Today Donald Trump gave a speech in Detroit describing some economic policies he’d like to pursue if he became president, and like with his other periodic “policy” speeches, he sounded as if he was encountering the speech, and the substance therein, for the first time as he sleepily read it off a teleprompter. But that doesn’t mean that the speech doesn’t tell us something important about how Trump would govern if he were to become president. Quite the contrary; in fact, this speech is an important window into Trump’s governing style, or as it might be better understood, his non-governing style.
As you might expect, the speech was full of falsehoods and nonsense, such as the idea that the unemployment rate is a “hoax” and that Hillary Clinton “said she wanted to raise taxes on the middle class.” Like every other Republican in memory, Trump argues that the only thing keeping our economy from rocketing into the stratosphere are the chains that government has locked around it. “I want to jump-start America,” he said, “and it can be done, and it won’t even be that hard.” Also, everyone gets a pony.
It’s tempting to dismiss Trump’s policy suggestions out of hand. But it’s important to understand what he says he would like to do, whether he himself understands it or not. Let’s take a look at what Trump proposed:
— Rebellious outsider Donald Trump details standard-fare Republican economic plan, Paul Waldman, the Washington Post, this afternoon
Well, you already know what he said. You knew what he said before he said it. Long before. Months before. So I won’t bother with the bullet points. After Waldman runs through them, he says this:
I’m pretty sure that if tomorrow you asked Trump what was in the plan he discussed today, he wouldn’t be able to remember most of it. But that’s just the point: Trump isn’t about the details. If he becomes president, he’ll be outsourcing all that boring wonky stuff to the people around him — who will be most of the same people who would staff any Republican administration. Does anyone think Trump will be deep in the weeds figuring out whether the Labor Department’s budget should be cut by 26.3 percent or 26.4 percent, or whether this corporate subsidy can stay but that one has to go? Of course not.
If you’re a Republican, that’s good news, and it gets to the heart of why it’s still rational for so many Republicans to support him despite all the despicable things he says and does. Trump’s economic plan may contain a new idea or two somebody on his staff tossed in, and it does differ with the standard Republican fare on trade. But at its core, it’s what every Republican wants: lower taxes and less regulation for businesses. And if he were president, Trump would pretty much sign whatever legislation a Republican Congress sent him and let the people who care about policy take care of policy.
What would that leave him to do? As he said in Detroit, “When I’m president, we will start winning again. Bigly.” So there you go.
Clinton’s campaign has announced that she will give a response speech in Detroit on Thursday. The speech will be the easiest her speechwriter has ever written. Or should be. He should just lift parts of Trump’s speech. Verbatim. With attribution, of course. Not just to Trump, but also to Edgar Bergen.
That should take care of it. Bigly.