Many are saying that Donald Trump’s address to Congress Tuesday night is the most important speech of his new presidency — and they are right. If his presidency is to succeed, he must gain the cooperation of a disturbingly recalcitrant Republican Congress for his programs and this is the time to do it, to remind the skittish members what the public voted for. Soaring rhetoric, optimistic or not, the bashing of the “dishonest media,” justified as that may be, and the recitation of past achievements, worthy as many may be, are all beside the point now.
Tuesday night we must hear what his programs are — in detail. He must put on his wonk suit.
This will put pressure on the Congress because, if we are to believe the polls, and I do to some extent in this case, the American people like Trump’s programs more than they like him. By going wonk, he wins.
Now Trump has been surprisingly wonkish in the past. During the election, he gave considerably more specifics about what he planned to do (and indeed has done) than Clinton or Sanders ever did, although, needless to say, the press never reported this. Be that as it may, now there must be more specifics, more detail.
And we all know where he should begin because, as the most famous political pronouncement since “Ask not what you can do for you country…” goes, it’s the economy, stupid! (Okay, we don’t live in exalted times.) And the economy is still flat, real unemployment near 10% and not a lot of good jobs out there, despite a roaring stock market. This unprecedented bull market — in which some 52% of Americans had invested as of last April, a percentage that went considerably lower throughout the Obama years but hopefully is going up — is clearly a big bet on Trump pushing through his economic policies. Of all things, he shouldn’t bobble this.
That means, first and foremost, his tax program. In the speech, that is most important thing for Trump to address. He should give us numbers. What are the individual and corporate rates he is seeking? How will the lot of the middle class be improved? America has been waiting for years for the absurd 35% corporate rate to come down, a reduction that would do more to bring U.S. corporations home than even the most convincing presidential jawboning.
Next he has to address the Affordable Care Act. One of the truly baffling aspects of the Republican Congress is that all this time they don’t have a replacement prepared. What were they doing all those years besides whining? Anyway, present something. But here’s a hint: there’s no such thing as a perfect health plan and never will be until hundreds of years from now when medical science invents something to make us all live to 212 for no money. Until then, every solution is imperfect, from socialized medicine to the freest of markets. Everyone, if they’re honest, knows this. Just give us something better than Obamacare. That shouldn’t be hard.
Now immigration. This is interesting because here I think Donald misjudges the “deplorables,” underestimates them, really. None of us, and I include myself, ever thought all illegal aliens would be sent back or that Mexico would end up paying for the wall, at least directly. All we want, bottom line, is this: The border should be secured as tightly as possible (it doesn’t really matter how — a combination of methods is acceptable) so that almost all immigration henceforth will be legal (it can never be a hundred percent, but close) and, of course, to throw out any illegal with a criminal record short of a parking ticket. That last is being done. Good.
As for the “Dreamers,” assuming they’re not criminal, let them stay, ditto illegals who’ve been here a long time. They came here when many of us were as culpable as they were in their arrival, using them for cheap labor. It was a mutual game. We don’t really have the moral right to send them home now. But I would add two things: No one who came here illegally ever gets the right to vote. You want to vote, go back and get in line legally. Secondly, I’d ban the use of that dreadful bourgeois neologism “undocumented workers.” (I know. We can’t do that. It’s just a wish.) It would be great if Trump said much of this in his speech. There are a lot of needlessly frightened people out there.
Extreme vetting? Of course. Anyone who’s against that is a suicidal nitwit. Donald should explain that, but he doesn’t have to use my brutal terms. The operative word is explain. Sometimes he neglects to do that. The more he explains carefully, the more he will succeed. As noted above, when it comes to programs, the American people are on his side.
Oh, and one last thing, I’d love it if the president announced he was going to reveal the full details of the Iran deal. The American people are owed no less.
In doing all this, Trump should largely ignore his opposition among the Democrats and the press. He has the right ideas and the facts on his side. All he needs to do is follow the instructions of this oldie from Shirley Ellis — surely a New Yorquino like Donald remembers — and “get right down to the real nitty-gritty.”