Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Donald Trump has been...

...president for 103 days now and I still have three nagging questions I'd like to ask him under truth serum (him, not me):

1) Why did you run for president?

Did you really think, with no prior experience in government or the military, that you could come in and defeat sixteen at least minimally qualified candidates for the Republican nomination and then go on to beat the Democratic nominee for the most powerful office in the world? And then actually do the job?

Or was it all -- as most people suspected at the time -- just some sort of publicity stunt to "bolster your brand"?

According to Trump's friend Howard Stern:

Stern firmly believes that Trump's whole presidential bid just started as a lark so that he could get more money out of NBC when he renegotiated his contract for the Apprentice television show.

"I think it started as kind of a cool, fun thing to do to get a couple more bucks out of NBC for the Apprentice. I actually do believe that."

That sounds plausible, doesn't it? And was Trump as surprised as everyone else when he won?

According to Maureen Dowd:

Trump shocked himself by shooting to the top of the Republican heap. It was like watching a bank robber sneak into a bank, only to find all the doors unlocked.

But I've also heard that Trump had been thinking of running for president since the 1980s. And he sure worked awfully hard for someone who didn't really want it. I read somewhere that it's hard to know what Trump hoped to accomplish by running for president. Was he really so delusional to think he could run and actually win? (Or were we delusional to think he couldn't?)

And that leads to my next question:

2) Did you have a well-thought-out plan for your campaign or was it all just seat-of-the-pants? 

In other words, was Trump shrewd enough to recognize there was this "under-served market niche," i. e., the white working class, that had been ignored by both parties and was just ripe for the taking? Or did he just spout off from the top of his head what he had absorbed from watching Fox News, really believing everything he said, and was as surprised as anyone that his message resonated with so many people? Was Trump cunning, or just lucky?

(I have a similar question for other public figures, such as Alex Jones and Glenn Beck: Are they serious, or just con artists? My son would think that's a naive question. And a friend of mine, who lives in London, thinks Fox News is all about making money off the outrage of old white people.)

I wonder sometimes, if Trump hadn't been in the race, would Bernie Sanders have won it all? Didn't the Vermont socialist have essentially the same message, without all the bigotry and ugliness? In Sanders' telling, the working class in this country has been positively decimated in recent years by disappearing jobs, rising health care costs, infrastructure neglect, runaway student loan debt, trade deals and tax policy that served the rich, and unnecessary wars in which that same working class fought and died or was maimed.

Isn't that what Trump talked about, with a little extra helping of misogyny, nationalism, racism (Mexican drug dealers and rapists) and xenophobia (China, Muslims, etc.)? I remember many pundits being surprised when they asked primary voters whom they intended to support only to get the answer, "Either Trump or Sanders."

Finally, Mr. Trump:

3) What do you really want to do as president?

I'd love to sit down with Trump and ask him that question. I think a little -- okay, a lot of --  soul-searching in that vein could help him right his listing ship. (Although I don't hold out much hope.) Seriously, Mr. Trump, what would you like to do as president of the United States, besides "make America great again"? What, exactly, does that mean? What would a "great" America look like to you? What would you want your legacy as president to be? Even a child knows to set goals and then work toward achieving them. I'm not at all sure Trump has done that.

Take a look at Trump's first 100 days. He's flip-flopped on health care, taxes, trade, China, foreign policy, NATO and a bunch of other things I'm too lazy to look up. But, really, on the campaign trail Trump hinted at universal health care only to back the House Republicans' draconian "repeal and replace" plan. On taxes, Trump implied he would provide relief to the middle class while getting Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers to "pay their fair share." His tax "plan" does the exact opposite. China, NAFTA and NATO were villains, remember? Now, not so much. We weren't going to get involved in other countries business, either; it would strictly be "America First" from now on. "Assad gassed civilians? Send in the Tomahawks!" Really, it makes your head spin.

How is it that Trump ran as a different kind of Republican -- a national socialist populist -- and defeated sixteen Ronald Reagan clones only to appoint a cabinet full of them? How could that be? Wasn't he supposed to "drain the swamp"? Now he's being advised by billionaires, Goldman Sachs alums and lobbyists. The swamp has never been swampier!

So, really, Mr. Trump, what do you want to accomplish as president? What do you really believe? How can the next 100 days be a success without knowing the answers to those questions?

Next: How on earth did Trump win and Clinton lose?

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