Trump the business figure isn’t doing enough of the people’s business
President Donald Trump arrives for a family photo with G7 leaders at the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina, Friday, May 26, 2017, in Taormina, Italy. (Evan Vucci / AP)
Four months and many tweets ago, Donald Trump took office as a problematic president.
Since his inauguration, he’s done little to change our view. Trump is the same undisciplined blowhard this page rejected as a candidate. We said in 2016 that he was not fit to lead the nation because he lacked the character and prudent temperament required. We stand by that judgment. His job performance is proof. Trump is an egomaniac with a short attention span who is better suited to building skyscrapers than to being commander in chief.
But Trump is president, elected in a fractured political landscape by a base of supporters who felt ignored by Washington politicians, dismissed by smug elites and marginalized by uneven economic growth. Trump voters were dissatisfied with government stasis and wanted someone who would deliver solutions. They knew Trump was a wrecking ball. That’s what they got and and who he shall be.
His character flaws do not automatically doom Trump to failure. He’s hardly the first imperfect soul to inhabit the White House. While he’s off to a troubling start, we won’t loosen our standards or shrug our shoulders. This country needs a president who’ll do the hard work. And no, we won’t wait out an early exit. Despite the fervent hopes of detractors, Trump isn’t going anywhere soon. He will not be impeached for creeping ineptitude and weak poll support. If those were criteria for removal from elected office, the halls of government would be depopulated across the land.
As for the Russia scandal, involving accusations of collusion by Trump campaign associates with a foreign power, investigations by the Justice Department and Congress will play out over time. There’s no way to handicap the outcome. Trump’s biggest mistake was his rash decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in the middle of the FBI-led probe. It was a foolish, failed effort to assert dominance over the FBI. All Trump accomplished was fueling the perception that he hoped to derail the investigation. In reaction, Justice brought in Robert Mueller as special counsel. The probe is an even bigger deal and bigger distraction now.
So here we are, four months into the Trump years. He has a few accomplishments to show, but they don’t match the disappointments for Americans who want serious problems fixed:
•Obamacare is floundering as premiums skyrocket and insurers flee. A repeal-and-replace proposal is hung up in Congress, with the Congressional Budget Office assessing that the latest plan would double the number of people without insurance over the next decade.
•Tax reform is a distant object. While the stock market is still enamored of Trump’s promises, he’s made little progress goosing economic growth. Trump should have a willing partner in a Republican-led Congress, but he has to learn to work with members. Democrats, and Republicans in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton, have strong incentives to avoid him.
•Trump’s first foreign trip got him away from the Washington news cycle for more than a week. Yet even graded on a steep curve crediting him for basic competence, he came up short at the NATO meeting in Brussels. He harped on members to pay their fair share (a reasonable request), but didn’t voice a strong commitment to the alliance. As Russia flexes its muscles, Europeans wonder if Trump has their back.
•Belligerence doesn’t reassure Americans that they have a steady hand at the tiller. Before leaving on the trip, he tweeted of the Russia probe: "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" These rants satisfy Trump’s ego but do nothing for his agenda — or, more important, for the nation.
Presidents don’t get resets. They do the job 24/7, for better and worse. Trump’s return to Washington affords us this moment to demand better. The president has to stay on task and recognize the nuances this work requires. There’s little point waiting for Trump to change; advisers, Cabinet members and congressional leaders have to push him toward achievable solutions.
He has a clear objective to deliver prosperity to the country, and he has the outlines of a plan, which includes tax reform and deregulation. But can he work with Congress? Can he stay clear of the Russia investigation?
That is, can he deliver?
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