Our Quest For Solid Ideas Visits Donald Trump’s Nearly Policy-Free Time At the Family Leadership Summit
At Irregular Times, we are in the middle of a quest for serious policy ideas from Donald Trump. It began with Peregrin Wood’s examination of the Trump for President campaign web site, which turns out to be devoid of policy, but packed with Trump’s praise for himself. It continued yesterday with my examination of Donald Trump’s press conference near the U.S. Mexico border.
So far, we’ve found no serious policy ideas coming from Donald Trump. He’s made vague comments about making a border wall that already exists, and about the importance of letting U.S. government workers do their jobs. These aren’t policy statements. They’re the kind of confused statements you expect to hear coming from guys who have had a little too much beer while tailgating.
Today, we’ll examine an appearance by Donald Trump at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. Trump allowed himself to be interviewed by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, and to take a couple of questions from the audience as well. So, if there ever was a chance for Trump to get serious about proposing specific political solutions to the nation’s problems, this was it.
During the session, which lasted nearly 30 minutes, Luntz only asked one question having to do with policy: “What should the next President do with Common Core and with education, so that you can hire the employees you want to hire?”
Trump responded, “Common Core has to be ended. It’s a disaster. It’s a way of taking care of people in Washington that frankly, I don’t even think that they give a damn about education, half of them, and I’m sure some of them maybe do.”
That was all Trump had to say on the matter. “Common Core has to be ended.” Trump didn’t say how he would end the Common Core State Standards if he was elected President, or what it would even mean for Common Core State Standards to be ended.
The Common Core State Standards are not a project of the federal government. They were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and have been voluntarily adopted by most, but not all, state legislatures. The President of the United States did not create the Common Core State Standards, and doesn’t have the power to destroy them. So, when Donald Trump suggests that he would end the Common Core as President, he’s only showing that he doesn’t understand in the slightest how federal involvement in education policy works in the United States.
But, I do have to point out that, for at least these 30 seconds, Donald Trump made an attempt to touch on something that looked a little bit like a serious public policy matter. The same cannot be said for the rest of his appearance before the Family Leadership Summit, though to be fair, Trump can’t take all the blame for that.
Frank Luntz, describing his position as the person onstage directing questions to Donald Trump, commented that “I know part of this responsibility is to be able to understand who these people are, not just about policy.” Lunzt then promised to have Trump talk about his policy ideas at the end of the interview, but didn’t ask him any policy questions to end the session. All he did was stand up and say, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Donald Trump!”
Trump’s own closing words were given when he leaned over to Luntz and told him, “I get a standing ovation. Other people don’t.”
For the rest of the time, Trump didn’t offer any specific positive ideas for what could offer the country as its next President. Instead, he responded to off-topic questions such as, “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” and “What is your relationship with God?” If Trump were asking for the position of high priest at a church, these questions might be appropriate, but the responsibilities of President of the United States have nothing at all to do with personal religious beliefs and practices.
Luntz also tried to get Donald Trump to answer silly questions about Barack Obama. “Does he love America?” Luntz asked. “Is he a moral President?”
One important revelation did come from Donald Trump’s appearance before the Family Leadership Summit: Trump admitted that he has been bribing politicians, giving substantial financial contributions to their campaigns with the understanding that, in return, he would be given control over their actions as elected officials. Trump told the audience:
“Nobody deals with politicians more than I do. I contribute to them, and they did whatever I said. I contributed to Hillary Clinton. I contributed to Bill Clinton, and I contribute to everyone. You know what? I’m a businessman. Why wouldn’t I? I don’t have to agree with them… If you can’t win and make a lot of money with politicians, you’re not very good. Believe me, I’ve been dealing with them all of my life, and I don’t think anyone has dealt with them any better. I know them, and I know it from the other side. All of the people, like when you see Bush has $100 million dollars, and you see Hillary has $50 million dollars, that they got, they just announced, those people are controlled by those people who gave them money. They’re lobbyists, they’re special interests, and they’re donors. I will tell you that they are totally controlled.”
Bribery is a tactic for spreading political corruption, but it isn’t a public policy. So, the one time Donald Trump got specific at the Family Leadership Summit, it wasn’t to describe what he would do as President of the United States. Instead, it was to describe how Trump has personally contributed to the degradation of American democracy.