Trump Isn’t Governing, He’s Hustling

The president isn’t governing, he’s hustling. By itself, that’s not a big deal, as long as he’s got someone else to do the governing for him.

Where to begin? Healthcare, taxes, tax returns, MSNBC, leaks, the Resistance, and the celebrity of being POTUS: take your pick. Trump was the hustler and hucked all these before a rather amused Jesse Watters.

That’s the key to interviewing Donald J. Trump. Let him entertain you, and he’ll give you the world. Get serious or combative, and he’ll swat you out of the air like a mosquito. Ask Leslie Stahl.

President Trump appeared on Fox News’ Watters World Sunday night, in an interview taped last Wednesday night before the president gave a campaign rally speech in Nashville.

This interview is a masterpiece of selling. It’s hucksterism as its finest, gold-plated, Glengarry Glen Ross, coffee-is-for-closers, tremendousness. I can only marvel, and mock a bit at the lack of specificity on anything but the total assurance that everything is going to be terrific.

On health care:  “Healthcare is a very complex subject. I’ve been saying that for a long time.” (At least a week.)

“If you gave them a Democrat bill to approve, they wouldn’t approve it. They wouldn’t give you one vote,” Trump said. Of course they wouldn’t. And that’s exactly what the Republicans are doing, giving the Democrats Obamacare lite/swampcare, and letting them off the hook for the original.

On Sen. Rand Paul: “I like him. He’s become a friend of mine.” Some friend.


This is where Trump abruptly changed the subject. “And also, there’s taxes, we’re going to cut everybody’s taxes.” But we have to do the health care thing first. Why? I don’t know. It’s a complex subject, I guess. One deal at a time.

Trump never stops selling, and although he’s got a great cast, straight from central casting, we’re still waiting to see what they end up doing. It’s like “Professor” Harold Hill selling band instruments in “The Music Man.” Eventually, the uniforms and instruments show up, but will the band actually play?

Perfect segue for Watters: “We saw some of your returns. These people over at NBC News, doing everything to take you down.”

“They’re bad people. There’s something wrong with them,” Trump said. I suppose if Rachel Maddow was on set he’d tell someone to smack the hell out of her and he’d pay their legal bill.

“It’s illegal to do what they did, I think.” Wiggle room in case he’s wrong. The president said releasing a tax return is “criminally offensive.” That’s as close to a legal term as you’ll hear from him. It could mean that it is offensive to criminals, or that it’s a criminal act. I’m not sure, and I’m not sure Trump’s sure.

On the leakers (tax returns and other things): “It’s terrible what’s going on in Washington. We have a certain establishment out there that’s leaking…they just don’t respect the law, and we have to change that.” I suppose that depends on who is leaking what.

On the anti-Trump resistance, Watters asked “how much do you think is anger, and how much do you think that it’s someone like President Obama pulling the strings from behind the scenes?”

“It might be everything. There’s some anger, and there’s great love on our side. Look at the crowds outside.” Watters didn’t take the bait. “Do you think President Obama wants you to succeed?” he asked.

“Well, you know, he’s been very nice to me personally, but his people haven’t been nice. And there’s great animosity out there, there’s great anger,” Trump said. “While he’s nice to me personally, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of nice things behind the scenes, and that’s unfortunate.” I suppose when you tweet that Obama wiretapped you, niceness goes out the window.

The wrap up: “I inherited a mess,” Trump said. “I suppose you saw the polls coming out today, and I’m at my all-time high, for…this.” This being that the market is up, illegal alien arrests and attempts are down, and some companies have announced new jobs. Trump has been in office two months.

I realize the interview was taped Wednesday, but it’s unfortunate that Sunday night, the polls show that Trump’s approval rating has hit a new low, and the main stream media (like ABC News) is all over it.

President Trump‘s approval rating has fallen to 37 percent — the lowest of his fledgling presidency, according to Gallup. His disapproval rating rose correspondingly, hitting 58 percent.

But it doesn’t matter to Professor Harold Hill if anyone can actually play the instruments he’s selling. Trump knows how to sell. He knows that best, and he’s very, very good at it. The budget released on Friday was reportedly developed by parsing Trump’s campaign speeches and regurgitating that back to him.

The president isn’t governing, he’s hustling. By itself, that’s not a big deal, as long as he’s got someone else to do the governing for him.

People like Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are responsible for that. To continue the Music Man analogy, they’re making sure the band can play, and the problem is, they’re not teaching from the same sheets of music. That is indeed a big problem.

Meanwhile, Trump will continue to have rallies, because he gets his energy from the adoring fans. He will continue to sell on camera because that’s how he’s always won. But we won’t know how it all will turn out. I don’t mean how it the future will unfold, I mean how the things Trump has promised will show up when it’s time to actually do those things.

I suppose that’s what makes having Trump in the White House entertaining in a way. But to many, it’s simply a headache.


About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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