Times columnists compare him to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor or have asked the IRS (apparently on the theory that the agency was long ago prone to political corruption in the Obama era of Lois Lerner) to commit a felony by leaking Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The Trump-Russia story has largely boomeranged: intelligence organizations’ overreach and illegal leaks did not result in proof of Trump’s illegal behavior. But such media disclosures did reopen inquiries into the felonious behavior of government bureaucracies and the press. Note how each day the media will incrementally back out of their own self-created cul-de-sac. Watch how the paradox unfolds as it becomes clear that Trump is channeling their own prior disclosures and admitted leaks to prove their original point that he was tapped, thereby confirming his own point that nothing came of these “investigations” except proof of bureaucratic illegality.

In trying to destroy Trump rhetorically, the media has instead committed veritable suicide, and it will never restore the patina that it is fair, disinterested and competent. The tumor of Obama-era obsequiousness has terminally metastasized into Trump Derangement Syndrome.

So far everything his critics have thrown at him has bounced off: the boilerplate accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, nativism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, America-Firstism, fascism, Nazism, Hitlerism, and garden-variety authoritarianism. These –isms and –phobias eventually and cumulatively may bleed him from a thousand nicks, but so far the currency of hysteria is not worth much.

Prominent opinion makers, columnists, and reporters have variously called for the president’s murder, his impeachment, his resignation, and his removal for psychological infirmity. He has been formally accused in mainstream media of suffering from neurosyphilis, sexual depravity, and urophilia with Russian prostitutes. It would take a Havelock Ellis to explain the media’s smears to the public.

Trump’s wife, Melania, was libeled in the media with everything from immigration fraud to prostitution; his daughter Ivanka has been physically confronted on planes, had her businesses boycotted, and derided as either dishonest or dumb or both. Most of the NeverTrump conservatives have doubled-down; they seem angrier than ever that Trump is pursuing and thus polluting most of their own agendas, as if his personal failure would be more redeeming to their careers and sense of selves than would his policy successes.

Yet so far in a Nietzschean sense all that has not destroyed him seems to have made him stronger.

So we are in a three-way race for the life of the Trump presidency. Will his policies take effect in time to achieve enough prosperity and security to render his opponents irrelevant? Will the media hysteria boomerang and thus discredit his unhinged critics before they wound Trump? And will Trump’s personal magnetism and persuasiveness trump his own nocturnal propensity to lash out and undermine his own agenda?

For now, only one thing remains certain: the candidate whom the Republican establishment most disliked has the greatest potential in a generation to stop the progressive project and enact the agendas that the Republican establishment most wants. And that paradox has become a source of both great wonderment—and fear.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen.

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87 responses to “The Trump Message and Messenger”

  1. Trump’s adversaries — it would be too generous to call most of them “critics” — launch personal attacks because they can’t win on the merits.

    They know that at least half of Americans support Trump’s policies, and probably many more if not for the news media’s 24/7 “all Hitler, all the time” propaganda. They know that their own policies of national self-destruction, civilizational suicide, and ethnic drowning cannot bear scrutiny by anyone to the right of Keith Ellison. So instead, they attack Trump, his associates, and their families, using any pretext, no matter how vicious or dishonest.

    • They also attack his supporters, the ones they need to get back in power. Go figure?

      • The Gruber Theory: Americans are too dumb to know when they’ve been had.

    • Like the lawyer who has neither the law or the facts on their side–the prog-left just pounds the table with character assassination ad hominem. Sad.

    • In any type of conflict you have to be able to name your enemy to defeat them. Our country lives or dies with adherence to the Constitution. Those that would change it with unlawful means are the enemy, its pretty simple. We have a party which in the last 8 years acted like a crime syndicate, scams in the hundreds, credit down grades, losses in foreign policy which effects our security and future ad infinitum. It was the disregard for our law that should sound the warning, just what law can’t they find a reason to disregard?

  2. Trump is looking to be a much better Pres. than I thought
    Otoh What is more dismaying, TDS on the left or the nevertrumper hysteria?

  3. This is a great article, with one exception.

    “For now, only one thing remains certain: the candidate whom the
    Republican establishment most disliked has the greatest potential in a
    generation to stop the progressive project and enact the agendas that
    the Republican establishment most wants. And that paradox has become a
    source of both great wonderment—and fear.”

