Trump ends infrastructure week with some binder-themed prop comedy

“Infrastructure Week” ends with a whimper.

President Donald Trump shows the size of road planning documents for a highway plan in Maryland while speaking at the Department of Transportation, June 9, 2017, in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
President Donald Trump shows the size of road planning documents for a highway plan in Maryland while speaking at the Department of Transportation, June 9, 2017, in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

This was a big week for the White House, but perhaps not in the way the administration had hoped. In the buildup to former FBI Director James Comey’s shocking testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Donald Trump and his administration sought to defuse allegations of obstruction of justice by scheduling some counter-programming.

And so the United States was graced with “Infrastructure Week,” a five-day roll-out of Trump’s long-awaited plan to revitalize the country’s transportation network. It all began on an odd note on Monday, when the president vowed to privatize air traffic control — hardly an urgently desired infrastructure improvement — and then signed a set of air traffic control “principles” in what can only be described as a pantomime of a bill signing.

In hindsight, that might have been the most substantive component of Infrastructure Week. The president visited Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday to deliver a campaign rally-style pitch for his proposed infrastructure plan, though he offered none of the specifics that would bring said plan into focus. Instead, he veered off topic for long enough to praise the king of Saudi Arabia and rant about Democratic opposition to his health care plan.

The following day, on Thursday, Comey told the United States Senate that the president had tried to squash a criminal investigation into a top-ranking member of his administration. That same day, Vice President Mike Pence announced from the White House that this week has “already been a banner week for infrastructure.”

Then on Friday — with the national press still focused on Comey’s explosive allegations and national newspapers carrying his most incendiary remarks on A1 in large type — Trump capped off Infrastructure Week with a speech at the Department of Transportation. It was a fitting climax to the week-long drumroll: He once again called for the privatization of air traffic control, said his administration would speed up the permitting process for infrastructure projects, and did some awkward prop comedy involving unwieldy binders. That was about it.

The binders contained an environmental report on an 18-mile road in Maryland “weighing 70 pounds and costing $24,000 per page,” Trump said. He displayed it to the audience, dropped it on the floor, and returned to his speech.

“These binders on the stage could be replaced by just a few simple pages,” he said. “And it would be just as good. It would actually be much better. Because these binders make you do unnecessary things that cost billions and billions of dollars.”

Somehow, from there, he forged his way to a soaring conclusion about how “we will put new American steel into the spine of our country, American workers will construct gleaming new lanes of commerce across our landscape, they will build these monuments from coast to coast and from city to city, and… we will embark onto a wonderful new journey into a bright and glorious future.”

All that’s left to do is issue a comprehensive infrastructure plan. Here’s what the White House has so far.