On his 3rd try, Trump says his future agenda is more of the same

For the third time in two weeks, Trump was asked what agenda he'd pursue if he's re-elected. There's a reason this obvious line of inquiry isn't going well
Image: Donald Trump arrives to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.
Donald Trump arrives to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA file

Donald Trump keeps getting asked what policy agenda he'd pursue if he's re-elected. Last night, as Politico noted, the president at least tried to answer the question.

Sean Hannity gave President Donald Trump a further chance to lay out his second-term agenda Thursday after the president came under fire for failing to identify a single policy objective under similar previous questioning by the Fox News host.... After Hannity gave Trump an opportunity to redeem himself Thursday, Trump listed a number of policy areas including defeating coronavirus, rebuilding the economy, negotiating new trade deals and appointing more federal judges.

Let's back up for a minute to revisit how we arrived at this point.

A couple of weeks ago, during a different Sean Hannity interview with Trump, the host asked about the president's "top priority items for a second term." Trump rambled for 161 words, insisted that the word "experience" is "a very important word," called John Bolton "an idiot," but never got around to identifying a single substantive goal.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) soon after scolded Hannity, arguing that the Fox News host has a responsibility to help Trump win, and asking questions such as "What are your top priority items for a second term?" aren't helpful.

Last week, the president spoke with Sinclair Media's Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host, who said he wanted to offer Trump "a retake" on the same question. The president replied, "[I]t's very simple: we're going to make America great again. We are doing things that nobody could have done."

As we discussed, Trump proceeded to ramble through a 380-word answer that made clear that he didn't know how to answer the most obvious question of any campaign: what will you do if you win?

Last night's answer was marginally better, at least insofar as it resembled a response. But if you listen to the clip, note how hollow Trump's second-term agenda is.

He plans to work on the coronavirus, which is what he claims to already be doing. He intends to work on the economy, which is what he claims to already be doing. He wants to focus on unidentified trade deals, border-wall construction, and military spending, all of which is what he claims to already be doing.

The president added that he wants to care for veterans, protect the Second Amendment, and stack the courts with more far-right ideologues -- and if these priorities sound familiar, it's because, according to Trump, he's already doing each of these things, too.

In other words, the incumbent president's plan for a second term is to offer more of the same. That's it. That's the agenda.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, part of this is predictable. Trump recently delivered a campaign re-launch speech in Tulsa, where he neglected to say what he intended to do if rewarded with a second term.

What's more, the president's campaign website does not feature an issues page listing any plans or blueprints for the future. Even the Republican Party's 2020 platform is just the 2016 platform recycled.

And it's becoming increasingly clear why that wasn't an especially tough call for Team Trump.

As we recently discussed, at this point in the campaign, we'd ideally see a battle of ideas, with the major-party candidates critiquing each other's agendas, highlighting their flaws, and promising a better way. Except in 2020, that's effectively impossible: the Republican incumbent hasn't presented any ideas to critique.

It's not an accident; it's the result of a choice. Governing parties present platforms to voters, in part so the electorate knows what they consider important, and in part so that winning candidates can claim a mandate in the event of a victory.

Post-policy parties, however, don't bother.