I watched Donald Trump’s interview this morning with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd and came away with a couple of observations I want to make here.
One is that I was glad to see the president sit down and be grilled hard by a member of a media organization he has demonized as a purveyor of “fake news.” Trump was mostly civil to Todd, who pushed the president hard on several key points. I was waiting for an explosion; it didn’t detonate.
Second, I was struck by the president’s continuing obsession with the record left behind by his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump kept insisting that the economy he inherited was on the brink of collapse, that the economy now is the “best” in U.S. history and, of course, he takes all the credit for an economic expansion he said was made possible only by his election to the presidency.
I tossed around in my head a notion I want to reveal here: Why not ask these two men to discuss that economic miracle together, in a debate, if you want to call it that?
I know it won’t happen. Presidents don’t debate their predecessors. Under what used to be normal circumstances, the current president takes office and assumes command, looking forward at all times, rarely looking backward, always thinking about what he intend to do to move the nation to the next step, past the next hurdle or barrier.
Not so with Trump. He is fixated on President Obama’s legacy, which to my way of thinking is a whole lot better than the one Trump characterizes.
So why not sit down across a table and talk to each other about how they view the economy — and perhaps a few other issues as well? Health care seems like a topic for discussion, along with, oh, relations with our allies, our ongoing war against terror and the nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran. Hey, maybe Trump can be forced to defend the ridiculous assertion that the special forces who killed Osama bin Laden should have acted sooner than they did; I would pay money to hear him mount that defense.
Trump is obsessed with comparing the presidency to the office that Obama left. He dare not compare himself to Obama the man, if you know what I am saying.
Barack Obama inherited an economy in free fall. It had actually collapsed by the time he took office. He along with Congress enacted some emergency measures that he hoped would stop the downward spiral. They worked. The economy then entered a job growth streak that hasn’t let up. Yet it is Donald Trump who takes the credit for the expansion that’s still under way.
If only we could actually hear these men explain to us their version of history. One of them, Obama, would do so in a measured, nuanced and elegant manner. The other, Trump, would resort to his version of the English language.
I wish it would happen. All I am left to do is sigh.