    The GOPe do not want President Trump’s agenda to be enacted. They’re self-identified conservatives and running dog lackeys of the global plutocracy. They support open borders, cheap labor, bad trade deals, disastrous foreign policies, and the dissolution of America as a nation state.

    The anti-Trumpians want a do-over with Civil war 1.0, for the same reasons and with the same cast of characters. The GOPe are the Whigs of 1830-1860. Instead of a North/South demarcation, we have Red/Blue counties. In 1861, the North had some big advantages, but today the media poodles and administrative state give the anti-Trumpians the edge. President Trump’s advantages are his tremendous talent, intellect, experience, the administration he’s putting together, and the American people.

    In the 30 year run up to the first Civil war, there was a pretense of a two party system, the dems and whigs. In reality, it was an unibrow party and they opposed the party of Lincoln and tried to overturn the legal election. Today the unibrow party consists of the dems and GOPe, opposed to the party of Trump. The strategy of the insurgents is to Delay, Obstruct, and Sabotage. They want Trump’s agenda to fail and thereby peel off his supporters. If they prevail, they will try to impeach him before 2018 and failing that will run another GOPe candidate against him in 2020. Our Country hangs by a thread and the opposition will stop at nothing to bring our President down.

    • At the current pace he is almost guaranteed another term. The left is pushing more and more people to the right with their resistance to reality and the people on the right aren’t listening to the never Trumpers. We Deplorables just don’t take him literally like the uber left and right do. When he says he was wiretapped, we heard him say the Obama administration was listening illegally to his communications by whatever means. Wiretapping is just a phrase, not an actual wiretap. Of course the MSM and never Trump crowd takes him literally…. Big mistake!

      • Right! The word “hack” means a lot of different things to different people.
        Wiretapping is what is done to a land line phone.
        They know that, they know exactly what he meant, but chose to pick the wrong meaning.

      • And accordingly,
        in the interest of consistency,
        when Trump said he will “Make America Great Again”,
        we should resist, at all cost,
        replicating the continuous “Big Mistake”,
        committed by the “MSM”, ”
        The Never Trump Crowd”,
        and might I add,
        the 53.90 percent of the American electorate (who voted against our Leader),
        all those that mistakenly take him “literally”.

    • I mostly agree with your overall point but strongly disagree that the media gives the anti-Trump people an edge. I thought that before but I think we have reached a tipping point where media anger does more harm than good for Anti-Trumpers.

      • yep, very much agree, Trump is simply much smarter than the prostitute media simpletons/libs/lefties/”progressives”/Democrat fools

      • The Leftists and other anti’s have convinced themselves that he’s too evil to be smart, that they are so much more intelligent than he, and yet they find themselves led into his traps like so many rubes at a carny sideshow buying tickets to see the egress…

      • yes, well expressed, and they will pay

        we have to support each other, reinforce each other so that Trump knows that whatever his personal flaws are, he is indeed correcting many years of accumulated problems and we are with him on that

      • I wish I could agree with you. This is what worries me. The forces of darkness, the dems, GOPe, media poodles, the Deep state and their plutocratic masters believe the ends justify the means. If this were a fair fight our President would continue to run circles around the opposition. The reason they demonize and vilify President Trump is to justify their illegal acts.

    • So, when does the shooting start? The left is already rioting and beating in the streets in the best Nazi traditions.

      • The shooting started long ago. This is nothing new or unique to Trump or his critics; it has been going on for a long time, and is a real problem, mostly for the inner-city dwellers. Can Trump avoid or ameliorate the conflict without causing more problems for his administration? I sure hope so.

      • Just for starters, check out Chicago’s murder rate for this year; and compare it to last years record. That city has been in a shooting war for years.

    • Now that is an interesting analysis. It’s something to chew on.

    • The rift is more accurately a battle between the Judaeo-Christian remnant and the growing clique/claque of indifferent secularists, overt anti-Christians, pseudo-intellectual nihilists and self-worshiping “Hollywood clone” narcissists pretending to be “democrats”. Mr. Trump prescinds a
      New American Party, the extinction of the lying “democratic elites” with their MSM lackeys and RINO sycophants. What remains of the Buckley-Medvid Republican oligarchs is hard to say at this point; but the fate of the Weekly Standard’s previous editor (Krystal) is likely and condign.

