For Trump, Morning in America never seems to dawn
How can it be Morning in America when the president keeps acting like it's midnight in Hades?
The economic news is impressive: the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 and 3.2% economic growth in the first quarter. For President Trump, it raises the possibility of running an upbeat, Morning in America-style reelection campaign, like Ronald Reagan did in 1984.
Except for one thing: Trump is congenitally unable to keep it sunny, or to stay on any message. Attempts at accentuating the positive invariably devolve into his usual recitation of grievance and gloom.
Take Thursday's announcement that he was rolling out new plans to cut health-care prices. With lawmakers assembled in the Roosevelt Room, he spoke of a "bold, new initiative," "very special," an "incredible success." He boasted (falsely) that "drug prices saw their first decline in 46 years," and said he was protecting patients, bringing transparency, holding insurance companies accountable, working on a "great health-care bill" and getting bipartisan support.
"Going to be fantastic," he said.
Then he took questions. And, suddenly, chaos and complaint took over.
North Korean missile tests were bad news and meant they aren't "ready to negotiate." China tried to "renegotiate the deal. We can't have that." The Mueller report was produced by "17 or 18 very angry Democrats who hated Donald Trump." Democrats committed crimes. Robert Mueller "is in love with James Comey." Comey "is a liar, a leaker."
On and on he went: Hoax. Witch hunt. Phony dossier. Fake news. Terrible. Iran is threatening. John Kerry is advising Iran and should be prosecuted. America is the piggy bank everybody steals from. The World Trade Organization is the worst trade deal ever. NATO and our allies take advantage of us and laugh at our stupidity. Democrats are conning the country.
"But our country is doing great," he added.
Trump defines himself almost entirely as oppositional. That's what made him an effective challenger. He governs from crisis to self-induced crisis. Though often upbeat, he nearly as frequently swings dramatically the other way. While it might be possible for him to run a Morning in America campaign, that would take a discipline he hasn't shown.