Trump still struggling to articulate his agenda for a second term

During a Fox News town hall in Wisconsin late last month, President Trump was asked by host Sean Hannity to name his top priority items for a second term. Trump gave a meandering reply about now having the “experience” of being president and living in Washington, D.C. (“Now I know everybody,” he said), then quickly pivoted to the tell-all book by his former national security adviser John Bolton — all without laying out a single policy idea or plan.

The answer frustrated Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who criticized Hannity for not making Trump focus.

“I would blame Fox more than I blame the president, because the president, it’s easy for him to digress here and there, but Hannity — you assume Fox wants him to get reelected,” Grassley said. “Hannity should have got him back on the subject.”

President Trump waves to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Trump waves to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

In an interview with Sinclair Broadcasting the following day, former Fox News host Eric Bolling gave Trump an opportunity for a do-over, asking what would be the “main focus” of his second term.

Trump replied with the slogan of his 2016 presidential campaign.

“It’s very simple: We’re gonna make America great again,” he said, before ticking off accomplishments such as his trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico, and a push to manufacture products in America.

“We’re doing it — whether it’s trade, whether it’s military — all made in the USA. It’s so important. Made in the USA,” Trump said. “We’ve got to bring back our manufacturing, and I’ve brought it back very big. But we have to make our own pharmaceutical products, our own drugs, prescription drugs, we have to make our own things. We’re doing it now with steel, we’re doing it now with a lot of different products. I’ve done that. But we can do it with a lot more. We want to build our own ships. We don’t want to send out to other countries to build ships. So we have a lot of things we can do. We’ve done a lot, but we have a lot of things we can do.”

On Thursday, Hannity gave Trump yet another chance to lay out his agenda.

“I asked you a question in Wisconsin and you got criticized for the answer,” Hannity told Trump. “I want to ask you again. You are now asking America in 117 days to give you a second term as president of the United States. Let’s — what is your second-term agenda?”

This was Trump’s reply:

First of all, I didn’t know it was criticized for that answer because it’s a simple question. First of all, we’re going to defeat the invisible enemy, and we are well on our way. And again, I told you, the mortality rate is tenfold down. We’re going to rebuild the economy, we’re going to bring back jobs from all of these foreign lands that have stolen our jobs on horrible trade deals. We are going to continue to make great trade deals.

We’re going to finish rebuilding our wall. We’re going to finish, we’re going to have that — it’s going to be almost complete by the end of this year, shortly thereafter it’s finished. It’s made a tremendous difference. You see, we’re doing record numbers on the border. Very few people are able to get through. We’re rebuilding with our military. We’ve rebuilt the military. $2.5 trillion. We are fixing up the VA for our vets. The job we’ve done there, between choice and accountability.

We have choice, where they go out and get a doctor. If they are sick, they don’t have to wait for five weeks, six weeks, two weeks. So we are doing great with the vets, and the vets are loving Trump. We are protecting our Second Amendment, so. We need more judges and more justices. You see that now with the Supreme Court more than ever. And the next president, I’ve had two, the next president is going to be able to pick two or three or one or whatever, but a lot of justices. And that means everything, whether it’s for life or other things, I mean it means so much.

But protecting the Second Amendment, getting more judges. All of the things that we’ve done, nobody’s done what this administration has done in the first three and a half years. Nobody’s even come close. When you look at everything that we’re doing. Now what we’re doing is working on lowering drug prices and knocking out special interests, because it’s not easy. We’re fighting for choice. We did it for the veterans and now we are doing it for school too. One choice in school so a parent can take their child to a school of their choice, and that’s happening — very good, very, very well.

And we have many things we are doing and many things that we have already completed, and you can’t do more than what we’ve done. I think we’ve set records. We actually set a record on judges. We are going to be, by the time of the end of this year, we will be up to almost 300 federal judges, and that’s a record.

President Trump speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
President Trump at the White House on Thursday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump’s struggle to deliver a concise argument for his reelection has alarmed Republicans, particularly because he has fallen behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls, as voters have panned his handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

After the president’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board warned that Trump “still has no second term message beyond his own grievances” — and without one, he could be heading for “an historic repudiation” in November.

“An agenda to revive the economy after the pandemic, and restore the gains for workers of his first three years, would appeal to millions,” the paper said. “Perhaps Mr. Trump lacks the self-awareness and discipline to make this case. He may be so thrown off by his falling polls that he simply can’t do it.”


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