      • Refer to the current mythology of the so-called Weapon of Indignation(causing an EMP that destroys the entire US power grid/complex~ The ultimate Darkness at Noon, per omnia USaecula saecularum. AMEN

  4. I, for one, am praying for President Trump’s success.

    • Many times Rush Limbaugh said he hoped obama would fail, whoever thought he would hit the nail on the head. Name the topic, nothing but failure. The only times obama seemed to be a winner was when he had photo-ops. And for what, to make HIM look good, not those behind. Yeah, that’s success in his mind.

    • Me too. If Israel is destroyed, it’s game over for the world, y’all. Mr. Trump’s early reach-out to Bibi was a very heartening sign. We elected the right guy.

      • All countries are going to be destroyed shortly by the creator this is all a facade and is in no way the real life that is to come.

    • So am I, as long as Trump governs as a conservative, although that will not prevent me from criticizing Trump when I think he is off on something, even though to a typical trumpies cultist that makes me a Soros plant.

  5. But through all the Sturm und Drang , take solace that Hillary Clinton will never be President.

  6. And everyone thought that the Communists were defeated, not so. Just because a ‘progressive’ calls himself anything, means nothing, they are what they are and would fit right in Dzerzhinsky Square or in Stasi.

  7. Professor Hanson: “For now, only one thing remains certain: the candidate whom the Republican establishment most disliked has the greatest potential in a generation to stop the progressive project and enact the agendas that the Republican establishment most wants.”

    Yet the NeverTrump Republicans hate him more than ever although he’s seemingly embracing their agenda. How could that be? Could it be that Angelo Codevilla is right, that the Republicans in Washington are just the right wing of the Ruling Class?

    They pay lip service to the conservative ideals of limited, Constitutionally constrained and fiscally responsible government just before elections, but the rest of the time they work shoulder to shoulder with the Democrats to grow the ever bigger, more powerful, more intrusive, more abusive, and more expensive Big Government that rewards them and their cronies so handsomely while punishing the rest of us with an overbearing regulatory and confiscatory state. They may say they want limited government but what they really want is to keep their gravy train running on time.

    • I think it’s much simpler than that, NeverTrumpism is simply snobbishness.

      The difference between a true NeverTrumper and a genuine conservative who had qualms about Trump but hasn’t succumbed to the hysteria can be seen in Ben Shapiro – formerly a NeverTrumper, he’s reconciled to Trump’s presidency and quite straightforward in criticizing Trump when he needs to be criticized, and praising him when he deserves praise.

      True NeverTrumpers will go to their grave thinking Trump just shouldn’t be in office because he’s too plebeian.

      • You’re right. But DJT is certainly not a plebian. He’s a billionaire real estate mogul who, for whatever reason, actually *likes* working people. The stories of DJT taking the time to talk to people who work for a living are quite numerous and long-standing. He’s a fascinating, very American character.

      • That’s why i cannot understand the people who say he only wanted to be president to enrich himself. He was already rich beyond anything that he could possibly spend. He did this because he actually does think the country is on the wrong track and thinks that he can fix it as he has always been a fixer.

        I think the people who say he wanted only to profit are projecting because that is what they view the white house as, a great way to increase your income without having to show actual accomplishments.

      • You are right – DJT does not need the POTUS job or any other job for that matter. He has been concerned about the direction of the country since the mid-1980’s when it was a topic of discussion on the Oprah Winfrey show. At that time, Oprah asked him to run, but he did not want to do so at that time. I believe that he has been toying with the idea since then and the MAGA theme evolved from his pondering the POTUS job. The damage done by the Obama administration was just too much and I believe that was the trigger for I’m to get into the race. I see him as an experienced Chief Executive who has inherited a very poorly running company and is in the process of making many, many changes that will bring this derelict company back to being a Wall Street star performer.

