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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

A true Trump shocker would be using SOTU to clearly explain an agenda

President Donald Trump in the White House on

President Donald Trump in the White House on Friday. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

The fact that President Donald Trump sits for news interviews, sends out Twitter missives and holds rallies might give the false impression that he routinely makes his arguments clear.

Many are the mysteries this president has created while seeming to take a position or announce a plan.

Over the weekend, for example, Trump told CBS he planned to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to keep up pressure on neighboring Iran.

“I want to be able to watch Iran," he said. “We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.”

Knowing nothing else, this sounds at first like it could make good sense. He and aides argue that Iran is a regional threat. So, OK, yeah, you may figure, let's keep an eye on them.

But basic questions follow.

Did he discuss this first with Iraq? Doesn't look like it, since Iraqi President Barham Salih publicly rejected such a plan Monday.

How does this fit with U.S. plans to shift troops there from Syria to help extinguish ISIS?

Other questions follow. Why did Trump last month announce an immediate troop withdrawal from Syria — which could sound like a good idea — and then put it off?

His State of the Union address Tuesday would seem a perfect time to satisfy citizens' curiosity on these and other issues. His supporters and aides could use the answers to help argue for his agenda to the public and the Congress.

Putting aside Trump's proven reluctance to ever apologize, he hasn't been one for elucidation — either in prepared speeches or off the cuff.

Don't count on a full explanation or even a hint of what information or insight he had that led him last week to mock reports from his own intelligence chiefs.

Since he seems to be trying to sell lawmakers of both parties a border wall, maybe he can outline a realistic plan for how he will obtain all the land needed and what the true cost would be. He could describe what he sees as the crucial difference between walls and fencing.

That's just basic communication. If he can't fit it all in, there's plenty of time for his appointees to sensibly spell it out afterward in detail, step by step. They could meet head on, with precise facts, the arguments of many opponents who think a wall is dumb.

For that matter, he could explain what led him to talk about migrants leaving Muslim prayer rugs near the border — before White House officials admitted they could find no evidence.

Two Republican-controlled houses last year rejected or put off several of Trump's State of the Union proposals.

Now the bar is higher for selling his legislation.

A little candor and clarity might be a start.

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