Obama and Trump: Two of a Kind

Outwardly they couldn’t be more different. But take a closer look.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Trump was blasted for editorializing on the tragedy of Kate Steinle’s murder at the hands of a seven-time felon and five-time-deported illegal alien. But that habit of seeking political resonance in individual tragedies bears the Obama imprimatur. Although the Steinle tragedy did not offer Obama the correct political calculus, he has sought to channel Ferguson, Baltimore, and mass school shootings as fuel for his own political agenda. So far Trump has not quite descended to the level of the president’s use of a racial affinity with Trayvon Martin, although his quip about prisoners of war like John McCain being less than heroic comes close.

More importantly, like Trump, Obama does not worry over inconsistency or bombast, and has no hesitation about insisting on things that not only are not, but perhaps could not be, true. Obamacare would, Obama assured the nation, lower premiums and deductibles, reduce the deficit, and allow Americans to keep their current doctors and plans, but in fact it did no such things. Obama repeatedly warned his supporters that our immigration law was unquestioned settled law, duly enacted by Congress, and that no president could unilaterally override it — a strange Freudian foretelling of exactly what the president would soon do. Reset with Russia was the proper corrective to George W. Bush’s alienation of Vladimir Putin — only it was not, and instead ensured new levels of Russian–American alienation. The post-Saddam Iraq was a great achievement; the country was now secure and self-reliant enough for American troops to leave — and then it just wasn’t, after we skedaddled. How exactly did the “jayvee” ISIS team punch above its weight as the varsity? “Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.” That was six years ago, and Guantanamo is still in business.

Talks with Iran were originally supposed to have been predicated on anywhere, anytime inspections, no enrichment within Iran, real-time snap-back sanctions, and tough protocols about weapon purchases and subsidies for terrorists — until they really were not. Red lines were game changers, only they weren’t — and they weren’t even Obama’s own red lines, but the U.N.’s. Chlorine gas did not count as a WMD: it wasn’t really a weaponized chemical agent at all. Trump’s inconsistencies and contradictions so far are no more dramatic.

Trump understandably envisions world leaders and foreign policy itself as World Presidents’ Organization meetings of business pros like himself, who horse-trade to win their own constituents the better deal. Wheeler-dealers like Trump, we are to believe, are thus the most successful occupants of the Oval Office, especially when energized by savvy and innate charisma. The problem supposedly with our foreign policy is that bureaucrats and diplomats were never negotiators and dealers, and so got taken to the cleaners by far more clever and conniving foreign operators.


But again, is Obama so different a spirit? He feels that his own winning charm and community-organizing skills can succeed with revolutionary leaders, in a way the political skills of a George W. Bush never could. Relations with Turkey hinged on a “special friendship” with Erdogan. Apparently, Obama felt that neo-Ottomanism, anti-Israel rhetoric, and increasing Islamization were mere proof of inevitable revolutionary turmoil, a good thing, but one that could be capitalized on only by someone like himself, who long ago was properly ideologically prepped. Ditto Obama’s mythography of the Cairo speech before an audience that, on the White House’s insistence, included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or his outreach to Cuba and Iran (note his past silence about the 2009 green demonstrations in Iran). So if Obama has won over the world’s one-time pariahs, maybe Trump can try the same first-person methodologies to coax the more business-minded prime ministers to our side. The self-absorbed idea of Trump outfoxing a Chinese kleptocrat is similar to that of Obama hypnotizing an Iranian theocrat.

Donald Trump believes he can oversell America abroad in the manner of Chamber of Commerce boosterism; isn’t that the twin to Obama underselling the country in the fashion of a wrinkled-browed academic? Both are stern moralists: America is too often shorted, and so Trump is angry over the sins of omission. For Obama, past genocide, racism, and imperialism vie as sins of U.S. commission.

Would a Trump bragging tour be all that much different from an Obama apology tour? If, in politically incorrect style, it is implied that all immigrants are likely to be criminals, is that any sloppier or more politically motivated than the politically correct assumption that all are dreamers? Threatening to charge Mexico per illegal immigrant seems about as sensible as leaving the border wide open and nullifying existing immigration law.

There is no need to elect Donald Trump; we’ve already had six years of him.

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27 thoughts on “Obama and Trump: Two of a Kind”

  1. That was an interesting paradox. I would say both men are narcissists who crave power and adulation, but have entirely different agendas.

