Donald Trump delivered what was billed as an economic policy speech in Detroit Monday afternoon, but instead of outlining the details of his proposals, he announced vague plans to explain them at an unspecified date in the future.
Trump promised, “in the coming weeks, we will be offering more detail on all of these policies” and, “in the days ahead, we will provide more details on this plan and how it will help you and your family,” and “I will unveil my plan on this in the coming weeks,” and “in the coming days, we will be rolling out plans on all of these items.”
Trump spoke for roughly fifty minutes, during which time he was interrupted by protesters on fourteen separate occasions. He made lofty promises and offered harsh criticism of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, but like so many of Trump’s public remarks, a close inspection of what he said revealed his words to have little meaning, or to be demonstrably false.
The improbable Republican nominee took to the lectern at the Detroit Economic Club, a nonpartisan speaking forum that claims it’s “proud to have hosted every U.S. President since Richard Nixon,” after a brief introduction from his running mate, Mike Pence. He wore his standard uniform of dark suit, white dress shirt and wide, gleaming red tie. He gripped the sides of the wooden structure, as is his custom, and he leaned into the microphone as he read carefully from the teleprompter.
This was Trump’s first major policy speech since accepting his party’s nomination. The only other time he’s stoically read from a teleprompter to deliver remarks in this manner was in Manchester in June, when he unveiled what he said was his foreign policy doctrine following the terror attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
It certainly does not seem to be a coincidence that Trump’s big, presidential speech follows a week of the least presidential behavior of his campaign.
Months ago, during the Republican primary, Trump replaced his novice staffers with hardened political operatives who were said to be tasked with professionalizing his operation, grooming him to be the kind of candidate who could compete against Clinton. It turned out that was a bit like teaching a pitbull to waltz.
And frustration with Trump’s inability, or unwillingness, or reluctance, to act presidential seemed to finally reach a fever pitch last week after a series of gaffes and terrible poll numbers seemed to send the already off-kilter campaign into a tailspin.
Anonymous sources told NBC News that an intervention was in the works to stop Trump from wounding himself further and to get him back on message, although he never quite had a coherent message to begin with.
But there he stood on Monday, trying again to act the part of the office he was seeking.
“It’s wonderful to be in Detroit, been here many times,” he said. “We now begin a great, national conversation about economic renewal for America. It’s a conversation about how to make America great again for everyone, and especially—and I say, especially—for those who have the very least.”
Trump proposed a number of reforms but offered no specifics for how he would achieve them or why they would result in a wealthier, more prosperous country.
Among them: “an across the board income tax reduction, especially for middle income Americans,” which he said “will lead to millions of new good paying jobs”; as well as the elimination of “the Carried Interest Deduction and other special interest loopholes”; the reduction of the “current number of [tax] brackets from 7 to 3”; some unspecified changes so that “no American company will pay more than 15 percent of their business income in taxes”; to “cut regulations massively”; to “allow businesses to immediately expense new business investments”; a moratorium on all new regulations; and a childcare tax deduction.
“In the days ahead,” Trump said, “we will provide more details on this plan and how it will help you and your family.”
Trump bemoaned the decline of the Motor City, citing as its cause America having “abandoned the policy of America First.” He claimed that “rebuilding other countries instead of our own” was a reason for the downturn.
“The skyscrapers went up in Beijing, and in many other cities around the world, while factories and neighborhoods crumbled in Detroit,” he said.
Although, Trump, whose line of ties was produced outside the U.S., was once a fan of job outsourcing. In a column posted to his Trump University blog, uncovered by Buzzfeed, Trump said, “outsourcing creates jobs in the long run.”
He also continued to conflate issues that have virtually nothing to do with one another.
It was a shame, Trump said, that while American infrastructure suffered, we managed to find “the money to resettle millions of refugees at taxpayer expense.” According to State Department, three million refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since 1975, although only 8,000 Syrian refugees have come here since we began admitting them last year. Trump cited a Breitbart News article, however, not the State Department.
He offered no details about how he planned to fund new infrastructure spending.
Trump said Detroit’s decline was due to “high taxes,” “radical regulation,” “the immigration policies that have strained local budgets” and “the trade deals like NAFTA.” He argued that Clinton was to blame for this, because “the city of Detroit is the living, breathing example of my opponent’s failed economic agenda. Every policy that has failed this city, and so many others, is a policy supported by Hillary Clinton.”
High taxes and unfriendly business policies are part of the story, but not the complete picture. Trump didn’t mention that the city had put all its eggs in one basket, the auto industry, which made it vulnerable to the sort of decline. Nor did he mention the racial divide that led to “white flight,” or the political corruption, or the related shoddy leadership that prevented the city from avoiding its eventual spiral into bankruptcy.
Trump’s insistence that immigration is somehow responsible for Detroit’s suffering is curious, too, especially given that Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, in 2014 announced his plan to attract 50,000 immigrants to the city as a means of reinvigorating its economy.
Trump then claimed that, “if you were a foreign power looking to weaken America, you couldn’t do better than Hillary Clinton’s economic agenda,” although Trump is the only candidate with direct ties to a foreign power looking to weaken America—Russia—whose bidding he seems to be doing at every turn.
Clinton, Trump said, “short circuited again, to use a now-famous term, when she accidentally told the truth and said she wanted to raise taxes on the middle class.” A review of the video of Clinton’s remarks, last Monday in Omaha, makes it clear she said “we aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class,” just as her prepared remarks stated.
Trump bemoaned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, claiming that, “a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for TPP—and it’s also a vote for NAFTA.” He neglected to mention that Pence, the man with whom he shares his ticket, was a fervent supporter of both TPP and NAFTA.
Although he talks with the help of a teleprompter now, just like those career politicians he hates, Monday’s economic speech was proof that Trump hasn’t changed much during his fourteen months as a candidate. He remains big on drama and short on details.
When he first announced his candidacy, in June 2015, he ended his speech with the following line: “Just to sum up: I would do various things very quickly.”
And the sentiment remains.