David Frum is senior editor at the Atlantic and author of “Trumpocracy: the Corruption of the American Republic.” Frum is also a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
He appeared Wednesday evening at the University of Louisville Kentucky Author Forum to discuss his book. I spoke to him about the State of the Union address and what he thinks we can expect from the administration over the next three years. Listen to our conversation in the media player above.
On Trump’s foreign business dealings and the need for disclosure:
“We know, or we can see, that it’s having an impact on American foreign policy. And we know there are foreign leaders who, because the have power over Donald Trump’s business partners, as in Turkey for example, have power over him. But none of this is disclosed. So we need to bring disclosure into the modern era. We need to have access to the President’s tax returns as well as his personal tax returns. We need to know who’s paying for what. During the Watergate era there was a saying, ‘What did the President know and when did he know it.’ I think in the Trump era we need to ask the question, ‘What does the President owe and to whom does he owe it?'”
On Trump’s State of the Union speech:
“He’s not persuasive. Donald Trump is very good with words. When he said he had ‘the best words,’ that’s true up to a point — he’s very good with words that excite people who like him already. He’s able to activate about a third of the country, he’s able to belittle opponents and brag about his own record. What he’s not good at is reaching to people outside his core group and moving them so he can pass something.”
On what he sees coming in the next three years of the Trump administration:
“What was remarkable about 2017 was we’ve had, now almost seven years of economic expansion but most people did not feel the expansion. 2017 was the first year in which th expansion began to flow through to wages and you saw large numbers of Americans beginning to feel themselves, individually, not just grateful not to be unemployed but actually saying, ‘yeah, I’m better off than I was a couple years ago.’ I think we’ll see more of that in 2018. Just a continuing economic growth means wages start to go up and people like it, and they’ll have the benefit of some tax relief in 2018 and they will like that.
“But I think we are headed to two very severe crisis: one is a constitutional crisis as President Trump tries to shut down the Russia investigation. The problem is, he’s so obviously implicated in ways we don’t fully understand but that are dangerous to him. He’s going to try to break the FBI, break the Department of Justice. The other thing is it looks very clear that we’re heading to a really scary crisis in the Korean peninsula — a nuclear tipped crisis — and that is going to be an important fact in 2018.”