Three weeks before Labor Day, Donald Trump supporters might scoff at arguments that he’s running short of time to shift the national political narrative from his gaffe-tastic asides to his presidential bona fides.
Well, with the obvious assumptions built in: What if this is all there is?
Trump’s campaign team spent the weekend ginning up interest in a “major” speech Monday at Youngstown State University in Ohio, specifically his plan to defeat the Islamic State. The answer would be in the eye of the beholder.
If nothing else, it was a fairly pedestrian address delivered by a guy who looked very much like Donald Trump, determined to keep his eyes on his Teleprompter, insults held to a minimum.
Despite a crowd that appeared impatient for big applause or laugh lines, Trump stuck to script, as many prominent Republicans have been begging him to do.
The short version: Roughly every measure taken by the Obama administration had been wrong. Voters, Trump said, should remember that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state and intimately involved — and that the trouble started even before, when George W. Bush authorized the war in Iraq.
What to do about all that? On that, Trump had fewer specifics.
He would be clear that radical Islamic terrorism was the enemy posing a mortal threat to America: “We can’t always choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognize our enemies.”
The idea of exporting American-style democracy? “If I am elected president, the era of nation building will be brought to a swift and decisive end.”
Despite Clinton’s criticism of his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Trump would expand the relationship as president, including joint operations and intelligence sharing on counter-terrorism. A Trump administration, he said, would shut down internet use by Islamic State adherents.
And he doubled down on his constitutionally dubious idea of halting immigration from primarily Muslim nations. He pledged to develop an “ideological screening test” for immigration applicants, seeking to admit only those who embrace American values, as yet to be defined.
“We will be tough. We will be even extreme. Extreme,” he said, including a temporary suspension of immigration from “the most dangerous regions in the world,” as determined by his departments of State and Homeland Security.
His campaign had forecast that he would stick to broad strokes and planned future addresses to continue filling in blanks. For now, the blanks are winning.
University of Texas professor Christopher Wlezian, co-author of The Timeline of Presidential Elections: How Campaigns Do (and Do Not) Matter, noted to politico.com that the presidential polling leader coming out of the conventions has won the last 16 popular votes.
Until further notice, that’s Clinton. Coming from behind hasn’t happened in the modern era, even for candidates without Trump’s baggage.
As legendary principal W.P. Durrett liked to remind (and remind) students at Dallas’ Kimball High School, “It’s later than you think.” For Donald Trump, another opportunity disappeared with the passing of another day.
— The Dallas Morning News,