On Sunday morning, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump delivered what campaign-watchers and political junkies have been clamoring for ever since he released a plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration enforcement system and to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants: An explanation of how he will orchestrate – and pay for – a massive expansion of the security state.
Trump has avoided going into the details of how he will deliver on his vague, outsized promises since the beginning of his meteoric campaign earlier this summer. But the question of how he would implement his proposals has become difficult to avoid.
So, on Sunday, the billionaire real estate magnate and former reality television star went on two different talk shows and explained how he planned to make an undertaking that a former director of the Congressional Budget Office projected would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and take some 20 years, actually work.
Are you ready?
“It’s called good management, and it’s called great people,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Seriously. That’s it. That’s really all he said about how he would create an enforcement system charged with tracking down, detaining, processing, and deporting a number of people equal to the combination of every man, woman and child in Wyoming, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and Hawaii.
Yes, there was plenty of Trumpian hand waving about how much money we already spend on undocumented immigrants. But when it came to details, Trump had nothing else to offer. (Even though he insisted that he did.)
“My specifics George…are very simple. I’m going to get great people that know what they’re doing, not a bunch of political hacks that have no idea what they’re doing appointed by president Obama, that don’t have a clue. I mean, that man doesn’t have a clue.”
Like most of the words that gush from Trump’s mouth, his comments to Stephanopoulos were a substance-free conglomeration of massive self regard, nativist pandering, and well-rehearsed abuse of his opponents – the political equivalent of empty calories.
He got a second chance shortly afterward, in a discussion with John Dickerson on CBS’s Face the Nation, and again served up nothing but political junk food.
How are you planning to make this work? Dickerson wanted to know.
“It’s called management,” Trump said. “With good management we can do this very, very well.”
So far, Trump’s inability or unwillingness to answer detailed questions about how his proposals would work outside of his own imagination doesn’t appear to be hurting him much.
His Sunday show appearances (both by phone) came on the heels of a large rally Friday night held in a stadium outside Mobile, Alabama.
Trump drew the largest crowd of any campaign event so far this cycle – some say 20,000, some say 30,000 – to listen to a lengthy stream-of-consciousness ramble through the billionaire’s psyche. It included Trump’s usual salvos against immigrants, his political opponents, and the press. But there were also some truly bizarre digressions into Secretariat’s quality as a racehorse, Oreo cookies, and the Bible.
Again, Trump’s strategy so far, at least, has him running well ahead of the rest of the Republican field. A Reuters-Ipsos online poll released late Friday showed that he is the preferred candidate of 32 percent of the Republican electorate, double that of his nearest rival, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who had 16 percent.
Recent history, though, suggests that the Trump boom won’t last forever. If the 2012 Republican primary taught us anything, it’s that the GOP primary electorate prefers to eat its dessert first. Early frontrunners like Michele Bachman and Newt Gingrich, who played on anger and resentment much in the way Trump does, eventually faded, when voters finally decided it was time to eat their broccoli, and send Mitt Romney into the ring against President Obama.
Trump has the will and the resources to keep pumping sugar into the GOP base for as long as he likes, but eventually, he’ll make them sick.