(Guest post by Matt McQuaid)
When Donald Trump upset the world, and many stomachs, by unexpectedly winning the presidency last November, there were a lot of people who were not too happy. In fact, it’s safe to say a plurality, if not outright majority, of Americans were not pleased with the outcome of the election.
Yet 100 days in, Trump has nothing to show for his administration other than a slew of regulatory rollbacks and a stolen Supreme Court seat. He’s done basically a bunch of a little things he could only do without bipartisan support, and the major changes he promised on the campaign trail – the wall, Obamacare repeal, the Muslim ban 4.0 (any day now!) massive tax cuts to the rich – are seeming less and less like they’re going to happen every day. If there’s any console to the Left these days, is that in order to win back the White House, the Republicans had to run a guy who was too incompetent to deliver on anything they wanted.
But don’t fret – it’s still early, and there’s still plenty of time to do cataclysmic damage to our country and to the entire world. With that in mind, here are some conclusions that can be drawn on the worst 100 days of any American presidency that wasn’t during the civil war:
1) Running the government is harder than running a business, and a lot of business people have no interest in running the government.
Trump, not unlike Mitt Romney before him, ran on the premise that his business acumen made him uniquely qualified to recreate middle class jobs and drastically increase economic activity in ways not seen during the Obama era. To his credit, it worked, but it turns out this isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. When you run a business, you only have to appease either yourself or your shareholders. When you run the federal government, you have to appease, or at least pretend you’re trying to appease, 350 million people. Things move slowly, and the unilateral, shoot-from- the-hip approach the Donald made famous on “The Apprentice” doesn’t work when you have to deal with Congress and the Judiciary.
The people in the business community who Donald Trump would lean on to fill out his cabinet have known this for a long time. While Trump has certainly found some people from the corporate world to fill out important cabinet positions – Steve Mnuchin and Rex Tillerson for example – many other people from the corporate world have shown no desire to join his administration, perhaps because they don’t really like the federal government, or they saw what happened to Andy Puzder and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. It’s no wonder, then, that the pace of filling federal positions is staggeringly slow.
2) Experience matters.
Cabinet appointees such as Elaine Chao, “Mad Dog” Mattis, and Ryan Zinke have years of experience in their respective fields and are pretty qualified, no matter how much you disagree with their policies. However, these three are outliers: never before in modern American history have so many novices been running the federal government. Trump’s inner circle is composed of his kid, his kid’s husband, a media mogul, and two career operatives (Priebus and Conway) with no policy experience whatsoever. His other cabinet secretaries include an airhead billionaire heiress who knows nothing about the department she’s in charge of, an OMB director who’s partially responsible for the United States receiving a credit downgrade, and a pro-wrestling mogul who is, unfortunately, not Mick Foley.
The lack of experience has led to one disaster after another in the press. The Trump White House has more leaks than a swiss-cheese water balloon and the infighting in the executive branch is so well documented that it makes the White House seem more like an episode of The Real World than The West Wing. When you have a bunch of amateurs running the show, it’s no wonder nothing is getting passed even if your party controls both parties of congress. In yet another embarrassing profile of his White House by Politico, a White House aide was quoted as saying, “I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here, but this shit is hard.”
Anyone could have told you that.
3) Twitter is a great messaging platform for a campaign. For governing, not so much.
If you were a political consultant in 2013 and I had told you that the next President of the United States would run a campaign where he spent next to nothing on paid advertising, had a skeleton crew field staff, had little to no patience for spending time on fundraising, and spent most of his time tweeting and leveraging earned media, you would’ve told me I was out of my mind. But much like Barack Obama beforehand, Donald Trump turned the conventional wisdom of the political professional class on its head.
During the campaign, every brain fart Trump blasted out his less than 140-character face-hole received around the clock media coverage, and every time a pundit declared his campaign dead, he won another primary, and eventually the presidency altogether. But in another unlikely Obama parallel, Trump is discovering that governing and campaigning are two very different things. Since becoming president, Trump’s tweets have often created problems for his own staff and his allies, and in at least one instance, his executive orders have floundered because of his own two thumbs. Turns out, the judiciary can’t be trolled into submission.
4) House Republicans are in for a rough two years, and they deserve every moment of it.
House Republicans were looking forward to the Clinton era: the endless inquiries into her email server and Benghazi, the futile attempts to repeal Obamacare, the attempts to shut down the government: it was going to be a blast. Then, November 8 happened, and they were in for a rude awakening.
The blowback over the actions taken by the house has been swift: the massive hypocrisy over feet-dragging on the Russia investigation has already taken Jason Chaffetz as a casualty, and for the first time in his career Devin Nunes has a race that he could lose. The attempts to pass a healthcare bill in the house have been laughable and members of the Republican caucus have been taking haymakers from both the left and the right over it. After foaming at the mouth at Obama for six years, house GOP members that came in on a wave of torches and pitchforks in 2010 are facing crowds with torches and pitchforks that are of their own making.
They deserve every bit of grief they get. The House Republican caucus has never been serious about passing legislation, and now that they don’t have the White House to blame, they finally have to own it. With a Supreme Court case on gerrymandering and a number of GOP House seats that went for Hillary on the horizon next year, the chickens might come home to roost a lot sooner than a lot of these members had planned on.
5) The Russia stuff is not going away.
Every day seems to bring more bad news for the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Carter Page. Michael Flynn. Roger Stone. Even Trump’s own son-in-law may have committed a federal crime by not disclosing his ties to Russia when he applied for a security clearance.
The Trump campaign may have never committed treason by coordinating with a foreign power to interfere with our election, but as the old adage goes, if there’s smoke, there’s fire. If there was smoke with Benghazi and Hillary’s email server, Trump’s Russia connections are a recording studio after the Wu-Tang has been there for 10 hours straight. The Catch-22 for Republicans is delicious: if they ignore the problem, they look like cowards that are soft on foreign policy, if they don’t ignore the problem then they, well, uncover the awful truth.
In a way, watching the Trump administration flounder is really a test of our collective characters as liberals. We should want to the President succeed no matter who occupies the office, because when the President succeeds, America succeeds. The failures of the Trump administration on healthcare, on dealing with ISIS effectively, and (give it a couple of weeks) on tax reform aren’t just failures for Republicans. They’re failures for everyone, because these are real problems that require real solutions. I’d like to think I can take the high road and not take pleasure in the failure of Trump’s first 100 days – but to quote the man himself, “I’m just not quite there yet.”