Beside the invective, misrepresentations and political calculation, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton recently provided revealing insights into their initial priorities and how each would lead the country.
In broad-ranging speeches, the presumptive nominees included what they called their agendas for their first 100 days in office. Their lists illustrated the gulf between an experienced politician developing specific legislative initiatives and a non-politician talking in broader terms.
In a sense, that contrast also illustrated the preparedness gap between Trump, who speaks mostly in generalities without showing any real sense of details or priorities, and Clinton, who has a clear sense of how she would proceed in tackling the country’s principal problems.
The first 100 days are crucial in establishing a new president’s political leadership and in getting things done. The most productive modern presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, all achieved their initial goals by moving quickly to enact priority proposals to energize the economy.
Regardless of any impact from the British vote to quit the European Community, Trump or Clinton will confront a challenge from the slow pace of economic growth next January. Here is what they said:
TRUMP: “Number one, the first 100 days, I’ll appoint judges who will uphold the Constitution of the United States,” the presumptive GOP nominee began. That’s code language to assure conservatives about filling the current Supreme Court vacancy, but an odd initial priority that wouldn’t affect most Americans for a long time.
“I will change immigration rules to give unemployed Americans an opportunity to fill good, really good paying jobs,” he added. Presumably seeking to tighten current rules, its immediate impact seems questionable, since illegal immigrants often fill low-paying jobs most Americans don’t want.
“We’ll stand up to countries that cheat on trade, of which there are many. We’ll cancel rules and regulations that send jobs overseas and everywhere but our country. We’ll lift restrictions on energy production.” Executive actions.
After vowing to “repeal and replace job-killing Obamacare” (studies say it hasn’t cost jobs), Trump finally focused on job creation, declaring, “we’ll pass massive tax reform to create millions of new jobs and lower taxes everyone.” (Independent analyses say his plan would primarily benefit wealthy Americans like himself and balloon the deficit.)
Finally, what seemed like mainly a gratuitous dig at his opponent, a pledge “to impose tough new ethics rules to restore dignity to the office of Secretary of State.”
Trump’s agenda fits the portrait The Wall Street Journal’sJoseph Rago painted last weekend of a man who, in the forward to a 2006 manual on Trump-style negotiation, said, “I like to work in broad strokes, deal with the big picture and not the details.”
CLINTON: The polar opposite, she deals in details, sometimes to a fault. But her 100-day agenda seems far more explicit, focused and relevant.
“In my first 100 days as president, I will work with both parties to pass a comprehensive plan to create the next generation of good paying jobs,” she began. “The heart of my plan will be the biggest investment in American infrastructure in decades.”
That focuses both on the principal economic challenges — the need for more, better paid jobs and to upgrade the decaying infrastructure — and on the principal political one — trying to surmount partisan gridlock.
Other priorities fill in additional blanks:” Let’s connect every household to broadband by the year 2020. Let’s build a cleaner, more resilient power grid with enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. Let’s fix failing water systems … renovate our public schools.” Raise the minimum wage.
“Another engine for growth and job creation would be comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “It will bring millions of workers into the formal economy so that you don’t have an unlevel playing field” where employers hire undocumented workers at lower wages.
Her agenda, more suited for four years than 100 days, continued from there: Make “quality affordable childcare and preschool available in every community in the next 10 years,” provide “debt-free college available to everyone” including forgiving past debt with national service, require companies to share profits with employees and shift fewer jobs and profits overseas, extend Dodd-Frank securities industry regulatory rules and “make sure all Wall Street corporations and the superrich pay their fair share of taxes.”
Each would face the same challenges as president. But their prescriptions are quite different, and so too, judging from their words, are their priorities.
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Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. Readers may write to him via email at: [email protected]