Like Candidate Bush before him: Understandably, Kevin Drum is rolling his eyes about the foreign policy speech delivered by Candidate Trump.
Drum's post starts like this. We include Drum's italics:
DRUM (4/27/16): I kinda sorta listened to Donald Trump's foreign policy speech this morning. You know, the one we were all looking forward to because it was written by an actual speechwriter and would be delivered via teleprompter. That's Trump being presidential, I guess.As noted, Trump was merely reading a speech. Your neighbor could have read the same speech. The fact that Trump has read a speech doesn't tell us what he actually knows about foreign policy. It remains to be seen if the national press will note this obvious point.
So how did Trump do? That depends on your expectations. For a guy who never uses a teleprompter, not bad. By normal standards, though, he sounded about like a sixth grader reciting a speech from note cards. On content, it was the same deal.
In November 1999, the national press avoided this obvious point when Candidate George W. Bush delivered his first foreign policy address. Candidate's Trump's daring performance today recalls this earlier affair.
Candidate Bush had read a speech concerning foreign affairs. Your neighbor could have read it too. But at that time, the national press was displaying a very friendly feeling toward the affable Texan.
At our companion site, How He Got There, we've offered a brief account of the way Candidate Bush was hailed for having successfully read a foreign policy speech. Recently, Bush had flunked an embarrassing "pop quiz" about the names of foreign leaders.
With very few exceptions, mainstream pundits took Bush's side in the matter of the pop quiz attack. All was completely forgiven now—now that he had successfully read a foreign policy speech:
From Chapter 5, How He Got There:Bush was hailed for having read a speech about foreign affairs. In these ways, a clownish press corps was building a road to Iraq.
Was the press corps “conducting an inquisition?” Were Bush's mistakes being “broadcast in tongues?” By November 1999, this early boast was barely a memory, and Bush would soon be absolved of all taint from the awkward “pop quiz” incident.
On November 19, the Texan delivered his first major foreign policy address, taking no questions from reporters. Two days later, on CNN’s Late Edition, USA Today’s Susan Page reacted to Bush’s address by declaring the pop quiz episode closed. “I think that with the foreign policy speech he gave this week, he's gotten over that damage from that pop quiz,” Page, a major press figure, opined. She then advanced an odd assessment. “I don't think Americans want to necessarily like the president who is the most qualified on foreign policy,” she said. “They want to choose one who is sufficient on foreign policy. And I think that's a standard he probably met in that speech.”
No inquisition was underway here! According to Page, voters only wanted a president who was sufficient on foreign affairs–and Page said Bush had met that standard by giving his address. But in fact, Bush had merely read a speech, a task any adult could have accomplished. How strong was his personal grasp of foreign affairs? Plainly, there was no way to know from watching him read his address. But the limitations of this event were also glossed in the New York Times, which had assigned its fabled veteran, Johnny Apple, to cover Bush again. Once again, Apple gushed over a skillful reading performance by the Texan (see chapter 4). “Mr. Bush delivered his 35-minute speech with considerable aplomb,” Apple declared on the Times front page, “turning in a well-versed, well-drilled performance that on several occasions rose to a presidential level.”
Back in August, Apple had openly fawned over Bush in a lengthy profile. Now, he applied the same low standard Page would advance one day later. A few days later, Morton Kondracke lowered the bar even more, in an unintentionally comical assessment of the Texan’s address. “Critics can say it doesn't take a genius to read a speech written by others,” Kondracke wrote, in Roll Call and the Washington Times. “But Mr. Bush deserves credit for picking as advisers the best thinkers and operatives from the Reagan and Bush administrations and excluding all the kooks, dimwits and connivers of the era.”
Bush had hired no dimwits or kooks! He deserved credit for this good judgment! In this way, major stars of the mainstream press defined an extremely low standard for Bush. But a vastly different set of standards still obtained for Candidate Gore, the Democratic front-runner...
Today, Candidate Trump took a great leap forward. He showed he can read a speech too.