      • I dont think that was ever the real worry. The real worry was that Trump wanted Power and self glorification to go along with his wealth, and did not care what he had to do to get it. during the p;rimary Trump campaigned very dirty, a sleazy dishonest Alinski style personal destruction camapign that was at least as bad as what the dems tried to do to him in the general. Do that stuff to the dems, fine, because they would do the same to us, but he, adn even more so his online trumpies, should have shown a little more respect toward fellow repubs and conservatives, instead of acting like SJW fanatics and cultists online.

      • DJT learned the construction business from the ground up, literally. HIs father made him work with the tradesmen on the construction site to learn what it takes to build something.

      • Trump is not a plebian, no billionaire is, but he often talks like one, and pretends to be one, which made some people worry he thought like one. At a campaign rally, putting a message in simple terms is fine. But if you are discussing the fine points of some coming law, the discussion has to be at a level higher than a twitter quip, since the devil is in the details, and many worried that trump did not know nor care about those details. I still have that worry on health care, that Trump wants a bill, any bill, and is not paying enough attention to the detailed ans sound concerns of the freedom caucus.

      • I do not think he pretends to *be* a plebian, but there are many indications that he *likes* ‘plebians’. As for being detail-oriented, that’s not the CEO’s job. Details are for those hired to attend to such things and to bring the relevant details to The Boss for discussion and final adjudication where the best course is uncertain.

      • That’s right. In fact, NeverTrumpism is more against the supposed plebes who support him than Trump himself. How they got to be so hated is a bit of a puzzle to me. What happened, that the salt of the earth, who everybody used to know were essential to the running of things, even if their views were a bit Archie Bunker, are now supposed to just die? I can’t help wondering how this happened.

      • It is the GOPe who disdain the Kmart and Walmart shoppers except for their votes every 4 years when they insincerely dangle pro-life/anti-gay bait to lure them into the voting booth to pull the R lever. Note that although Trump is accused of being homophobic, the only thing I recall him saying about gender issues was that transgenders could pick their own bathroom at his hotels. Then the issue was largely dropped. It would be good for him to get Republicans away from phony social issues that are losers and on which they can’t/won’t deliver, once elected.

      • It isn’t ONLY the GOPe, I assure you. “Who hates the plebes more “could be an Olympic sport.

      • But the Dems don’t even pretend to care about the plebes anymore, in a dramatic role reversal with the Reps, compared to ~1968.

      • The worker is completely superfluous to modern communism (the Democratic party is just the communist party now). It really reveals how intellectually empty and morally corrupt communism is and always was.

      • Its not so much against ordinary man in the street trump supporters, but against some of the total fanatics and nutcases among some of the online trumpies, some of whom sound just as bad as SJW dems. Your very comment claiming that non trump conservatives want regular americans to die, and hate regular Americans, is an excellent example of the unhinged online trumpie comments I am talking about. You sound just as unhinged as some SJW leftie dem saying repubs and conservatives want ordinary people to die because we wont back Obamacare.

      • Sorry to pop your bubble, but that was something Kevin Williamson actually said in an article. And one of my liberal friends said just today. Among other things. Like, that Christians shouldn’t be allowed to run for office. But keep living in proggy dreamland, I know it’s working out really well for you.

      • Ben Shapiro was a ForTrumper before he was a NeverTrumper. In 2012 he wrote in Townhall that only Trump could save the Republican party and begged him to run.

        Amazing what being bought by the elite does to one’s values.

      • I prefer to think the better of Ben – I think he just fell for the hype that Trump would lose. Although come to think of it, that doesn’t speak very well of him either … :)

      • Or perhaps he had legit worries about some of what he saw Trump do in the primary, but to a true Trumpie cultist that is never any possibility for any conservative who expresses some reservation about Trump, they must have been bribed. You sound just as unhinged and cultist as an SJW dem would when taking about anybody who ever criticized Obama.

      • Good post. You convey a distinction on the conservative non trump side that too many trumpies cant grasp. Occasionally criticizing Trump because they think he is not conservative enough, or that his messaging is wrong or inconstent, is not the same as working for the victory of the left, or wanting any Trump conservative reforms to fail, but many trumpies cultists think it is.

    • “Could it be that the [RINOs] in Washington are just the right wing of the Ruling Class?”
      Thank you for reminding us of this unpleasant fact about the prostitution of politicians, Mr Swenson.

