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Mr. Trump Comes to Detroit

Aug 9, 2016

Donald Trump started his week off by coming to Motown and delivering a traditional Republican speech to the Detroit Economic Club, the spiritual home of successful old-school businessmen.

I wasn’t there, though I later read the speech and watched a portion of it on one of my perpetually glowing glass screens. My first thought was that the media and hard-core fans of the raw Donald had to be disappointed. Trump behaved pretty much like a normal conservative candidate for President.

He didn’t attack the parents of any fallen heroes, make fun of anyone’s looks, or try to incite violence against protestors. He didn’t even yell at any mothers with crying babies.

He did, in a remarkable flight of creativity, attempt to blame Detroit’s poverty, crime, and joblessness on Hillary Clinton, or on “Clinton-Obama” policies, something especially impressive, given that the city’s troubles started well before President Obama was born.

But mostly, he treated his audience to a stroll down memory lane by calling for a series of corporate and business tax cuts remarkably similar to those proposed by Ronald Reagan.

He’d cut the top corporate tax rate to 15 percent. Some economists have said Trump's tax plans would have added $10 trillion to the national debt over the past decade.

That’s something Trump, like Reagan before him, dismissed by saying that would be wiped out by the tremendous increase in prosperity the tax cuts would bring.

If such a policy needed a name, you might call it Rosy Scenario. Trump may have made his audience uneasy with his continued, most un-Republican bashing of free trade agreements. Nor could they have liked his pledge to eliminate a huge deduction for those who manage those controversial and volatile hedge funds.

This speech, by the way, wasn’t aimed at Detroit. Trump won’t even get five percent of the vote there. It was aimed at reassuring the business class that he is someone they can live with.

He has to know he needs to do something. Elsewhere Monday, fifty national security professionals who worked in past GOP administrations signed a letter saying that Trump would be a dangerous threat to national security.

And former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, a crusty old New Hampshire conservative, said publicly what others have only whispered: Trump may be mentally ill.

“There’s a growing consensus in agreement that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be President of the United States,” he said.

Humphrey called on the Republican National Committee to remove Trump from the ticket and replace him with someone “of mental soundness.” That isn’t going to happen.

Legally, I don’t know how it could.

But we now have an election in which an elder statesman is calling the nominee of his own party crazy.

Donald Trump may have won over some members of the Detroit Economic Club Monday.

But for Hillary Clinton, it had to be a very good day.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.