Running on his record: Donald Trump is no longer an insurgent candidate
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis promised as part of his campaign launch that he would replace FBI Director Christopher Wray on his first day if he is elected president.
Within a handful of minutes, former President Donald Trump attacked Mr. DeSantis for voting to confirm Mr. Wray in 2017. There are, as always when Mr. Trump is involved, a couple of problems with that.
First, the Senate confirms appointees, not the House, which is the legislative body in which Mr. DeSantis served in 2017.
Eventually, Mr. Trump and his advisers need to stop exposing their indifference to — or ignorance about —the fundamental processes of the federal government he wants to lead again.
Second, and probably more egregiously, it was Mr. Trump himself who nominated Mr. Wray for the job. A slightly better research operation might have discovered that before the campaign launched its attack.
This is not the first time something like this has skipped through the clearance process at the Trump campaign.
In the last week of May, the political action committee associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign launched an ad attacking Mr. DeSantis for voting against funding the border wall in 2018. Fair enough. Mr. DeSantis responded by noting (accurately) that the legislation would have financed a very small portion of the wall in exchange for amnesty for 2 million people who were in the United States illegally. Consequently, Mr. DeSantis opposed the legislation.
Mr. Trump, however, endorsed the legislation, amnesty and all. As Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy has pointed out, “the border/immigration legislation failure of 2018 was decidedly reflective of the Trump administration siding with Paul Ryan … while Gov. DeSantis sided with conservatives.”
At the end of this particular tussle, it was clear that — at least in this instance — one candidate (Mr. DeSantis) opposed amnesty while the other (Mr. Trump) supported it. That’s probably not the contrast Mr. Trump’s team hoped to create when they started all this.
One of the fun and complicated features of the 2024 presidential campaign is that two of the contenders are incumbents. Of course, President Biden is the immediate incumbent. As his immediate predecessor, Mr. Trump is, in a sense, an incumbent as well. Mr. Trump is running on his record as much as Mr. Biden is running on his.
The Trump campaign is obviously having some trouble adjusting to that. There is no shame there; this configuration has happened only a handful of times, most recently in 1940 with Herbert Hoover. Grover Cleveland, back in 1892, was the only former president who won after losing reelection, so there is no real playbook for how to proceed.
Mr. Trump’s record, like everyone else’s, is mixed. The economy did well, the Tax Cut sand Jobs Act was important, the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was outstanding, and the Abraham Accords are a legitimate historic achievement.
But the handling of COVID-19 was a disaster from the start, the Trump administration spent more than any presidential administration over four years, and there were failures in immigration and personnel.
It would probably be helpful if the campaign realized that 2024 is not 2016. Mr. Trump is no longer an insurgent candidate. He is now just another incumbent with a record that needs to be amplified, explained or defended.
Until Mr. Trump’s advisers do, there will be more embarrassing moments.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House. He can be reached at email@example.com.