The complexity of allegations against President Donald Trump continue to grow and Trump’s political and policy moves have remained remarkably simple. That simplicity was likely a key to Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and to his success so far as president.
As Democrats weave a complicated narrative on alleged Russia-Trump collusion, Trump has followed a well-worn military and business mantra — keep it simple stupid. This strategy, much like Bill Clinton’s “the economy, stupid,” has resonated.
Simplicity is the art of business and the military, and Trump has brought that to the Oval Office. When the president has attacked a problem — in any forum — his distillation of the situation to a simple problem with a simple solution has resonated. If you want to stop immigration, build a wall. If you want to grow the economy, cut taxes. If you want fair trade, tariffs should be the same on both sides or not exist. If you want to push back on chemical weapons attacks, bomb the places where they make and deploy such weapons.
I understand that all of these issues are comprised of many more moving parts than a single “if, then” logic statement. But, a watch is made up of many parts and its primary output is still the time of day.
For many on the conservative side of the aisle, a vote for Trump in 2016 was born of one simple question: Who do you want picking Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement? Justice Neil Gorsuch is still Trump’s biggest domestic accomplishment.
The president’s penchant to simplify groups and people into distilled versions of their most obvious traits or failures has probably been less effective than his policy points. Nicknames, fake news and personal attacks might be part of Trump’s goal of keeping adversaries on their toes. But those deployments have definitely hardened some who find harsh politics distasteful and provide ammunition to the isolated Never Trumpers. Trump should be aware that oversimplifying has consequences as well. The American public is not stupid, and we can look beyond false dichotomies.
The keep it simple plan was on display again last week as Trump visited with our NATO allies in Brussels where he distilled the summit into one simple demand: NATO allies must pay for more of the costs of the alliance. Trump’s premise is that NATO members have pledged to spend 2 percent of their nation’s gross domestic product on NATO, and they should honor that commitment.
Everyday Americans, who might not follow the minutiae of global alliances and international affairs, can easily follow Trump’s reasoning. In our everyday lives, honoring commitments is a critical societal norm. Trump applies that common value to the world stage. In doing so, even The New York Times admitted in a board editorial that “Trump got from NATO everything Obama ever asked for.” Obama notably stated in 2008 that he would sit down — without preconditions — with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Then candidate Obama said, “the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”
Speaking of the world stage, Trump broke through the complexity of the world political chessboard and again turned it into a checkerboard by holding a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. As the media and the left spun out of control over Trump’s willingness to meet with Putin — just as they did when he met with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — Trump was again using a simple strategy that each one of us rely on to resolve conflict: communication.
Whether Trump will achieve major success with North Korea or Russia on big issues like nuclear proliferation, Syria, Crimea and energy production is yet to be seen. But meeting with an adversary — whether you call the person a foe, competitor, enemy, etc. — is a move that seems reasonable to reasonable people.
Whether Trump is purposefully keeping it simple or just keeping it real in a world where only simple statements will fit in a tweet is unimportant. The fact remains that straightforward plans that make sense to voters and deliver results is a winning political formula.
Neal Robbins is the publisher of the North State Journal.