Increasing infrastructure spending was one of the few policy areas where Trump and Hillary Clinton were in agreement during last year’s campaign. Economists mostly endorsed the idea too; repairing the nation’s roads and bridges could create jobs immediately while also boosting the country’s long-term productivity. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which a newly inaugurated Trump scored an early bipartisan win by daring Democrats to vote against a plan that would directly benefit their states and districts (and that their presidential candidate had broadly supported).
Instead, Trump chose to prioritize a divisive fight over health care, and he has seen his agenda repeatedly pushed from the headlines by distractions, mostly of his own making. His first days in office were dominated not by talk of policy proposals or Cabinet appointments but by a fight over how many people attended his inauguration. An early press conference announcing his new nominee for labor secretary devolved into an attack on the news media. A March speech meant to make the case for health care reform instead turned into a tirade against the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This week wasn’t even the first time that a Trump-induced controversy has distracted from infrastructure, specifically: The White House’s planned “Infrastructure Week” in June turned into a running joke on Twitter when the headlines were instead dominated by fired former FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony.