I won’t bother to parse all the pathetic lying and narcissistic preening that shamed our nation yesterday. I’ll leave that to the psychiatrists, who would be well advised, at their next annual convention, to beam Trump’s press conference on an overhead screen and take copious notes. Because those are the people best qualified to clinically diagnose this pitiably sick puppy.
So rather than waste space detailing his trove of disinformation — he said he scored “the biggest Election College win since Ronald Reagan,” not knowing or caring that he was outscored by George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton (twice), and Barack Obama (twice); he said his co-conspirators at WikiLeaks didn’t release classified information, whereas in truth it released hundreds of thousands of classified State Department cables; and so on and so on — I will focus instead on the important stuff he did not talk about.
Namely, the details of policy. And how he plans to get his agenda enacted.
Which is politically important, because his voters expect him to deliver.
If you wade through the sewer — excuse me, if you read the transcript — you will quickly discover that it’s thick with petty grievance and thin on policy substance. He said virtually nothing about how he intends to fulfill the grand promises he campaigned on. Nothing about how his alleged plan to rebuild our roads, highways, and bridges would be financed. Nothing about how or when or in what manner Obamacare would be nixed and replaced. Nothing about how he and a Republican Congress would enact tax-cut reform, which is a titanic task even with a functioning White House. Nothing about how he plans to finance construction of The Wall (House conservatives are upset about the price tag). And nothing about his purported plan to bring back good-paying factory jobs in an era of automation.
In other words, when he lauded his White House as “a fine-tuned machine,” that was his biggest lie.
The truth is that the dysfunctional Trump machine has given the Republican Congress virtually zero direction. Zero communication on when to seek passage, what bills should get priority, what the bills should even say. This is a manifest failure of presidential leadership — which is no surprise, because Trump doesn’t have a clue how to run a government, and he’s surrounded by a small coterie of courtiers who’ve never served in government. By contrast, President Obama at the one-month mark had already signed economic stimulus into law.
If or when Trump finally falls to earth, it will happen not because Trump voters suddenly wake up to the chilling reality of Russia’s cyber-coup, nor because they suddenly see the downside of his ignorance. Those things may never happen. No, his downfall will occur if or when Trump voters realize that their lives haven’t changed for the better, that he’ll never fulfill his policy vows.
But I’m not referring to all Trump voters — only the ones who are most persuadable.
It’s important to remember that Trump voters are not monolithic. Roughly speaking, they fall into three categories:
The hard-core acoloytes will follow him anywhere, presumably to Armageddon.
The Republican loyalists, who vote for whoever wears the party label.
The “soft” Trump voters — sometimes called the “Trump-curious.” These are the people who swung the close election. These are the people who broke for Trump in the final days, despite concerns about his temperament and inexperience. These are the people who basically said “what the heck, he’s the lesser of two evils, let’s give him a chance.”
These are the people who have the potential to shift the political landscape, to pull us back from the precipice. In recent weeks, they’ve already begun tweeting on an account called @Trump_Regrets. For instance: “I voted for you but you’re still acting like a baby.” For instance: “So disappointed that I voted for you.” For instance: “We need a mature adult as president. Can I take my vote back?”
If Category 3 people paid any attention to the press conference — sampling the sound bites, reading the news stories, or (hopefully) watching the entire video — they likely saw that Trump said nothing substantive about policies beneficial to their lives. Category 3 people took a flyer on Trump because they figured that an outsider could break the lonstanding Washington logjam; alas, what they likely saw was a guy so wrapped up in himself, so consumed by partisan hostility, that his odds of breaking the logjam are potentially nil.
I’m sure that Trump’s hard-core base loved his performance yesterday. But it’s the Category 3 people, living in red states and districts, who control Trump’s political fate. I doubt they were reassured by what they saw and heard. As Matthew Dowd, the ’04 chief strategist for Bush-Cheney, tweeted this morning, “Yes, 46 percent of people voted for Trump, but let’s remember that a quarter of those thought he was unqualified — and they are worried today.”
But back to that press conference.
If I had to highlight its most repugnant moment — an admittedly tough task — I’ve got to go with his answer to the Jewish reporter who asked about anti-Semitism. There has been a wave of harassment since the election, Trump has repeatedly refused to denounce the perpetrators, and yesterday he was again invited to do so. (The question: “What we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.”)
Yet Trump still refused to denounce the perpetrators. Instead, he praised himself and insulted the questioner. From the transcript, verbatim:
“[The reporter] said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it’s not, its not, not — not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question. So here’s the story, folks. Number one: I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican — quiet, quiet, quiet.
“See, he lied about — he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive. I hate even the question, because people that know me — and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time’ and then he said, ‘forget it.’ So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”
Yo, soft Trump voters: File that one away.