    I think the reason Trump is resonating with Hoi Polloi is because after 6.5 years of Obama excesses, Supreme Court letdowns, and Republican impotence they welcome someone willing to bypass the frustrating rules of political decorum and speak his mind. One may recall that Barak Obama ran as a Beltway outsider in 2008 to take full advantage of the electorate’s angst. Trump’s image of a no nonsense, real world businessman where money-talks-and-bullshit-walks, despite the fact four of his companies have filed bankruptcy, must appeal to those who feel beaten down by Obama’s stagnant economy and incessant moralizing of “I think you’ve made enough money.” Most people know also that in the real world no one but the political class speaks by teleprompter with well-crafted political correctness, which is why many find Trump’s slams against Lindsey Graham, Barak Obama and John McCain to be uncouth, yet strangely refreshing. Daring to question John McCain’s status as a war hero would have destroyed any of the other Republican candidates, yet Trump seems immune. Maybe the voters understand that given the fact McCain finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class and had a history of crashing jet aircraft his type of heroism in which he endured torture that left him permanently disabled is not the results oriented sort Donald Trump respects?

    Trump can’t possibly win the Presidency which in the long-run is a good thing, but his farcical campaign does provide a dose of reality to the political class.

    1. G. P. Clemente

      As to Mr. Trump, I almost apologetically disagree with the venerable Mr. Hanson. Possibly the first time ever.

      I am 63, the son of a former FBI Special Agent, who in the 1950s was assigned to investigate individuals applying for federal government positions, individuals possibly associated with the Communist Party USA and Socialist Workers Party. Fast forward through the decades and my 92 year old father will now tell you that those subversive individuals that he and the FBI investigated and prevented from burrowing into our government are currently in the deepest reaches of our bureaucracies, Congress, Supreme Court and of course the White House.

      What have we learned from this? And why has it taken so long? The Left is out for blood. They will stop at nothing to destroy the very core of America from the inside out. Through the absence of Congressional term limits their power has been cemented in the host of the Democrat party and the establishment wing of the Republicans. The Philistine propaganda machine runs rampant with party mendacities to which its opposing members cower in fear of. This is a formidable and towering wall for even a biblical David to climb.

      Not a soul knows how Mr. Trump will fare as President, nor did we know the same of Mr. Reagan or even Mr. Lincoln for that matter. We do know this, Mr. Trump has a fire in his belly with boundless energy the likes we haven’t seen before, one willing to gladly take on the political ruling class and corrupt media at the same time. Mr. Trump has proven to be a willing warrior and I like that excitement he produces in us.

      Mr. Hanson, in any other time, your words about dignity and decorum in the heat of political battle would ring true, but we are at war with the Left now and things are getting dark and ugly. Mr. Trump’s growing popularity shows that people believe he truly loves this country. That’s all that matters to us, far above his bombast. Like General Patton, Mr. Trump is willing to pick up the sword and do the bloody work that the citizenry has been disempowered to do.

      With 19-trillion in debt, Greece on the horizon and an Iranian mushroom cloud looming, we will gladly hand Trump his weapon.

  2. Never thought I would disagree with you, particularly with your experience with California. In particular, what is the evidence that further refinement of conservative thought has the ability to effectively counter the Progressive movement? 1. What do we do with the legislators and Supreme Court justices with conservative credentials who turn Progressive after election or confirmation? What do we do when “Secure the border” becomes “What borders?” 2. In practical matters, would Trump ever give Iran nukes, attempt to destroy our health care, regulate us out of existence, politically correct us to death, or whip up racial divisions (not faux outrage)? 3. (A) Obama = State control over every aspect of our lives. Trump = reacts to success of (A) by telling the truth in a less than artful way because NOTHING else works. 4. Mistaking symptom for illness.

    1. Well said. The current crop of emasculated Republicans do nothing to make us feel that our future is any safer with them than the dung-flinging monkeys of the liberal beltway. Trump is attractive for the very reason that he does not measure every word he utters to ensure that it contains absolutely no meaning, whatsoever. He does not mince his words to obliterate their meaning. He does not pretend that he has to toe some party line that we all genuinely hate, already. He’s actually a breath of fresh air and, if for nothing else, perhaps he’ll force the other candidates to unmush their mouths for a moment and speak candidly to the American people. That’s what Reagan did, and we loved him for it. Go, Donald!

  3. Standing on principle, conservatives always bring the knife of fine abstract distinctions to a machine gun fight with Progressives. Can conservatives at least bring a handgun?

  4. As much as i dislike Trump’s bravado, every single other candidate running (with the exception of Cruz) is a mealy mouthed Establishment shill. Reagan was an outsider in the beginning, from the entertainment industry. Frankly I’m ready to vote in a pro America businessman over yet another career huckster. Since the republic has already been destroyed, maybe Trump can at least be our Empire’s Augustus-instead of an Establishment Commodus.

