It’s two days old but even more applicable after Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday and the personnel issues that have followed. On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh offered the president perhaps the best advice so far — just get to your agenda. If Trump can deliver on his promises, everything else will fall in place politically for him:
I’m gonna tell you what I think is the best thing Donald Trump could do. Just focus on repealing Obamacare, and then focus on tax reform, and then just move full speed ahead on the domestic agenda. Make tracks. Do it obviously. Bring in people, have meetings, bring the Republicans up, the Democrats up, as the president in a room telling them: This is why we were all elected, it’s why you lost, this is what we’re gonna do. Work together to move these tax cuts forward, reform the tax code, repeal Obamacare.
None of this, “Oh, man, I don’t know, two years.” Just do it! If Trump would engage at full speed on his domestic agenda, which is why he was elected, then his people will stay with him no matter what this Obama shadow government tries. And his people is all Trump has. He doesn’t have the media with him like Obama did. He has the media trying to destroy him. Trump has his voters. There are 60 some odd million people that voted for Trump. In a Gallup poll today, 62% said they believe Trump is honest and is trying to keep his promises.
Right now, Trump is interested in foreign policy, international policy with NATO and the Middle East situation, things going on with Russia and all that. And in that we have trade issues which were a big part of the Trump campaign. But I’m telling you, folks, if Donald Trump — do not forget all this — if he just moved forth with moving that domestic agenda — if Donald Trump said, “You know, I’m seeing what you’re seeing. I’m seeing people say, ‘Well, we won’t be able to do Obamacare ’til next year.’ I myself even said that. But you know what? We’re gonna move faster.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza saw the wisdom in it as well:
The most successful, relatively speaking, week of Trump’s presidency was the first one. Why? Because it screamed “action.” Trump moved on lots and lots of fronts — get rid of regulations on business, repeal the Affordable Care Act, build the wall. In each instance, it was Trump making good on a campaign promise with real-world impacts. The stock market soared on the news of Trump’s regulatory moves. Republicans cheered his forcefulness to get rid of Obamacare. His base loved that Trump was prioritizing the wall.
The 18 or so days since that first week have been far more problematic for the president. The travel ban is caught in legal wrangling amid reports that Trump is re-writing the executive order — even though no new version has emerged. Congressional Republicans — and even Trump — are acknowledging that it could take years, not weeks or months, to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump’s Cabinet nominees continue to move at a slow pace through the Senate with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requiring extraordinary measures to be confirmed and Labor nominee Andy Puzder withdrawing on Wednesday. Then there is the ongoing controversy caused by the firing of Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser and the drip-drip-drip of revelations regarding the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia.
All of it has slowed the Trump train way down. (It’s sort of like every Amtrak train I ever take to New York City and back.) What was a fast-moving, kicking-ass-and-taking-names White House has suddenly turned into a leaky morass in which the focus appears to be on the internal knife fights and missteps rather than on pushing Trump’s priorities.
The point of Donald Trump’s presidency isn’t to transform into the Beltway establishment, or to make nice with the media. Voters rallied to Trump because they have grown weary of hearing promises that politicians make, only to see them kick the can. Issues like Cabinet confirmations and personnel shifts might fascinate the DC and New York media, but everywhere else an administration is graded on how well it improves their lives and living standards.
That’s why voters decided to roll the dice on a long-discussed option of having a CEO-style president. They want a disruption of the status quo, not for the sake of disruption, but disruption for the sake of concrete accomplishments. In my column for The Fiscal Times this week, I describe this as a grand experiment that has to pay off. If it does, voters aren’t going to care about the political messiness at the beginning of the term:
Do these stumbles refute the argument that a CEO president like Trump can work? Not yet. After all, we have only gone four weeks into this experiment, and signs have already begun to emerge that Trump and his team have learned some important lessons. Flynn’s likely replacement is a vice-admiral with a record for low-key professionalism [clearly no longer the case – Ed]. The pace of EOs out of the White House has come almost to a stop after the Chief of Staff Reince Priebus redefined the promulgation process to make sure they give no excuses for a judge to stop them.
At the same time, Trump has delivered on key campaign promises even through these controversies – an experience that many voters believe only a few get, and rarely at that. His lack of political nuance has resulted in taking on big issues, including an effort on significant deregulation and cutting back on bureaucratic red tape. It will take longer than just four weeks to see if Trump remains committed to those projects, but he didn’t take long to at least get them started.
That’s why voters are likely to keep giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. They want to believe in the businessman model of governance. If Trump delivers on his promises while learning his lessons on the best way to achieve them, he’ll sail to another term in office. If not, it may be a long time before we hear anyone seriously suggest that government should be run like a business by someone outside of the system.
Full speed ahead, therefore. But try to avoid as many torpedoes as possible.