Trump neutralizes Dems' attacks by adopting their positions

Marc A. Thiessen

By Marc A. Thiessen The Washington Post

Published June 21, 2016

In the wake of the Orlando, Florida, terror attack, Democrats have once again tried to deflect from President Barack Obama's failings in the battle against the Islamic State by focusing on gun control - co-opting the GOP's tough-on-terrorism message with a new mantra: Do it for national security. And they got an unexpected assist, when Donald Trump tweeted what seemed to be an endorsement of their position, writing "I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns."

Never mind that in 2014 a federal judge ruled that the no-fly list was "arbitrary and capricious" because the government refused to even confirm someone has been placed on it, much less provide any way to challenge a no-fly designation, which violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. Many, like conservative journalist Stephen F. Hayes, have been placed on the list without cause. And while there is no constitutional "right to fly," the government cannot take away someone's constitutional right to bear arms without due process.

Trump's position flummoxed his party. According to The Washington Post, "Even Trump's strongest congressional allies - all ardent gun rights advocates - struggled to explain his position."

They'd better get used to it. On domestic policy, Trump has a followed a consistent strategy of neutralizing traditional Democratic attacks by adopting the Democrats' positions.

Think about how Democrats usually go after their Republican opponents. First, they attack Republicans for opposing a minimum wage increase - but Trump now supports raising it. "I'm looking at [a minimum wage increase]," Trump told CNN. "I'm very different from most Republicans." In an interview on "Meet the Press," he said, "I would like to see an increase of some magnitude . . . I don't know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. . . . I think people should get more."

Second, they attack Republicans for wanting to privatize Medicare and Social Security. But Trump says he wants to make no changes to entitlement programs and criticizes Republicans (such as House Speaker Paul Ryan) who want to reform it. "Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," Trump said during the primaries. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years." Trump promised: "I'm not a cutter. I'll probably be the only Republican that does not want to cut Social Security."

Third, Democrats attack Republicans for cutting taxes on hedge-fund billionaires - but Trump promised to raise their taxes. "The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder. They're making a tremendous amount of money," Trump said. He has backed away from his own plan for across-the-board tax cuts and says that under his administration, the rich will have to pay more. "I am willing to pay more," he said. "And you know what? Wealthy are willing to pay more. We've had a very good run."

Finally, Democrats attack Republicans for supporting trade deals that send U.S. jobs abroad - but Trump opposes those deals and promises to bring the jobs back. Trump never fails to mention that Hillary Clinton's husband negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement. When Clinton announced a few weeks ago that she would put her husband in charge of revitalizing the economy, Trump tweeted, "How can Crooked Hillary put her husband in charge of the economy when he was responsible for NAFTA, the worst economic deal in U.S. history?"

Trump also attacks Clinton for her support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while Clinton is running from her record on trade. Clinton claimed during the Democratic primaries she "did not work on TPP" (despite overwhelming evidence that she did), and she has erased all the passages supporting TPP from the new paperback edition of her memoir "Hard Choices" that appeared in the hardcover version.

In other words, by adopting the Democrats' positions, Trump has closed off virtually all the major lines of attack (much as he has done on foreign policy, campaigning from the isolationist left). Clinton can't hit Trump on guns . . . the minimum wage . . . cutting Social Security . . . or tax cuts for the rich . . . or trade.

So how will Clinton go after Trump? She will say that Trump is "temperamentally unfit" for the presidency. She will accuse Trump of bigotry and misogyny and being part of the GOP "war on women." "This is a man who has called women 'pigs,' 'dogs' and 'disgusting animals,' " Clinton told Planned Parenthood earlier this month. "Kind of hard to imagine counting on him to respect our fundamental rights."

Trump will respond in kind - going over all the old Clinton scandals, the Clinton Foundation, the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server. It will be the ugliest, least substantive campaign in memory.

But no matter how it turns out, we'll get a president committed to the Democratic Party's positions on most of the major issues at home and abroad.

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