Trump’s Petard

I have long been a stalwart supporter, surrogate, and ally of President Trump. I was to be his ambassador to the European Union before that globalist bureaucracy shot down my nomination and made me the only American ever to be designated persona non grata by that body. I take it as one of my greatest achievements, far above any earned degrees or honorary awards.

In 2015, early on, I supported Trump and called him a new T.R. in Forbes. Trump loved it, appreciated my allegiance, and sought out my advice. I believe he still takes it, as I have been called out by him repeatedly on Truth Social.

I still believe Donald Trump is perhaps best viewed as a 21st century Theodore Roosevelt.

The two leaders have much in common—from style and swagger to substance and outlook. The last century would not have bent along the American arc were it not for our unexpected president and this century would not go our way without the likes of a Trump. There would have been no Panama Canal, no national parks, and no trust busting without Roosevelt. There would be no changes in Washington, Beijing, or NATO without the likes of a populist Trump. He is anti-establishment and doesn’t mind a fight.

On a hot summer August day, at the beginning of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt gave his famous “New Nationalism” speech in Kansas. He sounded much like the enthusiastic and charismatic candidate Trump sounded in 2016.

The speech centered on the uplift of humanity and our country, “this great republic,” and its ultimate triumph. Such bold rhetoric was not thought audacious then, but rather inspiring. Trump’s claim, that he wanted “to make America great again,” was nothing less.

The Value of Capital and Labor

For Roosevelt, the history of America had become the central feature in world history. “Each of us stand erect,” he said, “and should be proud that we belong, not to a dozen little squabbling contemptible commonwealths, but to the mightiest nation upon which the sun shines.” He decried all factionalism and division. Trump is doing very much the same thing, calling all Americans—regardless of their station in life—to greatness. It is the combination of all our individual talents that makes this country great.

Echoing Abraham Lincoln, Roosevelt talked at length about the value of capital and of labor. His words included “wise kindness and charity”—but not “to weaken our arm or numb our hearts.” Trump has said similar things in the language of our own times. He is a democratic capitalist who wants every American to benefit from the nation’s riches. Like Roosevelt, he extols the strenuous life, a work ethic, and the virtues of freedom and spiritual capital. 

Restoring America’s main objectives in human betterment, measured in equality of opportunity, Roosevelt wanted America to strive again—to find its full glory. Trump realized what we had lost in Obamanation and called it the abomination that it always was. The country wants to find its rightful place again and this is why Trump resonated, not just with Republicans but also with Reagan Democrats and even the trade unions. He resonated with every aspiring soul who wants the freedom to be what America always was—a beacon of hope and a land of opportunity. 

A Strong Policy of American Nationalism 

Based on a fair chance “to make of himself all that in him lies,” Roosevelt’s urge was one drawing out the true capacity of both persons and the nation they called home. It was one that included a clause that every citizen should offer the commonwealth their highest service. Trump knows this from his own successful business career and all his commercial dealings and globetrotting. He also realized that we have to stand up to our adversaries and contain the new evils that abound and threaten our very way of life.

Such a “square deal” freed all persons from “sinister influence or control of special interests.” Calling for corporate responsibility, Roosevelt put forth a strong, effective policy of American nationalism. He said, “No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned.” He wanted a sound financial system and an efficient army and navy, large enough to ensure our security and guarantee the peace. Trump was saying the same thing. He also acted on it.

Another Kind of Conservation

Roosevelt sought a form of “conservation” in the original meaning of the term—for both natural resources and the country’s moral foundations. Trump desired nothing less than to make America similarly strong again in word and deed. He too is a conservationist. He would confront our enemies and in the “art of the deal” reform trade and investment to favor America. He would no longer outsource our foreign policy to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nor would he outsource our manufacturing to China.

This spirit of “broad and far-reaching” nationalism meant for Roosevelt that we “work for our people as a whole.” Defending property as well as human welfare, Roosevelt sought material progress, technological advancement, and a nation of prosperity. All these lead to “the moral and national welfare of all good citizens.” He saw America’s place as leader of the 20th century. He witnessed no class divide. Neither did he parse citizens by gender, race or national origin. For him, there were no hyphenated Americans. The same rhetoric appeared in the words of Trump in his debates and on the campaign trail. He could unite America like no other candidate because, while an outsider politically, he was a truly national candidate who actually believed in America. His legal form of immigration would find support from Roosevelt. So too, would his defense of our borders—the very borders Roosevelt fought for in the first place. 

