The administration keeps delivering “policy announcements” that are little more than hollow media spectacles.
President Donald Trump had a “bill signing” on Monday. After delivering some televised remarks, he sat at a small desk emblazoned with the presidential seal, signed a document, and handed out pens to assembled members of Congress. But the actual document he signed was not a bill, never passed through Congress, and had no legal effect whatsoever.
Instead, what Trump signed was a set of “principles” for his plan to hand air traffic control duties to the private sector. The document was purely symbolic; no one has even introduced new legislation to enact these principles, though the basic gist of them was derived from an older proposal.
Add Trump’s “principles” to the long and growing list of White House announcements that have zero legal import or policy ramifications. Another entry: the very same day as Trump’s pantomime bill signing, Brookings Senior fellow Bruce Riedel announced that the administration’s much-ballyhooed $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia is, in fact, “fake news.”
“There is no $110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts,” wrote Reidel, citing “contacts in the defense business and on the Hill.”
“Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday,” he added. “None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.”
When Trump doesn’t yet have a fake policy to fake-announce, he sometimes pledges that one will be announced soon, and chalks that up as an achievement in of itself. (As Bloomberg noted this week, every White House proposal seems perpetually to be “two weeks” away from unveiling.) Other times, he boasts about wholly imaginary legislation, as when he said last week that his “tax bill is moving along in Congress” and “doing very well.”
There is no tax bill.