Last night, I had the pleasure of appearing on Lou Dobbs' Fox Business program to discuss the 2016 election. We ended up talking exclusively about Donald Trump, which is par for the course these days: Trump is dominating political news coverage, with the major networks devoting well over double the airtime to the opportunistic billionaire in recent weeks than to all other Republican candidates combined. At issue were Trump's remarks on Fox & Friends calling for tax increases on 'hedge fund managers,' echoing a populist line of attack routinely employed by President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Occupy Wall Street, and other progressives. In an interview with Fox & Friends, Trump seemed support the idea of a flat tax, then endorsed a system under which the rich pay more within the span of one minute. Lou Dobbs asked me and National Review's Jillian Kay Melchior about Trump's comments -- touching off a spirited, if occasionally disjointed, exchange:
Melchior rightly pointed out that Trump's issue positions often seem fluid and inscrutable, suggesting that perhaps voters deserve more policy details on his actual ideas. Trump's campaign website features a "positions" page that includes…one issue statement, on immigration. Dobbs dismissed this point, wondering if other candidates are offering more details. Many are. See, for instance, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson's websites. I rejected Trump's soak-the-hedge-funders stance, arguing that conservatives shouldn't want to raise taxes on anyone, especially for the explicit purpose of redistribution to other income groups. More governmental confiscation of private wealth -- even targeting easy populist bogeymen -- isn't a conservative goal. If I'd had a bit more time, I'd have added that I support flattening and simplifying our entire tax code. Such an overhaul would reduce and eliminate loopholes and deductions that currently benefit quite a few people, including hedge fund managers; the trade-off would be lower rates across the board and a less-convoluted, pro-growth system. Mr. Trump has also called for flattening and simplification, but again: He's said a lot of things, even within the context of a single interview. It would be nice to see his actual plan. Conservatives ought to prefer that it not increaseany Americans' tax burdens. Dobbs conflated my disdain for Elizabeth Warren-style class warfare populism with not caring about people, which obviously is not what conservatives believe. We believe that pitting income groups against each other for political gain, and to justify tax increases, doesn't help the economy. Incidentally, my point about the ideological crossover between Donald Trump and self-described Socialist Bernie Sanders . Arguably, Sanders has a longer and more consistent pro-gun record than Trump does.
On the topic of The Donald's bombastic personality and penchant for publicity, Dobbs asked if I'd prefer a duller candidate. I said I'd prefer a more more serious candidate with a presidential temperament, to which Dobbs retorted that liberals made similar arguments against Ronald Reagan. But Reagan was the successful two-term governor of America's most populous state by the time he ran for president, and he was not known for trolling his critics with playground insults. Even during the dreary Carter malaise, he refrained from saying things like "the American dream is dead," or referring to the United States as a "hellhole." He was an eternally sunny optimist whose positivity was infectious. His attitude and disposition differed massively from Trump's. Despite his position atop the GOP polls at the moment, Trump is viewed unfavorably by majorities of swing state general election voters, and I'm not alone in my 'presidential temperament' concerns:
I'll leave you with Trump retweeting a personal insult about a cable news host who challenged him about his history of making, er, demeaning comments about women:
Donald Trump owns some of the priciest real estate in all of Manhattan, yet @megynkelly is living rent-free in his head.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 25, 2015