Good Government is Rooted in Good Citizenship 

When Roosevelt spoke, he stressed “good character”—character that makes a good person: a good spouse, a good worker, and a good neighbor. And he ended his speech with a clarion call (as was his entire two term presidency) for good government rooted in good citizenship. Trump would do precisely the same. He would clean house, get rid of overregulation, and fix both the tax code and the spirit of America. He would carry a big stick and he would make Congress work for the people, not special interests. He would end cronyism, as did Roosevelt first in the New York State assembly, and then in the civil service.

Trump was indeed a newer Roosevelt. For America to survive and flourish we needed his action and determination, his enthusiasm and will to succeed. His presidency before the Wuhan flu hit was running on all cylinders and Trump should have won easy reelection. There would have been no socialism in America. No Biden.

Then and Now

That was then and this is now. Trump, even with all his warts and imperfections, achieved much of what he set out to do. The results, by any measure, were truly outstanding and unprecedented. The nuisance of his tweets and name-calling, some humorous, others nasty and unnecessary, was overridden by the outcomes delivered. He was a doer.

Of course, in his first term of office Trump also made some serious errors.

One was being overly egotistical in his attempts to be heroic. He made everything about himself and gave little or no credit to those around him. The other misstep was bad personnel. The original sin of the Trump Administration was not just that it did not know how to govern, but that it often caved to the D.C. elites they were supposed to throttle back. They did not have the right people for all the positions they needed to fill and chose more than a few inept actors. Trump fell prey to his poor choices, the constant turnover, and the failure to rein in RINO incumbents—particularly the party leaders who were never really on his side.

Fact is, many in Trump’s administration and among his associates were secretly NeverTrumpers or agents of the Left. In the end, and after two impeachment attempts, the incredible Russia hoax, constant detraction, and media malpractice, some turned on him after the 2020 rigged voting debacle and ominous January 6 protest. His own vice president earned the nickname “Judas Pence.”

As the center of all attention and the dominant Republican figure, Trump was too focused on the rear view mirror and he held grudges. He picked some good and some weak candidate choices in the midterms but failed to adequately back them, and more critically, fully fund them. He mocked younger successful emerging upstarts, like Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin and accepted no responsibility for Republican losses in an election they should have won in a huge red wave.

Now an angry Trump finds himself in a quandary. Run again and lose? Step away and be a kingmaker? Pass the baton on to the next runner in our long marathon of American history? We all know, Trump is not a good listener. He doesn’t take advice well. He always thinks he knows best, so this decision will be his alone. His declaration that he will run is quite problematic and he is likely in a Sisyphean battle.

As a solid backer and defender, a general in the MAGA army, as Steve Bannon referred to me, I pray for Trump and our country. We need a winning strategy and political leaders who can bring it, like Roosevelt, to fruition. Yet recall, even T.R. was pushed aside in his comeback as a Bull Moose. As I said when endorsing Trump originally, there are two vices that could impair Trump. They were and remain, humility and hubris. Vain Trump clearly does not favor humility and cannot stoop to find it. He excels at hubris on the other hand, and it is now the self-inflicted petard on which he may fall.

To be “hoist by one’s own petard” is to have your plot against someone backfire on yourself. The term derives from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Hamlet turns the tables on his assassination plotters, saying, “For ’tis sport to have the engineer / Hoist by his own petard . . .”

Tragically, Trump has no one to blame for his demise but himself.

He’s been in worse spots and 197 of his endorsed candidates got through, which is a serious reload of his political capital, whatever the Murdoch/Bezos papers are saying. 

The next election is of course years away and the primary remains extant. A week is an aeon in politics and although many of us are flapping in the wind, I see this as just another slump on the way to a conservative victory. The Democrats probably stole Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Arizona again, in all three cases with awful candidates. The silver lining is McConnell remains outside of real power, which, in relative terms, is a real gain for Trump. In my view, he has not done nearly enough to remove McConnell for good.

In any case, his election is the presidential, and no other candidate can claim to have won that one before. The sound and fury around Ron DeSantis forgets the other 35 Republican governors, some backed by populations and interest groups far more powerful than anyone to whom DeSantis has access. Think of the fundraising muscle behind the Texas oilmen backing Greg Abbott, or the establishment honchos behind Youngkin, the fracking barons behind Kristi Noem, or the still considerable MAGA posse behind Kari Lake. We are teeming with Republican governors, and there’s no good reason to think any of them will just clear the field for anyone else, even Trump. 

Trump will be Trump. The question is will he impale himself and go down as a winner or a loser? Is his story a tragedy, a comedy, or a republican tale for the ages?

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About Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, scholar-diplomat-strategist, is CEO of the thought leadership firm The Roosevelt Group. He is the author of 18 books, including The Plot to Destroy Trump and, with Felipe J. Cuello, Trump's World: GEO DEUS. He appears regularly in the media, as a keynote speaker, and on television around the world. 

Photo: ALON SKUY/AFP via Getty Images