Liberal Academic Camille Paglia Changes her Tune on Donald Trump: Says, ‘Fearlessness and Brash Energy May be Necessary’

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump (Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri/AP/Carlos Osorio/Photo montage by Salon)
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump (Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri/AP/Carlos Osorio/Photo montage by Salon)

by Camille Paglia

I’m dying for an update from you on Donald Trump.  Last summer you called him “not a president” and a “carnival barker.” Do you still feel the same? If you loved Trump, would Salon even let you proclaim it? I mean, they’re kind of as liberal as they come, no? 

Why can’t there be a party that is basically Republican, but minus the religion, minus the legislating of morality, and that cares about climate change/overpopulation? Could Trump be that guy?

Christie Cooley Randolph
Santa Rosa, CA

Well, Trump may still be a carnival barker, but he’s looking more and more like a president!  Along with most media pundits in the Northeast, I found it improbable if not impossible that Trump could survive his klutz-o-rama cascade of foot-in-mouth flubs, from carelessly categorizing Mexican immigrants as rapists to hallucinating about “thousands’ of Muslims cheering the fall of the twin towers from the mean streets of New Jersey.  Surely he would soon implode and pouf into fairy dust!

But only a few weeks after that interview of mine in Salon, I suddenly realized that Trump’s candidacy had a broad support that few had expected or discerned.  The agent of my revelation was a hilariously scathing, viral Web blog video posted by Diamond and Silk–Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, two African-American sisters and former Democrats in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  They were reacting with indignant outrage to the first GOP debate, broadcast by Fox News from Cleveland on August 6 and hosted by Megyn Kelly, whose loaded questions had impugned Trump as a sexist.

If Trump wins the White House, that no-holds-barred video will go down in history as “the shot heard round the world,” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s phrase for the first salvo of the American Revolution by rural insurgents at Concord.  The video signaled a popular uprising and furious pushback against the major media and political elites, who had controlled the national agenda and messaging for far too long.  Diamond and Silk threw zinger after zinger in defending Trump:  “Here’s the damn deal, Megyn Kelly—or Kelly Megyn, whatever your name is!…. Go back and report news on Sesame Street!…You hit below the belt, Kelly!…He was the only one up there on that stage with any common sense!… He’s going to be the next president, whether you like it or not.  Get used to it, girl!  Get used to it!”

This fiery endorsement blew me away because it demonstrated how Trump was directly engaging with a diverse coalition in ways that the mainstream media had completely missed.  I felt, and still do, that Trump is far too impetuous and thin-skinned in his amusingly rambling, improvisational style.  The American president, who can spook markets or spark a war with a rash phrase, must be more coolly circumspect.  And aspirants to the presidency shouldn’t care what small fry like bobble-head TV hosts say or do.  A leader must have the long view and show an instinctive capacity to focus and prioritize.

Nevertheless, Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea.  Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude.  He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal.  He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra.  But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women.  As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices.

Nevertheless, Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea.  Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude.  He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal.  He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra.  But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women.  As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices.

Primary voters nationwide are clearly responding to Trump’s brand of classic can-do American moxie.  There has been a sense of weary paralysis in our increasingly Byzantine and monstrously wasteful government bureaucracies.  Putting a bottom-line businessman with executive experience into the White House has probably been long overdue.  If Mitt Romney had boldly talked business more (and chosen a woman VP), he would have won the last election.  Although the rampant Hitler and Mussolini analogies to Trump are wildly exaggerated–he has no organized fascist brigades at his beck and call—there is reason for worry about his impatient authoritarian tendencies.  We have had more than enough of Obama’s constitutionally questionable executive orders.  It remains to be seen whether Trump’s mastery of a hyper-personalized art of the deal will work in the sluggish, murky, incestuously intertwined power realms of Washington.

From my perspective as a fervent supporter of the ruggedly honest and principled Bernie Sanders, Trump with his pragmatic real-life record is a far more palatable national figure than Ted Cruz, whose unctuous, vainglorious professions of Christian piety don’t pass the smell test.  Trump is a blunt, no-crap mensch, while Cruz is a ham actor, doling out fake compassion like chopped liver.  Cruz’s lugubrious, weirdly womanish face, with its prim, tight smile and mawkishly appealing puppy-dog eyebrows, is like a waxen mask, always on the verge of melting.  This guy doesn’t know who the hell he is—and the White House is no place for him and us to find out.

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SOURCE: Salon