Two words Trump needs to stop using: 'easily' and 'quickly'

Trump believes we can move toward solutions on societal racism "quickly" and "very easily." These are probably the most dangerous words in his vocabulary.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with conservative black supporters in the Cabinet Room at the White House
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with conservative black supporters in the Cabinet Room at the White House, June 10, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump traveled to Dallas yesterday, where he held an event on race and policing ahead of a high-dollar fundraiser. As Rachel noted on the show, the president and his team made a curious decision not to invite the local police chief, sheriff, and district attorney -- each of whom are African American.

But as part of the same roundtable, Trump offered a prediction of sorts that stood out as extraordinary.

Trump's event at a conservative, evangelical and predominantly white church in Dallas on Thursday afternoon came as the White House has yet to announce what new measures it might support in response to the protests against racial injustice that have gripped the nation since the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. Trump did not mention Floyd by name in his remarks but suggested the work of confronting bigotry and prejudice will "go quickly and it'll go very easily."

That would be quite a feat, wouldn't it? According to the president with a long record of racism, the United States, despite struggling mightily with racial conflicts for centuries, is suddenly prepared to move toward solutions "quickly" and "very easily."

Trump didn't elaborate on how, exactly, these quick and easy solutions will materialize, though he was asked a week ago about his plan to address systemic racism. "That's what my plan is: We're going to have the strongest economy in the world," he replied.

Of course, as we've discussed, the United States has had the strongest economy in the world for the better part of a century. Obviously, a robust, internationally dominant economy isn't a cure-all for societal ills, including institutional racism and police abuses, since the scourges haven't gone away.

But the problem is not just that Trump is wrong about the problem; it's just as important that he's wrong about the ease with which he expects to address the problem.

The president has an unfortunate habit of thinking every challenge can be resolved "quickly" and "very easily."

Last year, for example, as Trump turned his back on our Kurdish allies in Syria, a reporter asked about the potential for lasting harm as U.S. partners start to wonder whether we'll abandon them. The president said he wasn't concerned because international alliances "are very easy."

As regular readers know, it's a word the Republican probably ought to remove from his vocabulary altogether. Trade wars, the president assured the public, are "easy." So is a military confrontation with Iran. So is getting China to fix North Korea. So is closing the border between the United States and Mexico. So is the Middle East peace process.

Trump, indifferent to the intricacies of governing, never wants to be bothered with pesky details. The result is a president who responds to incredibly difficult challenges like he's the blowhard at the end of the bar who's convinced he knows the solution to every problem. Opiods? Let's just execute drug dealers. Immigration? Let's just build a wall. School shootings? Let's just arm teachers. Hurricanes? Let's just hit 'em with a nuke.

There's reason to cringe every time Trump uses the word "easy": it's too often tied to a complex policy dynamic that requires enormous care, not a knee-jerk dismissal. If the president is prepared to confront societal bigotry -- an enormous "if," to be sure -- that would certainly be a step in the right direction. But the fact that Trump thinks the issue can be addressed "quickly" and "very easily" reinforces suspicions that he's given the matter effectively no thought, and he's wholly unprepared to do meaningful work.

Update: The official White House transcript of Trump's comments yesterday, including the full context of the "very easily" quote, is online here.