Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Pabulum President



It would be churlish to deny that Donald Trump's speech to Congress on Tuesday was a huge improvement on more or less everything we have seen from him before. He sounded, if not presidential just yet, at least a reasonable impression of being president. Given that there is a good chance that he spends his entire life thinking that he is playing a role in a movie and that the world is constantly watching him and admiring him, he really ought to be able to do a decent impersonation of what a president is supposed to sound like.

But, though the tone was certainly much better, the content was either absent or very much as we have seen and heard before. Yes there were a few olive branches offered here and there and the language was softer and more nuanced, but there was still the dog whistle stuff to his base. The doom and gloom of his dreadful inauguration speech (perhaps he was put off by the vast crowds) was replaced by a notably more optimistic note. Yet there was no detail, the gaps remain unfilled. We were left with the same questions as before.

He got plenty of standing ovations of course. He even got one with which Democrats joined in. But it is hard to see why commentators have been so enraptured by it. Perhaps they were listening to the softer delivery, the lighter tone, the more decorous language and thus did not notice that he wasn't actually saying anything much.

So, though Obamacare is on the way out, we are still not told how and what parts will be either left in place or replaced with similar provisions, probably because Trump has no idea. We do know that the president has been surprised by how complex it all is, which is hardly encouraging.

There were vague promises too on tax, infrastructure spending.

We also know that, though he has complained about the vast sums spent on foreign wars in recent years which could have been better spent on infrastructure improvements (no arguments here) he is still intent upon spending even more on defence than now, with a 10% increase on what is already by far the most lavishly funded military on the planet. Trump has complained that America, though it has been to war often in recent years, never wins. Clearly he hasn't been paying attention. America won the Iraq war in double quick time and kicked the Iraqis asses. It was the peace that was lost.

Furthermore it seems that the State Department is to have its funding slashed in order to pay for the increase in Defence spending. He said some nice things about the need for collaboration abroad and of creating the right conditions meaning that people are no longer displaced and thus do not seek to go, in their hundreds of thousands, to places like Europe and America. But how does he square this perfectly reasonable statement with cutting funding to State? And by the way, Donald, what is the best way of making foreign countries more stable, peaceful and prosperous and thus more attractive as a place for their indigenous peoples to stay? It's through trade.

But it is contradictions like these that we should worry about with Trump. He is obsessed with Islamic terrorism and yet it poses a negligible threat to America. All the same he seems willing to do a deal with the devil (that's you Vlad) in order to defeat an enemy that hides behind civilians and is mostly on the run. What exactly does he plan on doing with his expanded armed forces? Is he planning on starting a winnable war somewhere? Is that part of his game plan for making himself more popular and admired?

Trump earlier this week gave himself an A+ for effort but only a C for presentation. This was clearly his attempt to present himself better. It worked. Give that man an A. He'll like that. He loves praise. He's never grown up. But the hard work of government is in the detail. That remains severely lacking.

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