The last four days provided some modest excitement in the race to the White House. On Saturday Hillary Clinton formally launched her campaign, after having declared her candidacy by video a couple of months ago and been on the road to meet with voters ever since, and on Monday Jeb Bush did the same, after pretending for months that there was still a possibility that he would not run while filling his war chest for the primaries. Both events were well-choreographed and highly predictable. Hillary had chosen New York City’s Roosevelt Island as location, to align herself with the greatest Democratic president, and extensively praised her husband and Barack Obama, the two presidents she worked for. Her speech confirmed that she has taken a slight turn to the left, under pressure from the Warren/Sanders fraction of the Democratic Party and with room to do so because the Republican candidates are giving centrist voters no other choice but to vote for Hillary. Jeb Bush moved quite a bit to the right of his earlier positions, no longer mentioning his original support for Common Core or amnesty for undocumented aliens, because in the current GOP climate that would be suicide.
Both speeches were more interesting for what was not said than for their actual content. Hillary’s long laundry list of policy proposals contained only one minor reference to Wall Street and no suggestions how to reign in future excesses, like restoring the Glass-Steagall act or strengthening Dodd-Frank. Jeb Bush, who conveniently dropped his last name for the duration of the campaign and now goes by Jeb!, promised to solve inequality and unemployment but offered no other recipe to accomplish that than precisely the policies that have produced inequality and unemployment. He has this in common with all the other Republicans who are running, and it will prove to be the Achilles heel of the eventual GOP nominee in the general election. But if Hillary’s and Jeb!’s speeches contained hardly any surprises, the real surprise came on Tuesday. After having suckered the press election after election into the idea that he might run for president, Donald Trump announced that this time he would jump on the Republican clown car, where he will start bumping other candidates like a cuckoo in a sparrow’s nest.
Trump’s presentation was as misleading as it was vulgar and aggressive. He started by painting the US as the laughing stock of the world, cheated by the Chinese and taken advantage of by the Mexicans, two nationalities that for some reason were the main target of his rambling. His credentials included a statement that he made a truckload of money and that he has manhandled the Chinese whenever he competed with them. As for the Mexicans, he would build the strongest possible wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it.
The speech contained a fair share of bizarre statements, like Trump’s complaint that ISIS doesn’t pay interest on the financing of its construction projects while he has to, and that single moment when he spoke the truth and observed that the real US unemployment rate is much higher than the official number, which inevitably brought to mind the saying that a broken clock is also right twice a day.
It is tempting to imagine a Donald Trump presidency restoring the US to greatness but that’s not going to happen, because according to the latest Gallup poll 6 out of 10 Americans would never vote for Trump. In the meantime, however, he can thoroughly screw up the chances of any GOP candidate to make it to the White House by embarrassing them and their party during the debates.