  5. If Abraham Lincoln’s proscription for an un-gullible citizenry was to teach them to be a) generally intelligent, b) moral and c) lovers of laws and the Constitution… I fear Trump’s desire is a citizenry that a) believes the Donald, b) believes the Donald and c) loves the Donald and whatever he says his constitution is, today.

    Trump is a lot like preachers you see on TV. They rail against the evils of the day, using Neurolinguistic Programming that makes donations happen without explaining the subconscious methods that make those donations happen; they use religious mantras while railing against the mantras of the world; they use every trick a speaker can learn to trick the audience into believing they are the good guys railing against those back guys that trick audiences… and nothing sounds like a Lincoln speech, or that of G. Washington or any truth.

  6. I think it is not so much that Trump is just reflecting what Americans are feeling about the issues, he brings to the fore front, that gives him so much praise, BUT, it is the complete lack of response of the Republican Party and to just sit by and seem ” horribly shocked ” by Trump’s statements and sit on their hands and not attack Obama’s policies in the same manner( like Trump is doing) for fear of being labelled a racist. It is the lack of response or conversely their apologetic, wimpy response that will cause the voters to “stay home” in 2016. “Get up and fight” is what Americans believe in ( basically always have) and want, not being ” nicey nicey” about it all. Such as the approach currently in dealing with our foreign adversaries, be it Iran, ISIS, Russia, or Mexico. Not the wimpy, metrosexual, gay, sweet, charming, cordial, likable, ethnic pandering man that the Republicans are perceived as being. Americans do not want a PC candidate. They have had enough of that, every where we turn.

  7. Yes. I think conservatives who support Trump want the same kind of success on the right as President Obama has had on the left. Trump is the answer-all be-all just like Obama. Yet, Obama has advanced the left exponentially. If Mr. Trump could do that for the right, would that not be a good thing? However, Dr. Hanson would probably agree thatTrump is the same thing to conservatives that Alexander of Macedon was to the main stream Greeks: not pure, but certainly dominant.

  8. One difference that I can see is that Donald Trump has a life time of experience in business where as Obama really does not have much experience of any kind and is a financial illiterate.
    Superficially they are similar but I’d take Trump any day if I had to chose between the two.
    Would he be any worse than Carter or Ford or Obama or even Johnson?
    He’s a bull in a china shop but I see the appeal. People are sick of politics as usual.
    Which President said: “The business of America is business” ?
    Scot Walker would be my choice. Or Marco Rubio. Or Bobby Jindal. Or even Rand Paul.
    Hillary is another self centered dimwit. We’ll go even more downhill if she’s elected.
    I’m glad that I’m old and grew up in California in the fifties when things were basically alright.
    Not perfect but much better in a lot of ways.

    1. If I had to show up at a tough negotiation, ANYWHERE, I would rather have Trump with me than Obama. Put that into your calculator.

  9. This is the second time I’ve disagreed with you, the first being your article on why we need a governor not a senator for President. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. When the McCains, Lindsey Grahams, and the Huffington Post to name a few, have made him public enemy number one there is a reason for that. Hope you are doing well Dr. Hanson, I read all your articles and love your work.

  10. What you’ve noticed is that there are certain sub-categories of narcissism. One such subset is the overt and covert narcissistic types. Obama is a covert narcissist and Trump is the overt kind.

  11. I believe the only similarities of the two that can be made is perhaps in the arenas of self-worth, especially given their diametrically opposed belief systems with respect to what this country represents and where it stands historically. Obama, schooled on the knees of known Marxists, is an uncompromising ideologue bent on “fundamentally changing” a country he thinks flawed, indeed criminal, since its’ very founding. Trump, certainly an egoist who bases self-worth on money, is an unapologetic capitalist who believes that the government/economic system on which this country was founded, is the ultimate avenue to personal success(insert your definition), open to anyone willing to work for it.

    He is defiant and fights back, giving detractors, both on the left and right, what he gets and then doubles and triples down on it. This is something sorely missing from most Republicans currently holding office. He resonates with a lot of conservatives fed up with week-kneed, lily-livered establishment types who fold at the first sign of resistance. It is called pushback!

    If nothing else,Trump has, through his unwillingness to back down, shifted the spotlight from himself and onto the issues, forcing both sides to take them up face to face in real debate, instead of the as of late inevitable Republican acquiescence to the Democrats and the MSM.

    1. Definitely! Most Republicans pee their pants at the thought of taking someone on in a serious fashion. We seem to think we can work it all out in the closets and hallways of Congress, wherein the reality is that we get knifed there and stuffed into a dirty clothes chute.

  12. Trump has a lot of issues. Most of the political animals in the race have issues too. I think the biggest difference between Trump and Obama, is that Trump loves this country and would support policies that would help make it great again.

