Back in December of 2015, Dan McLaughlin wrote an excellent piece in The Federalist on the then-upcoming Republican primary race. It offers quite the window into the political decision making of Donald J. Trump. In it he accurately outlines Trump as the candidate employing the Observe, Orient, Decide, and then Act principles (the OODA Loop) of famed American fighter pilot and strategist John Boyd.
Unfortunately for McLaughlin, at the time of that writing he, like many, rather spectacularly misunderstood who Donald Trump is in actual fact. His entire piece examines as real the strategically erratic character Trump has clearly created for social, business and media consumption purposes.
Donald Trump is nothing if not crazy like a fox—as unpredictable as Sun Tzu, and as fearsome like a boss.
Some have argued that President Trump’s recent State of the Union speech was designed primarily to troll Democrats. I disagree. The trolling effect (e.g., a steady stream of bad optics televised in prime time—and subsequently easily turned around into an RNC ad—showing Democrats behaving disrespectfully, rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, groaning, looking down at their cell phones, and even walking out in a huff) is real, but was a fully expected side-benefit of the address. No, the President is on something of a John Boyd “Destruction and Creation” mission.
Operating like a general giving the command for his massive political army to advance on the adversary, the State of the Union speech was the best political oration of my lifetime. I’ll try to quickly detail why by quoting a personal favorite, Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club. In a piece he wrote in December 2016, just prior to Trump’s inauguration as our 45th President and in the context of Trump’s signaling with respect to what should be our posture with China, Fernandez wrote that:
The Democratic Party should stop underestimating Donald Trump. The good news is that he moves at nongovernment speed. The bad news is that, due to his outsider status, nobody knows exactly where he is going.
Fernandez, like McLaughlin the year before, was noting the uptempo speed of Trump. McLaughlin’s discussion of Trump’s use of the OODA Loop, correctly noted that speed lies at the core of Boyd’s theory of conflict, and has been the most influential element of Boyd’s strategic thinking. Further, “Boyd’s core insight was about the interactive and disruptive nature of speed on human decision-making: success in conflict can be rapid and dramatic if one can ‘operate inside the OODA Loop’ of the opponent.”
When you begin to understand this, you’re well on your way to understanding our 45th president.
Take another look at the dizzying array of tweets the President has expertly confused his opposition with, whether Republican, Democrat, foreign or domestic. In a world where manufactured perception often becomes subjective reality (look no further than what the Clinton/Obama cabal have done with the Trump-Russia nonsense), it pays to know your adversary. It pays to be able to state their case before they do, to be able to hit their highlights better than they do, and to be able to sum up their emotional preferences more exquisitely than they do.
This highlights a prominent example where Trump has strategically turned a loud criticism (he’s not really a Republican; he’s really a Democrat, etc.) into an incredible political advantage. Look no further than some of the points made in his State of the Union speech:
- He led with positive economic news and a rundown of companies investing in the United States or awarding their employees raises or bonuses;
- He noted declining minority unemployment numbers;
- He announced his $1.5 trillion infrastructure package;
- He spoke favorably of a paid family leave program;
- He reminded politicians and citizens alike that Americans are dreamers, too;
- He praised and contrasted a particularly patriotic kid with the weirdly bitching and moaning Black Lives Matter millionaires of the NFL;
- He highlighted the scourge that is the illegal immigrant gang, MS-13, while prominently acknowledging haunting, memorable, and heartbreaking trials and tribulations made extremely personal by a range of attendees who suffered great loss.
The emotional overlay expertly delivered in this fashion is usually the province of Democrats. It is clear proof for me that he’s ensconced himself inside the OODA Loop of Democrats and he has done so via utilization of Retail Politics 101—something conventional Republicans have seemingly, inexplicably, and to their lasting disservice never mastered.
A further problem for the political party of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson—a problem especially pronounced at the historically important but currently awkward Jefferson-Jackson fundraising events they’ve been so proud of hosting over the years—is their terminal self-loathing and America-hating revisionism that has alienated average Americans all across the land.
This is a gift to President Trump that keeps giving and giving and giving. A political party that has forgotten rule number one of American politics (never disrespect average Americans) deserves to die. But to kill off a prominent but staggering legacy, one needs either to be or to become an apex predator.
The so-called Orange Ogre is proving to be quite the apex predator.
In fact, Don Surber, was moved to write, “That was no State of the Union address tonight. That was the death of Democratic Party.”
A businessman with the social skillset of an apex predator occupying the most powerful position on Earth, suddenly turned loose on a political world that still can’t comprehend what the heck has hit them? That, my friends, is a Chief Executive of the United State like none before him.
Because of their slavish predictability, on glaring display during the State of the Union, just think what the Trump Administration will be able to do to Democrats with a robust infrastructure plan that leverages federal funding with creative incentives for partnership with state and local governments along with private enterprise. There will be serious grumbling about the infrastructure plan for sure (toll roads and other pay as you utilize them components will be featured prominently) but this is likely the kill shot for the historic Democrat Party and the political act that cements a governing Republican majority for decades. This sort of political genius has been lost on the clean toga crowd of establishment Grand Old Party thinkers and is, regrettably, on full display this week via David Harsanyi over at The Federalist.
The observe, orient, decide, then act strategic cycle arises from the quintessentially American spirit of playing to win that Donald Trump embodies and for which he has endured pathetic mockery from the so-called “conservative” NeverTrump crowd (winning, it seems, terrifies them). It is a competitive spirit that pays homage to our individual survival down through the ages as a species and to our collective prominence as a nation. Donald Trump not only understands this heritage, he intuitively comprehends it in ways Barack Obama never could. He knows this spirit provides the very foundation sustaining our strengths socially, politically, historically, culturally, commercially and militarily. Further, he does not dare apologize for them.
In a week where Elon Musk has parlayed a public-private partnership and truly thrilled many, the promise of America continues to shine brightly. Donald Trump as the OODA Loop President may (I repeat, may) be the first President to fully comprehend how all of the various component strengths we’ve been blessed with unapologetically work together to highlight what makes this nation so great, and so attractive to so many around the world.