Reminder: Nothing the Trump Campaign Says is Binding

So yesterday Trump was tossed a softball question about whether the Federal government owns too much land, particularly in the West. This is an issue about which there is pretty broad bipartisan agreement and is moreover an issue that was in the news and was of especial interest to many of Trump’s supporters. So this reporter who is asking Trump the question even sets the question up with information that clearly indicates how Trump is supposed to answer, and still, Trump kind of cluelessly flounders around:


At this point, Trump’s ignorance of even basic points pertaining to hot button policy issues is barely worth more than a chuckle.

Here’s what’s really problematic about this story. Some months ago, Trump caused some problems for himself and his campaign by suggesting that he could pay off the national debt in 8 years. This caused people to ask, with understandable incredulity, “How?”

So the Trump campaign responded by sending out an official economic advisor to explain that one of the ways (actually, the only way) Trump planned to pay off the debt was to sell off all land owned by the Federal government. But clearly that was never an actual plan, or if it was, the man with the greatest memory in the world has already forgotten it, such that he can’t even say anymore whether he thinks the Federal government owns too much land generally.

So, in response to a live controversy, the Trump campaign sent out someone to explain that Trump planned to do X. Three months later, Trump is asked if he supports some waaaaaay milder version of X, and Trump doesn’t even know what the hell the question is about, or how to start answering it.

Nor, mind you, is this even nearly the only instance of this happening. On May 18, for instance, a Trump surrogate said on CNN that Trump definitely would release his tax returns before the election. We now know that he will not release them at all. The list could really go on and on.

Never when any of these surrogates or spokesmen go “off message” are they subject to any discipline at all, nor does the campaign ever issue a correction when they have said something incorrect. We just find out a couple weeks later that the campaign is now saying something completely different and if you confront them about it, they respond with a look of polite befuddlement, as if to say, “My dear, I have no idea what you’re even talking about.”

The problem is so bad that Trump himself at one point had to say that none of his spokespeople were, in fact, authorized to speak for him, and that no one should believe the idiots who worked for him. But of course they are merely taking a cue from Trump himself, who is never bound by anything he says, and often flat out denies having said things that he said on tape (such as the assertion that Japan should maybe arm themselves with nuclear weapons).

All politicians promise things during the campaign that they are later unable to deliver on. Trump, on the other hand, regularly promises things during the campaign that don’t survive the very week in which they are uttered. This makes it impossible to know what, if anything, the plan even is for the Trump administration is with respect to any issue whatsoever.

Mostly, of course, this is by design, because the Trump administration does not have even the vague outlines for a plan for how to deal with any issues that peril the country. Conservatives rightly mocked Obama’s slogan by saying “Hope is not a plan,” but “Make America Great Again” is also not a plan. And if no one can know what Trump’s plan is, how can they hope to assess whether it is a good one or a bad one?

Which, frankly, is better than actually knowing what the plan is in Trump’s case, because based on the few plans he has actually laid out, vague and ever shifting aspirations are better than what Trump could come up with in terms of a plan.

Why is that relevant? Well, many of our good friends say, you have to vote for Trump because of the Supreme Court. Heck, Trump himself says we have no choice but to do so. Thing is, we’ve already seen how this plays out with respect to Trump and judges. First, he released a list of names that he would select a Supreme Court judge from, to much fanfare. Less than 24 hours later, he said he would “probably” pick someone from the list, but it wasn’t totally binding. Within a week, he had modified this to “someone very much like” the people on the list. Nowadays, he acts like the list was never even a thing. The chances he will pick someone from it are pretty much zero.

You’re welcome to sucker yourself into believing that Trump means what he says on the Supreme Court, even though he clearly does NOT mean it with respect to anything else. Personally, I’ll pass.

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