After 100 Days, These Things Will Stick
It’s been quite a ride -- we’ll miss the Inauguration Day crowd pictures, the imaginary 3-5 million illegal votes, the wiretapping tweets, assertions that our government kills people just as the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin does, and the bold revelations that health care is complicated, NATO isn’t obsolete after all, and being president is a lot of work.
President Trump, who produced a contract for the voter last October that outlined all that he would accomplish in his first 100 days, now feels the marker isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, since governing isn’t either. Yet it’s clear from the first three months that Trump has learned on the job, and enjoyed some achievements with a Supreme Court confirmation, decreased border crossings and hefty rollbacks of regulations. Despite the failure to pass a health care fix and court challenges to some of his executive orders, Trump has handled foreign policy better than most expected by relying upon several respected Cabinet secretaries who have earned the trust of members of both parties.
Trump will continue to change as the learning curve dictates, but here are a dozen things Americans have learned about him since Election Day, or that have been reaffirmed since then, that will never change:
- The sell is supreme. No matter what issue, no matter what political context or consequence, Trump the Over-Promiser will push out superlatives for any event or policy, at potential cost to the process. Everything will always be the best in history, the largest, and simplest, and it’s all coming quickly. The president’s proclivity, which can give congressional Republicans and his own West Wing staff fever, is going nowhere.
- Trump likes to work. He truly is, as all his bullying of Jeb Bush suggested, as high energy as he boasted. The man likes to stay busy, and he doesn't care for sleep. He doesn’t read lengthy memos or briefing papers, and he takes plenty of time out for golf and cable news, but it’s clear that, at age 70, Trump is an active man who craves the stimulation of the job.
- Trump is a brazen hypocrite, as documented by his Twitter archive. From the liberal use of executive orders to the folly of airstrikes in Syria to the fallacy of the government’s monthly employment statistics to the amount of time presidents should spend on the golf course -- Trump’s older tweets, in addition to his on-camera statements, are a trove of former outrages over things he bashed President Obama for but now considers groovy. Who knew Trump would golf twice as much as Obama in just 100 days?
- Trade will be Trump’s reliable weapon of choice. Whenever times get tough, he can and will threaten other countries on trade, rattling markets as well as Republicans, to distract from any other consuming news and to soothe his base. The gift that never stops giving.
- Trump can’t let go of his obsession with the media. The 45th president spends hours a day watching cable news, including the channels he says he won’t watch, and at whim calls reporters who write for the FAKE NEWS New York Times and Washington Post with great regularity.
- The wall is fantasy. It’s hard to find anyone beyond the president who will say out loud that yes, we need to build a wall. What was an energetic chant for Trump supporters packed into stadiums for campaign rallies is now a punch line for the many illusions of the Trump presidency, or as Rep. Pete Sessions put it, “an analogy.” Conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, border state Republicans and Democrats are largely opposed to funding a wall.
- Trump rather likes the swamp after all. After packing his administration chock-full of millionaires and billionaires, and refusing to release visitor logs that document just which powerful people get the president’s ear, it turns out Trump is as cozy with moneyed interests and as secretive as all the other politicians he railed against to win the job. There will be no draining, dredging or diminishment of The Swamp.
- Trump backs down easily. In just the last week he declared the necessity of a health care vote this week but then changed his mind in 48 hours and said timing wasn’t important; demanded the Democrats meet him dollar-for-dollar with border wall funding from cost-share subsidies for insurance in the government spending bill -- and then dropped it; and announced he would torpedo NAFTA and then retreated. The master negotiator who penned “The Art of the Deal” or The Boy Who Cried Wolf? World leaders could catch on soon.
- Family wins. Enough said.
- Trump loves Goldman Sachs. Sure, we’re all old enough to remember how scandalized Trump was by Sen. Ted Cruz’s and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to Goldman Sachs, but from Gary Cohn to Dina Powell to Steve Mnuchin to Steve Bannon to James Donovan, it seems working at Goldman is a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in TrumpWorld.
- Donald Trump isn’t too concerned about our democracy. If the president were worried about the long-term health of our embattled republic we would know it by now. From maligning the free press as the enemy to lying with great frequency to ignoring foreign interference in our elections, to insulting intelligence officials to balking at releasing his tax returns, this president clearly spends no time thinking about future presidents and the integrity of conduct the office once required. Most cravenly Trump is feathering his and his family’s nest through the presidency in potential violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by refusing to separate his ownership stake from his governance. Beyond the work the Trump Organization does in connection with foreign governments, and the presidential promotions each weekend of Trump-branded properties he visits, the president and his daughter Ivanka have recently received trademarks from the Chinese government.
- Steve Bannon is NOT Trump’s brain. Depending on the particular Republican or conservative arriving at this realization, it is either good news or bad. It’s clear now that Trump simply has not bought into the Bannon worldview to the extent most political observers -- and many Trump allies -- had thought. This doesn’t mean the weakened chief strategist will be fired, or that Trump won’t pursue some Bannon policies -- he surely will -- but it’s clear from the fight between the globalists and nationalists within the West Wing that the president isn’t the pure populist those in BannonWorld hoped he was.
Finally, we aren't likely to get sick of winning. Just a guess.