His critics are forever complaining that he’s not on-message. Well, have a look at how on-message he can be when he wants to be. He flew to Scotland in order to say a few words about his newly renovated golf course and, damn it, that’s exactly what he did, never mind that the UK had just cast a vote to reorder the western world in a way that perfectly jibes with Trump’s own nationalist campaign. I can’t even think of a parallel opportunity enjoyed by other recent presidential candidates. Imagine that the Iraqi government had completely crumbled in 2008 and Obama, who opposed the war years earlier as a disaster in the making, happened to be on a visit to Baghdad that day — and all he wanted to talk about was the food he’d tried. It’s totally bizarre. How bizarre? Even the people at “Fox & Friends,” maybe the most Trump-friendly spot in American media, needled him about it in their commentary.
I don’t meant to oversell it, though. He did talk about Brexit a bit during the Q&A session after his speech and in the media scrum while he was making his way to the course, as Larry noted earlier. (That’s the second clip below.) He had the perfect sentiment for the occasion: “Basically they took back their country,” which is true and brilliantly self-serving in echoing his own message. That’s the line that’ll make headlines, not him rambling about the awesome new suites at Turnberry. But the fact remains, he could have turned his speech at the course, which was carried live on various networks, into a cri de coeur for global populism while standing at ground zero of the epochal Brexit vote. (Well, near ground zero. Scotland actually voted to, er, Remain.) Trump is never going to be as eloquent as Charles Cooke, but with 15 minutes of briefing about the vote from an aide, he could have landed this same gut-punch to Clinton-style cosmopolitanism:
I have spent quite a lot of time in the U.K. over the last month, and I have been startled by the condescension, the disdain, and the downright bullying that I have seen from advocates within the Remain camp. That this morning I am seeing precisely the same attitudes on display has left me wondering whether the British chattering classes are capable of learning new tricks. More than 17 million voters opted for Leave yesterday, and yet to take their opponents at face value would be to conclude that this vast and diverse coalition of citizens was little more than a revanchist, hate-filled, antediluvian rump. It is certainly the case that the center-right opted overwhelmingly for exit. But it is notable that the election was won not on the playing fields of Eton or in the leafy gardens of England’s Home Counties, but in the industrial Northeast and the blue-collar Midlands. Indeed, as the Mirror and others have observed, Leave’s margin was provided not by a surfeit of conservatives, but by working-class social democrats who traditionally vote Labour but whose concerns are increasingly out of sync with the rest of their party.
This wasn’t a left/right vote, it was a victory of the middle class over well-heeled, out-of-touch cosmopolitans. That’s squarely in line with Trump’s pitch to Bernie Sanders voters that Trump’s not their real enemy, Hillary and Wall Street are. Instead he stuck mostly with banalities about how “people are angry.” This was the moment to uncork your best rhetorical stuff on the virtues of popular sovereignty and the evils of far-flung bureaucratic diktat. I’m sure his speechwriters were up to the task, given the number they did on the Clintons a few days ago. Too bad.
Pro tip, though: Whatever you do the day after a momentous secession vote, don’t suggest that the economic turmoil the country’s suddenly coping with might be good for your own personal bottom line.
“Look, if the pound goes down, they’re going to do more business,” Mr. Trump said, when asked during a news conference about the referendum’s market ramifications. “When the down pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”
In fairness, Turnberry could use the business. One other wrinkle to all this: A CNN poll finds that 69 percent of voters, including 56 percent of Republicans, think Trump should separate himself from his business interests while he runs for president. Having the populist hero, who’s running against cronyism between politics and big business, intentionally or unintentionally using his new political cachet to improve his own financial prospects is an uncomfortable image. According to the NYT, even some of Trump’s own aides wanted him to cancel this trip and focus on campaigning at home. Oh well.