On health care, he spoke in broad generalizations, suggesting a transition to tax credits and health savings accounts for a 'stable transition'
Trump Looked More Polished but Said Little
BY BILL HUME
Let’s give Donald Trump his due: His speech to Congress was almost unanimously lauded as a presidential-quality address. Anybody emerging from a bubble might have concluded he is a world leader.
And in it there was much to agree on – even Democrats stood up and applauded at several points. But in the final analysis, there wasn’t much “there” there.
It is no secret that Donald Trump is a masterful orator – but his message rarely lives up to his delivery.
Recall, for example, his powerful rhetoric about a “groundswell” that built up around the idea of “America First,” which was yet another self-glorification of his campaign for the presidency. Or, his extended rhetoric exalting the sacrifice of Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens, killed in the Yemen raid. The pious exaltation of his hero’s death didn’t rationalize the controversial raid itself. On the morning before the address, Trump was on Fox News blaming “the generals” for Owens’ death.
Or health care – on which he spoke in broad generalizations suggesting a transition to tax credits and health savings accounts for a “stable transition” for the millions of Americans now covered through Obamacare exchanges.
Perhaps his most stupendous Homer Simpson pronouncement ever came when Trump declared that “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.” Incredibly, he said it to a gathering of state governors – perhaps the most knowledgeable group in the country on its complexity.
The speech failed to lay out concrete policy points for the inevitable congressional struggles ahead. His broad proposals for universal tax cuts, coupled with “the biggest increase in history” in defense spending, coupled with a proposed $1 trillion infrastructure program, will face intransigent Republicans in Congress. His eventual policy on trade will face a similar response.
His imprecise pronouncements on immigration policy were highlighted by his proposal for the establishment of VOICE, a federal agency for the “Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.” That’s an imaginative acronym for a new federal entitlement program that will have a task finding enough legitimate victims to justify the existence of a federal agency.
And, that came after he said, earlier in the day, “Real and positive immigration reform is possible. If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.”
Any compromise on his hard line rhetoric seem sure to set off a firestorm in his base constituency – not to mention among Republicans in Congress.
And then there’s ISIS. During the campaign, he boasted of a ready plan to quickly defeat ISIS. Now he boasts he has instructed his generals to prepare a plan to defeat ISIS. Perhaps that’s so that if it doesn’t quickly succeed, he can again blame his generals?
How about his call to streamline that musty FDA new drug approval process? Speed it up and bring down the cost of drugs was his somewhat disjointed proposal. Have we forgotten the tragedy of Thalidomide? That was a late 1950s drug in Germany widely used to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. That is, until thousands of babies from Thalidomide-using mothers were born with deformed limbs and organs. It was finally pulled from the market in 1961. It was this experience that led to tighter protocols for the approval of new drugs.
So, although it was a class delivery, the real exchange with Congress and his constituency is yet to be initiated. His made-for-television aura, made more presidential by a blue tie rather than his standard red, gained some polish, but otherwise there was not much “there” there.
Bill Hume is a former editorial page editor of the Albuquerque Journal and later served as a policy adviser to former Gov. Bill Richardson.