Thursday, May 17, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He declared himself the most successful president ever, at least through the first 17 months.

Even by Trump standards, today's "executive time" tweet was unusually braggy:

Of course, what counts as "successful" is in the eye of the beholder, and there's very little question that Trump truly believes he's the best president ever. (It's easier to list the things Trump doesn't claim to be the best in the world at than things he does.) But even Trump usually remembers to make a nod towards modesty by exempting (for example) Abraham Lincoln from his presidential self-congratulation.

But measured against the president Trump said he wanted to be on the campaign trail, his first 17 months have been an almost unbroken string of failures. He began backpedaling on his border wall promises almost as soon as he took office. He couldn't get an Obamacare repeal through a Congress full of Republicans who hate it. He has had any number of "infrastructure weeks" but hasn't even started writing a legislative proposal. He's had massive turnover in his staff, with some senior positions on their fourth or fifth version of the "best people" he promised to hire. His plan to quash the Russia investigation immediately backfired with the appointment of a special counsel. The stock markets are down for the year (in mid-May), and is now slightly underperforming the average annual growth rate of the entire Obama presidency. He did manage to impose a lobbying ban on executive branch employees--and then gave waivers to virtually everyone who asked for one. Even the promises that took the form of threats--for example, when he vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton, or simply to put her in jail somehow--have gone unmet.

In fairness, Trump does clearly have a better 17-month track record than at least two presidents: James Garfield and William Henry Harrison, who both died before they reached that milestone.

Why does this matter?

  • Nobody expects politicians to be humble, but presidents who are actually successful don't have to tell people that they are.
  • People who voted for Trump based on his promises may have expected him to keep more than a few of them.