Boiled down to essentials, Trump’s tripartite plan involves the following: (1) Make America great again; (2) put America first; and (3) discredit any source that suggests that progress towards achieving #1-2 isn’t going swimmingly.
Of course, #1-2 are together, a big part of what Trump promised voters. In his near-two months in office, he has signed a flurry of Executive Orders (EO) aimed at demonstrating that he is a promise-keeper. The reality is that some of those EO’s have no immediate impact on policy or the country. They are essentially messages to Congress that outline what needs to be done. For example, we need to build a wall along the US-Mexican border and I expect you to find the money to pay for it. In the commentary that follows, let’s examine how all this is working out.
Since the wall was just cited, it can now be reported that the budget that Trump sent to Congress contains a $2.1 billion line item that will go towards paying for it. This, needless to say, involves US taxpayers’ money and not a centavo from Mexico which we are told, will be collected at some later, by some unspecified date and unspecified means. So, think of this as both a promise that has only started to be kept, and a great deal more of unfinished business.
Then there is the Trump travel ban; the logical extension of his pledge of a “…total and complete shutdown of all Muslims seeking entry….” into our country. This extravagant campaign pledge and others of a similar form produced later by Trump surrogates, have worked to derail the prohibition’s passage by the courts (1). The president has vowed to take this fight all the way to the US Supreme Court. However, before that happens, there are other courts that will be evaluating the constitutionality of the ban. As each of those rules against it, the chances of a reversal at the highest level decrease significantly. That is because the “Supremes” are typically guided by a unanimity of lower court decisions.
Moving on, we come to the commitment to “repeal and replace Obamacare”. An educated guess here is that Trump had absolutely no clue how difficult this would be. Did he ever imagine that hundreds of thousands of citizens both liked the ACA and wanted to keep it? Did he have an inkling that the Republicans in Congress would be so divided on how much of Obamacare to repeal and what would go into a replacement? From all indications, the answer is an emphatic “NO”!!! As this blog is being typed, House Speaker Paul Ryan has done some tweaking of the original bill that he and Trump agreed upon. But, ultra-conservative House members have already signaled those small changes aren’t enough to garner their “yea” votes. What is even more problematic, is that every time Ryan makes a change in the bill aimed at pleasing one group of colleagues, it only serves to alienate another.
What to do, what to do? There are no easy answers. But, this is a certainty: If Obamacare isn’t gutted in large part or in whole, Republicans will have Hell to pay with their grass roots supporters. Those voters have lived through seven years’ of GOP assurances that the ACA would be gone. So, this is a promise that those same members of Congress can ill-afford not to keep, especially with midterm elections less than two years away.
The aforementioned Trump budget also includes a $54 billion hike in military spending, to be paid for by draconian cuts in such federal departments as the Environmental Protection Agency and Education. Going hand-in-hand with the former will be a substantial roll-back in environmentally friendly regulations which puts us back at risk of consuming less clean air and water. The latter is meant to provide parents and students with more school choices at the expense of public education. This may be penny-wise policy, but it is pound-foolish.
All of Trump’s EO’s and his budget are designed to make Americas great again and put the country first. While the news media have certainly covered the successes, there is no question that more ink has been spilled and more air time allotted to the various problems cited above. This asymmetrical coverage is largely if not completely a function of Trump either lying about or otherwise trying to “spin” away from the difficulties that have been encountered and will not be easily overcome (see above) . But, even a hint that a promise has not been kept, or won’t be kept, or can only be kept “half-way” is intolerable to president #45. So, he pushes back in the aforementioned ways even going so far as to refer to less-than-favorable articles as “fake news”. This, and references to the media as “lying” and “liars” is the stuff of authoritarian tyrants; i.e. thoroughly discredit contradictory “voices” while establishing ones’ self as the ultimate authority on everything. But, that only serve to keep the negative stories alive. In a very real sense, Trump has placed himself in the midst of an unflattering news cycle that he then perpetuates because he cannot shut up and move on. As the quintessential zero sum game player, he is his own worst enemy.
- What irony that Trump’s own words have served as the basis for the courts’ rejection of his travel ban as being discriminatory and therefore, unconstitutional.