  8. Every time he survives another prediction of his demise, he grows stronger, reinforcing his supporters assessment of him as a master politician with a teflon coating like Ronald Reagan (also a celebrity star).

    Brilliant, brilliant man, Professor Hanson. Thanks, American Greatness.

    • Among the entire political media, Professor Hanson’s pieces are hands-down, and uniformly, the very best analyses available.

      • IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO? HANSON IS, REALLY, A POLITICAL GENIUS!!! NOTHING LESS!!! He is great, the best, analyst, and the best writer of his very clear analyses on top of that. We are blessed with his material, and the pathetic lib/lefty/”progressive”/Democrat fools have no one, NO ONE, of that caliber. Praise the Lord!

  10. I couldn’t stand Trump. I spoke out against him, criticized him, etc. But then he got elected, and guess what, he’s now our President. And so he deserves a certain level of support and respect. Respect for the office if not for the man, and support for our country. I want our country to be stronger and better, so of course I want Trump to succeed.

    And frankly, Trump has been a pleasant surprise to me. I wish the leftists would stop their hysterics and do something productive with their lives.

    • Thanks for that honest, insightful post. I hope the leftists take your sage advice.

  11. A disjointed and disorganized message delivered by a delusional old man.

    • “If you cannot answer another’s arguments, do not panic: You can always call them names.”
      – Oscar Wilde

    • A constipated credulousness of cockeyed craziness of the left.

    • Your use of alliteration does not impress, and neither do you. Victor Hanson is a superb writer with a superior intellect. The only one suffering from delusions is you.

    • But far better than dumb democrats destroying democracy and delivering darkness daily.

  12. “Will his policies take effect in time to achieve enough prosperity and security to render his opponents irrelevant?”

    If GDP goes over 3% by next summer, the GOP will cruise to 60 seats in the Senate. If it then stays there until the summer of 2020, Trump will cruise to reelection in 2020. That will translate into 2, perhaps 3 conservatives added to the Supreme Court by 2024. Understandably this prospect deranges dims. I can feel their pain, I can so feel their pain.

  13. The first President in my life time that does what he promised and he is doing them at warp speed! Unbelievable!

    No one in Wash. DC are used to a President that does not lie to get elected and actually does what he promised and willing to work hard to achieve his promises!

    Democrats are in a state of pure panic with their heads spinning and ready to explode!

    They are clueless of how to slow him down so they fail back on the racial left standby of name calling, protest and violence which further proves they are worthless, losers and scum. While Trumps support grows every day.

  14. Trumps strange concept that Government should work for the citizens that elected them is something that very few Politicians in either party have done or will agree with.

    For too many years the hard working, law abiding, citizens that paid the taxes, that fought the wars and built this Nation have been nothing but objects to make fun, scorn and abuse by the elites and their bought politicians, while robbing them and giving their hard dollars to citizens of other nations!

    The politicians thought citizens should be content with their food stamps and welfare while the politicians and elites outsourced their jobs and where that was not possible importing millions of uneducated welfare loving aliens to take the remaining jobs and make the citizens provide free medical, schooling and welfare for the invaders.

  15. The response to Trump shows how pathetic the coalition of losers has become. However the baked ,dumb hippies gave rise to the yuppies so there might be a little hope after all

  16. The media obsession to take down Trump at all costs has been humorous and finally revealed, and what a lot of people knew, that the media is not impartial. It has become so bad that Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone ( you know – a journal that knows a thing or two about putting out untruths and the repercussions ) has suggested that , get this, maybe we should not promise that facts will come out “later” that support all of our reporting. It you used to be “if your mother says she loves you , check it out” , now it is “if it fits the narrative , run with it, if not, bury it.” At least America got to see the excruciating pain that is watching the Rachel Maddow show. The overdrawn monologue, repetitious to the point of where it has become a drinking game, The facial expressions of a teenager trying to make a point. I almost felt bad for her it was so atrocious – yet she can go off to her all white community and cry all night.

  17. Wow . On Tucker Carlson our president admitted that he accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower because of an article he read in The New York Times and what he heard on Bretton Baer. You have to be freaking kidding. Way to go Trump voters .