Donald Trump has made it painfully clear that he doesn’t much like to read materials prepared for him by White House officials. Yesterday, however, offered a rather comical example of the phenomenon. Politico reported:
President Donald Trump on Thursday ditched his “boring” prepared remarks at a tax roundtable in West Virginia, and instead repeated his claim that “millions” of people are voting illegally and boasted that he was right about the threat of Mexican rapists.
“You know, this was going to be my remarks, it would’ve have taken about two minutes, but to hell with it,” the president said, tossing papers in the air. “That would have been a little boring, a little boring.”
When you see reports that Trump threw away his prepared remarks, it’s worth appreciating the fact that he literally did this.
Republican leaders tend to believe focusing on tax breaks is key to helping GOP candidates in this year’s midterm elections, and White House staffers probably put a fair amount of effort in writing yesterday’s presidential script. And early on at yesterday’s event in West Virginia, everything appeared to be on track. Trump bantered with those seated around him for a while, before saying, “And I think with that, I’ll start.” That’s when Trump decided that talking about tax cuts was “boring” – so he threw his remarks in the air.
His like-minded audience found this entertaining, but this was a reminder that Trump often acts as if he thinks being president is a drag. Talking about tax breaks at an event about tax breaks? Yawn. It’s vastly more fun, Trump decided, to talk about what Trump like to talk about.
And so, the president complained incessantly about immigration. And talked about his 2016 election victory. And made up baseless claims about rapists. And pretended “millions” of people voted illegally during the last election cycle.
Practically everything the president said about these subjects was demonstrably wrong, but Trump events aren’t about accuracy. They’re about self-indulgence and what Trump sees as the keys to his political success.
Note, for example, that Trump headlined an event in Ohio last week, which the White House described as a “major” speech on infrastructure. And yet, the president couldn’t be bothered: “His appearance was billed as an attempt to promote his infrastructure plan, but Mr. Trump addressed it only briefly near the end of his remarks, and said it was unlikely to pass soon.”
The president has convinced himself that his indifference to governing and public policy is shared by his core supporters, so there’s no real point in engaging the public on a substantive level. His agenda is “boring,” but his red-meat rhetoric about immigrants is exciting.
Trump seems to believe he won’t connect with people by talking about the economy or infrastructure, but he can forge emotional bonds though shared cultural resentment and racial animus.
It’s a post-policy presidency, through and through.