I watched the January 14 Fox Business debate as Donald Trump deftly used the 9/11 terror attacks in response to Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s criticism of his “New York Values.”  I will set aside my disdain of candidates invoking one of the most heartbreaking episodes in American history to score political points. I will just remind Mr. Trump that all Americans, if not the world, became New Yorkers in our compassion and support for those affected by that terrible tragedy.  It misses the point.

Mr. Trump is surrounded on the debate stage with good and decent people who have spent large portions of their lives in the service of others, fighting for and largely guided by the conservative principles that made Ronald Reagan a great president.  He regales us with tales of buying and selling politicians of any persuasion, no matter their principles, for the sake of “a deal.”  At any given moment, the Clintons are close friends, upon whom he openly heaps praise, and now are apparently his adversaries.  Is this a principle that guides HIM?

The “New York Values” criticized are those of policy and governance, not its people.  New York’s governor has readily screeched from the well of the State House in Albany that if you believe in the sanctity of life and the right to bear arms, you are not welcome in New York.  A governor who proclaimed that New York should become a beacon of progressive values.  A borderline Communist Mayor of the City of New York, whose inexcusable rhetoric has so disenfranchised one of the world’s finest police forces, that they turn their backs on him in public.  A nanny state government, so out of control, that it regulates the size of sodas and whether a salt shaker can be on the table in a local diner.  The list is long.  These are the “values” I believe Cruz intended to reference and are not a criticism of our fellow Americans residing in New York. They are endemic of governance that, in fact, does NOT reflect the rest of America.

The central issue at hand is that I believe America is at its darkest juncture in my lifetime – domestically, and in our reputation overseas.  Meanwhile, Mr. Trump. the GOP’s presumptive frontrunner, spends his time on Twitter taking cheap shots at his opponents like some petulant, thin-skinned narcissist.  We already have one of those in the White House right now – why on Earth would we want to replace him with another, like Mr. Trump?

I respect and greatly admire Mr. Trump’s achievements in the business world.  He does too, just ask him.  But where are the REAL policy proposals, substantive and actionable ideas to right the ship of state?  Beyond provocative sound bites the media loves to consume, and his campaign slogan, what is his leadership vision for our country?  Every “proposal” – mostly verbal – has seemed divisive and negative.  The only driving principle I’ve seen from Mr. Trump is where he stands in the polls, and how inferior he believes his opponents to be.  Mr. Trump was a Democrat, now he’s a Republican – but make him mad, he will run third party, and happily hand a win to the Democrats.  There’s video from about a decade ago where Mr. Trump openly talks about his “values” reflecting his New York roots.  In the segment he goes on to say how they likely don’t reflect those of Iowa, or middle America.  Are these HIS values now?  It’s disturbingly unclear at this point in time.

It’s easy to be taken in by Mr. Trump’s charm, celebrity and bravado.  He has an admirable mastery of working the media, throwing out a good line, and creating controversy.  I just fear that we are so leadership starved after seven years of divisiveness, degradation of our national pride and self-worth, that an unrealistic attraction has developed for Mr. Trump, that as yet, is not fully defined.  Mr. Trump proudly talks about “The Art of Deal.”  For the sake of our country, I just hope everyone considering him will ask: “Mr. Trump, WHAT’S the deal?”  Will the REAL Donald Trump please step forward?  In my view, that’s yet to happen.

Scott Jones is host of Pissed Off, Politically Speaking heard live Monday 10AM Eastern on The 405.