A few months ago, when Bob Woodward’s latest book was published, Donald Trump’s White House team seemed eager to push back against the book’s damaging revelations. To that end, officials in the West Wing tried to prove that the president is mentally stable by pointing to a lengthy list of Trump’s “accomplishments.”
It was an underwhelming inventory of developments, some of which the president had little to do with, but it included a memorable boast: Trump, the document said, “secured record $700 billion dollars in military funding; $716 billion next year.”
As far as the White House is concerned, defense spending counts as an “accomplishment.” It made yesterday’s rhetorical turn quite odd.
President Donald Trump on Monday said that the U.S., China and Russia would “at some time in the future” begin talks to end what he described as an uncontrollable arms race, and declared U.S. defense spending “crazy!”
The statement marks a dramatic reversal for the president, who has championed increased spending on the military and in August signed a colossal defense spending bill.
Even by this president’s standards, yesterday’s rhetoric was weird. I read the transcript of pretty much every Trump speech in the run-up to the midterm elections, and he was routinely eager to tout defense spending – usually in dishonest ways – as evidence of his greatness.
Now the president believes this same spending is “crazy”? Since when?
Of course, if Trump believes current expenditures on the military are excessive, perhaps he’s ready to see significant cuts to the Pentagon’s budget? Not really. The Washington Post recently reported that the president is eager to see a smaller deficit, but he’s told his team that he doesn’t want to make significant cuts to any of the federal budget’s biggest areas.
[E]ven as he has demanded deficit reduction, Trump has handcuffed his advisers with limits on what measures could be taken. And almost immediately after demanding the cuts from his Cabinet secretaries, Trump suggested that some areas – particularly the military – would be largely spared.
One might be tempted to describe all of this as “crazy.”