On President Showboat

So, OK, I'm starting to warm up to Matthew Yglesias.  And not just because he's lined up with me on the anti-Trump thing. That's very nearly enough, but I think he's writing better stuff - trying to get at more than the usual shit we hear and see from the Press Poodles.

This is some good old fashioned nerd porn.

If you take any one moment from the Trump Show out of context, it’s striking. But together, Trump’s antics are now banal. He says, tweets, and does weird things. He gets attention. He pisses people off while thrilling others. Tonight, he even managed to attract attention and garner praise for slightly dialing it down. But speeches are supposed to be tools to help do the work of actually being president — learning about the issues, making decisions about trade-offs, and collaborating to get things done.
Amid the nonstop and increasingly tedious theatricality, Trump is only ever performing the role of the president; he’s never doing the job.
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You can’t parse a president who doesn’t sweat the details.
In a normal address of this sort, the role of a policy reporter is to serve as a kind of translator. Having spent days, weeks, and months following policy debates in Washington, we are able to catch the quick references in the president’s speech and understand them in fuller context. In that spirit, for example, I might note that Trumps’ reference to creating “a level playing field for American companies and workers” appears to be a move toward endorsing a controversial corporate income tax reform that big exporters like but retail chains hate.
The problem is that to draw that conclusion would require us to believe the speech went through a traditional drafting process. That the Treasury secretary and the National Economic Council director and the legislative liaison staff all briefed the president on the meaning of the line, and that he therefore made a coherent, deliberate effort to embrace this plan.
But here’s another theory. The speech seems to be largely the product of tensions between Reince Priebus’s traditional Republican Party ideology and Steve Bannon’s populist nationalism. Priebus is close to Paul Ryan, who likes the controversial tax reform. But one interpretation of the tax reform idea is that it’s protectionist trade policy, which Bannon likes. So the two of them may have put the line into the speech even though Senate Republicans and the Trump administration economic team seem to think it’s a bad idea.
The premise of taking a close look at these speeches to read the tea leaves, in short, is that the president actually understands the policy issues facing him and cares about the words he’s speaking. With Trump, that’s far from true. He doesn’t like to read briefing books or make hard choices. His words about clean air or infrastructure or anything else are completely meaningless until we see real plans. And there’s no real indication that we ever will. The show is an increasingly meaningless spectacle.