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Speaking softer, lacking substance

By Ann McFeatters Tribune News Service (TNS) Published: March 6, 2017 4:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Wow! It turns out all Donald Trump had to do was speak softly and leave his big stick back at the White House.

The man who as a candidate boasted his supporters would stay with him even if he killed somebody in daylight on Fifth Avenue is now the leader battling the lowest early popularity rating of any recent president by saying the same things he's always said -- in more dulcet tones. To which the critics cheered and the stock market soared! At least for the moment.

Americans were so relieved Trump wasn't yelling at them the other night that they went to sleep on their sofas dreaming happily of better, cheaper health care, big pay raises, more fulfilling jobs, and succulent steaks on new grills -- all just around the corner.

During his speech, Trump shook his finger at the somnolent Democrats in the House chamber and warned them it's time to end the "trivial fights." He was, of course, referring to their frivolous opposition to ending health care for 20 million Americans, his signing a law letting the severely mentally handicapped buy guns, making mortgages costlier for low-income homebuyers, ending environmental and consumer protections, building an expensive wall, letting transgender children be bullied, and making friends with killer dictators. You know, trivial stuff.

The dirty secret of all this is that Trump has sent no details of any of his promises to Capitol Hill. He hasn't given us any plans on health care, corporate and individual tax cuts, infrastructure investments, entitlement reform, or how to pay for any of it. Nothing.

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Republicans have no idea how to replace the Affordable Care Act. They can't agree on an immigration reform plan. They don't know where to gut domestic spending to come up with $22 billion for a wall, $54 billion for defense and the billions more Trump's promised tax cut will cost. Trump wants to slash spending on clean air and water and our efforts to make foreigners like us. But entitlements make up two-thirds of the federal budget, and any cuts Congress agrees on are unlikely to make a notable difference.

By the way, whatever happened to Trump's "secret plan" to defeat the Islamic State?

He purposefully repeated his mantra that we are at war with "radical Islamic terrorists," even though his new national security adviser pleaded that Trump not use that term because it is inflammatory to nearly one-fourth of the world's population, sending a message we're at war with their religion. (That national security adviser, incidentally, is the first to hold the job without unhindered access to the president.)

Our president's also created a new office to spotlight violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, even though they commit far fewer crimes than U.S. citizens. He has spoken about ending violence in America's cities but agrees to more unfettered access to guns.

This country wants and needs better roads, safer dams, stable tunnels, new bridges, deeper ports, modern airports, rural internet access and smoother rails. Trump says it will cost $1 trillion in public and private money. After that, no details. Nothing. If he expects a viable infrastructure plan to come out of Congress, he's delusional. He has to present one and elbow it through with all his might.

The newly presidential tone is welcome, if it lasts. We need a leader who's willing to forget about social engineering and force Congress to act in ways all hard-working Americans will applaud.

Sometimes, if you have a big stick, you have to use it. Wisely.


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