Editor’s note: Roger Simon, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side and started his career as a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, is back. Beginning today, Roger will write a monthly column exclusively for the Sun-Times.
WASHINGTON — On the way back from his speech in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday night, President Trump wandered back to the press cabin on Air Force One to see if reporters were feeling the love.
Trump had just finished speaking to a rowdy crowd in Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium. The speech was sponsored by Trump’s 2020 reelection effort, which few people know exists.
It filed its papers on Jan. 20, Trump’s Inauguration Day. Both of his predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, waited a decent three years before filing their reelection papers, but politics moves faster now.
He does not claim perfection, only more intelligence, cunning and sheer strength of will than anyone else on the planet.
There have been a few bumps in the road. There was that tweet frenzy that he launched at 6:30 a.m. March 4 that began: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
To Trump this was not a big deal. After all, he had slandered whole races and religions. What was the big deal about one ex-president?
But the press (the swine) would not leave it alone, and nor would his fellow Republicans (the swine) who kept saying on the record that the matter had to be investigated and off the record that Trump was acting crazier than a dog in a cat factory.
This was Washington, however. Sixty-nine square miles surrounded by reality. Out of town, people were more normal. Although in Trump’s presence they did not always act like it.
During Trump’s Nashville speech, he had offhandedly mentioned that “fortunately” he was the president of the United States, not Hillary Clinton. That was it. One word: “fortunately.”
The crowd lit up like it had discovered meth. “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” it chanted with growing ferocity.
Trump had to interrupt his speech. Trump wanted to interrupt his speech. What media outlet was going to skip the call for Hillary’s imprisonment?
On the road again. That is where Trump longed to be.
“Great crowd, great people, great spirit,” Trump told the reporters on Air Force One. “We’re going to do these rallies every two weeks.”
A bit of a shock. Presidents in their first year, especially those facing crises both foreign and domestic, often stay close to the Oval Office where they, well, govern. They read memoranda, help shape legislation, meet with members of their own and the opposition party, and huddle with their military and national security experts.
Dull stuff. Stuff that doesn’t make the heart race. Lock her up! She’s fired!
Though there was his proposed budget. At least it had a price tag he was comfortable with: $1.1 trillion.
If you stacked a trillion $1,000 bills on top of each other, the pile would reach 63 miles high. (Grover Cleveland is on the $1,000 bill, and they are no longer legal to circulate. So don’t try this at home.)
And even though Trump was supposed to be the tax-cutting president who was going to reduce spending, some spending was going to get a big boost.
Take the defense budget. Please. Trump wants to increase it by 10 percent even though it is currently nearly $600 billion per year, which is more than the next eight countries combined. We spend nearly three times as much as China, which is in second place. Russia is in third place at $84.5 billion.
How do we use the money? Not well.
Trump’s budget would among other things finance the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
According to my crack research staff (Wikipedia), the F-35 program “is the most expensive military weapons system in history, and has been much criticized inside and outside government, in the U.S. and in allied countries.
“Critics argue that the plane is ‘plagued with design flaws’ and ‘by 2014, the program was ‘$163 billion over budget [and] seven years behind schedule.’”
It costs the taxpayers more than $3 million for each trip Trump takes to Mar-a-Lago in Florida on Air Force One. Camp David, meanwhile, the official relaxation spot for presidents, is only a 30-minute chopper ride from the White House.
“Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it,” Trump told a reporter before his election. “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
So Trump goes to Florida, no matter what it costs taxpayers. In his first four weeks in office, Trump made three trips there at a cost of more than $10 million.
Trump is scheduled to make another trip to Mar-a-Lago this weekend and another in April. That would make at least five trips for about $15 million.
Which is $15 million more than he wants to give the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Global Climate Change Initiative, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and Meals on Wheels.
Under his budget proposal, all those programs would be cut to zero. Which did not bother the president at all as he basked in his glory aboard Air Force One, the cries of “Lock her up!” still reverberating pleasantly in his ears.
“It’s been a little over 50 days since my inauguration, and I think I have done more than any other president in 50 days,” Trump said in Nashville.
And if you were a disabled senior citizen wondering how you were going to get your meals in the future, you might agree.
But Trump doesn’t care about his critics.
“There is no better word than ‘stupid,’” he says.
Tell us about it.