On Tuesday morning, President Trump granted an exclusive interview and preview of Tuesday night’s address to Congress to Fox & Friends. The show’s hosts tried limply to extract specific answers from Trump on his agenda moving forward—ostensibly the subject of Tuesday night’s speech. They did not succeed.
When asked where the money for his proposed $54 billion dollar increase in military spending would come from, Trump said that, in addition to cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, added revenue would be generated by repayments for foreign aid and economic growth of “3 [percent] or maybe more.” This contradicts reports that Trump’s budget proposal is being crafted under the assumption of 2.4 percent growth. No one brought this up. On health care, Trump only said that a “really terrific” plan would be proposed. “Yow know, health care is a really complex subject,” he said insightfully. “If you do this, it affects nine different things. If you do that, it affects 15 different things.” True!
Near the midway point of the interview, Trump was asked by Brian Kilmeade to reconcile conflicting statements from Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on whether the administration should cut and reform entitlements:
Kilmeade: Who’s right?
Trump: Well, I’ll tell you who’s right. If the economy sails, then I’m right, because I said I’m not touching Social Security—
Kilmeade: So the OMB is wrong.
Trump: I’m not saying anybody’s wrong. I’m just saying this: if we—and I think this is what’s going to happen, Brian—I think our country’s going to sail.
Trump was able to offer clarity on two subjects: the provenance of the protests against his presidency—”I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it”—and how well he’s done in his first month in office.
“In terms of effort, which means something, but I give myself an A+, OK, effort,” Trump said. “But that’s—results are more important. In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or C+.” Asked why, Trump pointed to stories about the thousands of appointment vacancies he evidently has yet to fill. “A lot of those jobs I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” he said. “We have so many people in government.”
“So you’re cutting?” Kilmeade asked. “You’re cutting. Those slots are not going to be there.”
“You know, it’s funny,” Trump replied. “That’s what I mean about messaging.”
Trump closed by giving himself a grade for actual achievement. It was an A.