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Opinion

Donald Trump is a great communicator. He’s self-assured, entertaining, pungent. He could, as they say of talented actors, read the phone book and make it interesting (if, that is, hilariously boastful readings of the phone book are your kind of thing).

There is only one area where his communication skills are lacking: The man that Trump refers to as Trump is not always adept at expressing Trump’s views.

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The loudmouth mogul may be very good at saying words, but coherence and consistency sometimes elude him. Especially when he gets beyond his comfort zone of extolling his own phenomenal awesomeness and calling America’s leaders stupid and the leaders of China and Mexico — the new axis of evil — smart and cunning.

After that, it gets a little foggy.

Consider his signature issue of immigration, where the incendiary words and stalwart tone evidently are a smoke screen for a poorly conceived amnesty scheme defended in conventional terms — that is, if you credit Trump with accurately describing his plan.

If there’s anything we are supposed to know about Trump’s immigration policy, it is that he wants to build a wall. Well, sort of. He’s waffled on his most famous policy proposal. At a news conference at the border with local officials who are opposed to a wall, he backed off, stipulating that “in certain sections, you have to have a wall, absolutely.”

Once Trump gets beyond his (partial) wall, it gets even more complicated. In a CNN interview attempting to explain his views in greater detail, he said immigrants take “jobs that a citizen of the United States doesn’t want to do. I mean, there are jobs that a lot of people don’t want to do.”

This is a favorite trope of so-called immigration reformers, who want to legalize immigrant workers already here so they can keep doing these jobs. If you startle awake a Chamber of Commerce policy analyst in the middle of the night, there’s a good chance he will blurt out, “jobs Americans won’t do.”

Having established that illegal immigrants are an economic necessity, Trump went on to outline an amnesty plan via temporary deportation: “I would get people out, and I would have an expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal.” These immigrants would get “legal status” but not citizenship, at least not yet — “later down the line, who knows what’s going to happen?”

How would the federal government, which can’t run the immigration system we already have, manage mass relocations of millions people presumably to their countries of origin, only to be vetted and returned to the United States forthwith to do the jobs Americans won’t? “It’s feasible if you know how to manage. Politicians don’t know how to manage.” Oh.

coat cardigan spring knitted oversized hand sweater coat cardigan hand knit knitted Cardigan wool women cable bulky chunky bohemian As for so-called Dreamers, Trump has considered the matter very carefully: “We’re going to do something. I’ve been giving it so much thought. You know, you have, on a humanitarian basis, you have a lot of deep thought going into this, believe me. I actually have a big heart. Something that nobody knows. A lot of people don’t understand that. But the Dreamers, it’s a tough situation. We’re going to do something. And one of the things we’re going to do is expedite. When somebody is terrific, we want them back here. They have to be legally.”

There you have have it — an immigration priority of the Trump administration will be legalizing “terrific” Dreamers after they’ve been deported/re-imported, on an expedited basis, of course. For this, we need a populist revolution?

cardigan sweater hand knit hand coat oversized wool coat cable chunky cardigan spring bohemian bulky women Cardigan knitted knitted knitted bulky cable knitted bohemian oversized chunky wool cardigan coat sweater hand women hand cardigan spring knit Cardigan coat It is a testament to Trump’s tenuous grasp on the most basic matters that he can take a crystal-clear conservative priority, defunding Planned Parenthood, and make it a head-scratching hash of seeming contradictions.

He told Hugh Hewitt that he would be willing to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood. Then, he told Chris Cuomo of CNN that he might defund only Planned Parenthood’s abortion business, not the rest of it: “I would look at the good aspects of it. I would also look as I’m sure they do some things properly and good and good for women.”

Of course, since it is notionally only Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services that get funded, this sounded like an endorsement of the status quo — and earned him a pat on the head by Planned Parenthood. Asked to clarify by Sean Hannity on Fox News, he said, “We have to look at the positives also for Planned Parenthood,” before allowing that “maybe unless they stop with the abortions, we don’t do the funding for the stuff that we want.”

Maybe? Finally, he released a statement to Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News, saying he opposed funding Planned Parenthood as long as it performs abortions — which it should have been within his power to make clear during his other exchanges over the issue.

Cardigan knitted sweater knitted coat hand chunky women spring hand coat cable knit cardigan wool bohemian cardigan oversized bulky Trump is about as comfortable with substance as he is with Rosie O’Donnell. He didn’t like the questions he was asked in the Fox debate, but given how he fared on the policy-oriented queries he got, he should be grateful there weren’t more.

As Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard points out, it was a haze of evasion. Asked for his evidence that the Mexican government is actively sending its undesirables here, he meandered a bit before essentially saying that he heard it from some dude. Asked about his alternative to Obamacare, he responded with the vaguest generalities about allowing the purchase of health insurance over state lines and creating an alternative system for people who can’t afford it. Asked what he would do about Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani reportedly traveling to Moscow in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, Trump said, “I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite.”

My colleague Jonah Goldberg famously described Mitt Romney as speaking conservatism as if it’s a second language. Trump speaks it as if he needs help from a translator. He told Hannity the other night of the glories of health savings accounts, a market-oriented reform, even though he had praised socialized systems in Canada and Scotland (why not all of Great Britain?) in the debate. He also asserted to Hannity that his long-ago proposal for a wealth tax to retire the debt was “a very conservative thing.” He might want to talk to Art Laffer about that.

One lesson of the success of the Trump for president campaign is that as long as you are not making sense with great certainty and forcefulness, no one will care too much that you aren’t making sense. For now, it’s part of the genius of Trump as communicator.

Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

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