JERSEY CITY, N.J.: It’s been the driving issue of Donald Trump’s campaign. Build a wall along the southern border. Make Mexico pay for it. And expel everyone living in the U.S. illegally with the help of a “deportation force.”
Ten weeks before the election, however, buffeted by conflicting advice from aides and advisers, Trump has seemed to be in full indecision mode.
At a Fox News town hall tall taping last week, in the face of pressing questions, he proceeded to poll the audience at length on the fate of an estimated 11 million people.
Trump is now planning a major speech Wednesday, during which he’s expected to finally clarify his stance. Supporters are hoping for a strong, decisive showing. But for critics, many already disposed to vote against him, his wavering on what has been his signature issue seems like a warning that he’s unable to handle a central element of any president’s job — making decisions.
It also underscores how little his Republican campaign has invested in the nitty-gritty of outlining what he would do as president, especially when compared with the more detailed plans of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
“It’s just puzzling,” said Lanhee Chen, who has served as a policy adviser to several Republican presidential candidates. “This is the issue on which he rose to prominence in the primary and the issue on which he continues to stake much of his campaign.”
From the start, Trump has never been the kind of candidate to pore over thick policy books.
Indeed, he has mocked Clinton on the subject.
“She’s got people that sit in cubicles writing policy all day. Nothing’s ever going to happen. It’s just a waste of paper,” he told Time Magazine in June. “My voters don’t care and the public doesn’t care. They know you’re going to do a good job once you’re there.”
To date, Trump’s campaign has posted just seven policy proposals on his website, totaling just over 9,000 words. There are 38 on Clinton’s “issues” page, ranging from efforts to cure Alzheimer’s disease to Wall Street and criminal justice reform, and her campaign boasts that it has now released 65 policy fact sheets, totaling 112,735 words.
“When you run for president, you ought to tell people what you want to do as their president,” Clinton said during a recent speech in Colorado.
Trump’s supporters say questions about his recent waffling are overblown. His running mate, Mike Pence, describes him as “a CEO at work” as he consults with various stakeholders.
“You see someone who is engaging the American people, listening to the American people,” Pence told CNN on Sunday. “He is hearing from all sides.”
On Monday, Clinton rolled out a comprehensive plan to address millions of Americans coping with mental illness, pointing to the need to fully integrate mental health services into the nation’s health care system.
The multi-pronged approach to mental health care is aimed at ensuring that Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health in terms of access, care and quality of treatment.
“We’ve got to break through and break down the stigma and shame. We’ve got to make clear that mental health is not a personal failing. Right now it’s our country which is failing people with mental health issues,” she said.
The Democratic presidential nominee’s agenda would focus on early diagnosis and intervention and create a national initiative for suicide prevention. If elected, Clinton would hold a White House conference on mental health within her first year in office.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Clinton will soon get help from Republican donor and fundraiser Meg Whitman.
The Hewlett-Packard executive will meet with business leaders in Denver on Tuesday to talk about Clinton’s plans for jobs and the economy.
Whitman endorsed Clinton earlier this month over fellow Republican Trump, saying she cannot support a candidate who has “exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division.”