    Right now I’m excited by Trump’s energy in the race and the fact he brings the anti-politician view to the forefront. I hate political correctness and perhaps Trump is too brash and his tongue too untamed, but he may force the politicians in this race to confront some issues they would otherwise hope to avoid.

  13. Trump is not a serious condidate and he probably admits that to his closest confidants. Not knowing Trump as other than a showman, I don’t know what his motives are but he is performing a great publice service. I am serious about that. I commend him for dramatizing America’s problem with Mexico in particular and Central America in general. For too long, the Left has had its say and way, blessing the invasion of America by illegals. Trump is doing a public service by proclaiming the anger of most Americans. He is using his personal notoriety to draw attention to the average American’s view of the invasion. It is an invasion as real as the USSR invading an Eastern European country. Its goal is the destruction of American culture. Bravo to Trump for that. Does that make him a serious candidate? No, but he is doing a service we conservatives can appreciate.

  14. A lot of people have become tone deaf to the mighty crapstream of political correctness, touchy feely blathering, and race monger finger pointed blank condemnation by the present chief Yoda and his gang of network, Hollywood, and community supporters. The careful tiptoeing of the Republican hopeful herd isn’t making much sound either. The tone deaf long for some simple noise without a background check and Trump is providing a deafening earful of it.

  15. I like Hanson. He is a common-sense type. But i come to a different conclusion than he.

    Trump is his own (self-made) man, with certain basic disagreeable characteristics. But I think no one will question his patriotism…..no matter what he brings up about John McCain (mostly what is true):

    Obama is a shell (game), You never know under which shell the nut is. He is a phony, just as Trump is a blowhard braggart. He is an empty suit, with the noise being generated by Valarie Jarrett and the moslems, not to mention financed almost completely by George Soros. Left to himself, BO couldn’t find his way out of a wet paper bag……and would probably wet himself in the frustrated attempt.

    But the one major difference which I don’t see in Hanson’s article is that BO is a practiced liar. He will lie, straight-faced, about any thing at any time about any subject. I do not think that, even in his megalomania, Trump is a liar. If he were, the liberal media would have already crucified him.

    Jes’ ma ‘umble ‘pinion.

  16. Mr. Hanson, you out did yourself. This is an excellent piece of analysis. I could not stop laughing, the two are mirror images of each other. It reminds me of that Star Trek episode of the good and evil Spocks that just happen to be from two different universes but had similar traits.

    The Republicans need to allow Trump to speak his mind (free speech) but let him hang himself in the public square for all to see.

  17. Trump love? Unfortunately the “Donald” is just as much a narcissist as the narcissistic and chief. Men the likes of Donald Trump do not spend their own money in this fashion. One must ask one’s self, where is the money coming from and why is the media giving him a pass? Trump is of the same moral fiber as any good democrat and then some. Dr. Hanson is again spot on as usual.

  18. Who the hell else in the republican party can lead us out of this morass. Do not be obtuse. Compare FDR, Truman, Ike. You dont think these men were head-strong? I will take Trump or Cruze rather than the rest of the losers. One does not accumulate honestly a net worth of 10 billion and not know what he and his advisors are doing. Sorry, Vic. Come up with a better idea and quit jumping the shark like all the rest of the pundits. You are smarter than that.

  19. The GOP has morphed into something so craven, so inept, so deceitful that anyone that will fight for America will get my vote and I’m done with the choking, lying losers like Bush and anyone else the donor class tries to foist on me. The GOP/phony conservative sellouts make me ill and I’ll take my chances with Trump, any day.

  20. Kenneth Kopke in Santa Maria CA

    I chewed and stewed on this for several days before responding.

    Dr. Hanson is missing the boat on this one. Big time. Trump may be a buffoon, but he’s the only candidate on either side of the aisle aggressively responding to the RAGE of so many Americans … who are disgusted with Obama … but even more disgusted with the cowardly RINOs who’ve squandered two congressional elections.

    I now realize I p***ed away my vote these last two elections.

    So fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me — and I got fooled. Sorry, not a third time. After nearly 50 years of voting Republican, this retired Air Force officer will not be voting in the next election. Just like Democrats, Republicans have proven themselves to be scoundrels. Thank you Mitch McConnell. Thank you John Boehner. For nothing. Give ’em hell, Donald. (And you too Senator Cruz!)

  21. Interesting. Having been fooled by Obama this is definitely an important view.
    I do think our country could use a tour of pride, however. I see the apologetics as a part of the post Marxist revolutionary overturning of our culture, so, to me, a bombastic new dose of American/Western pride would be good for our culture..
    It really depends on where Trump’s heart is, I guess. And if he has one.

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