The Weekly View from Washington

Fortune CEO Daily

Hurricane Donald made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Friday night. And the front-running Republican candidate did not disappoint the thousands who turned out to see him in a college football stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Most were already gathered inside as Trump’s private Boeing 757 emblazoned with his name dipped over the stadium, where speakers were blaring the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. The surreality of the scene evoked nothing so much as Nashville, Robert Altman’s 1975 movie that was both a critique and celebration of the collision between politics and entertainment (Of the anti-establishment “Replacement Party” presidential candidate whose rally anchors the film, a newscaster at one point intones, “No doubt many Americans, especially party-liners, wish that Hal Phillip Walker would go away… but wherever he may be going, it seems sure that Hal Phillip Walker is not going away, for there is genuine appeal.”)

Trump’s Friday night speech, a stream-of-consciousness ramble, was equal parts tent revival theater and primal therapy, with the billionaire developer lashing out at the brands that have cut ties over the inflammatory rhetoric fueling his bid (“In the case of Univision, I sued them for $500 million dollars. I want that money! I want that money”) and rival candidates in both parties he dismisses as corrupt, interchangeable stooges. The vortex of Trump’s self-regard doesn’t leave a lot of oxygen for policy substance — all that stuff about how other people rise and fall — and that may be just as well, since it’s not exactly his forte. If it did, Trump might have spared a word for a somber milestone looming this week in the region hosting him: Next Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s Gulf Coast landfall.

In a perverse sense, Trump has that disaster to thank for his moment. Then-President George W. Bush’s calamitous bungling of the Katrina response marked the political end of his presidency. Amid a rapidly-souring public attitude toward his mismanagement of the Iraq war, the event confirmed that when bad things happened, Bush was part of the problem rather than a potential solution. The coda to his term, the financial crisis and the subsequent Wall Street bailout, drove home for disaffected conservatives that the Bush years demonstrated the pitfalls of a big-government approach. And it’s no accident that the same crowd has tried, with limited success, to tar each of Obama’s missteps since as his own “Katrina.” Trump is drafting off that animus, insisting he’ll fill a competence deficit in government. Presumably at some point, voters will demand to know, precisely, how.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

Source: FORTUNE CEO Daily Newsletter


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