What the candidates are saying (and what it really means)


Ann McFeatters

WASHINGTON — We interrupt your summer to bring you bold, new promises from the growing list of people with huge egos who wish to become president. We helpfully provide translations.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, desperately hoping to be the last man standing when his GOP colleagues knock each other out, says he will “mean what I say and say what I mean.”

When he says “shut up and sit down” because it’s his town hall meeting, he means it. When he says he didn’t shut down a major bridge and inconvenience thousands of his citizens for political retribution, he means he did not physically put out traffic cones. He promises he will be so candid it will “make you cringe ever once in a while.”

Never mind that he promised his state an economic recovery that did not materialize, a streamlined pension system that is chaos and ethical purity that has been badly sullied. He will tell us the truth — we are an “anxious” society with enormous problems that he will solve by telling us the truth. As he sees it.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, yes, the one who has raised more than $114 million — almost twice as much as Hillary Clinton — and the one related to those other Bushes, suggested that Americans need to work longer hours. He quickly amended that to say he means that part-time workers need full-time jobs. But the damage was done. Hillary gleefully suggested that Americans already work much harder than many people around the world and wouldn’t it be nice if they got paid accordingly?

Bush pledges to double America’s economic rate of growth through the much-derided trickle down policy: You give enough tax breaks to the rich, and voila!, jobs. But it doesn’t work. The rich are richer than they have ever been and they aren’t creating jobs.

Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin fighter who vows more fights with unions, vows “healthy or sick, born or unborn, I will fight and win for you.” Unfortunately, Walker, who did not finish college and instead went into politics, has bad syntax. Technically, he is saying that whether he is healthy or sick, born or unborn, he will fight for the rest of us. Nonetheless, he wants to parse diplomatic nuances with the Iranians.

Walker is in the process of walking back almost everything he has ever said to appeal to Iowa conservatives and evangelicals. His social agenda seems to be evolving. Or rather, devolving. He now wants a constitutional amendment to let states ban same-sex marriage and just signed legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Walker has been on a government payroll all his adult life. Isn’t it interesting that the most anti-government politicians love living off taxpayers? And isn’t it interesting that politicians who hate regulating business are the most fervent advocates of regulations that tell the rest of us how to live?

Hillary Clinton promises to restore the good life for middle-class Americans, whom she calls “everyday Americans.” This means she will revive the old liberal bromides — a vaguely higher minimum wage (which will not guarantee that you move into the middle class, let alone buy a house), more public child care (expensive) and more regulations (Congress will balk).

But the core problem is that American workers are increasingly lacking in the skills needed to compete in a global economy. Americans are not lazy, as Jeb Bush suggests; young people coming into the workforce are poorly trained and badly educated. We have yet to see bold, new promises to deal with that; companies seriously investing in making workers more skilled and more valuable and much more highly paid, with good benefits.

It means nothing that the buffoon Donald Trump is leading the Republican pack right now except that the few people paying attention to the race to spout the most platitudes are enjoying the joke, knowing Trump will never be president.

On Aug. 6 we’ll rejoin the fun when Fox News decides who gets to debate and who will be ostracized. Maybe somebody will actually devise some bold, new ideas. Meanwhile, let’s return to summer.

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