This brings us back to the enemies of Trump’s promise, such as it was. The most important was his own almost total indifference to the actual business of governing. On trade, manufacturing, infrastructure, entitlement spending, public debt, and even (once upon a time) health care, his instincts were sound, but when it came time to act upon them the work was left to the exhausted remnants of the conservative intellectual class. These toadies and backbiters did far more damage to his electoral prospects than his enemies, and his administration, begun with the splendor of a victorious 19th-century republic, ended as a seraglio. The almost painfully unimaginative Mnuchin, the penny-pinching Mulvaney, the mendacious Tillerson and the oleaginous Pompeo, the sinister Miller, perhaps most of all Kushner, the failed apostle of Trumpism to the Upper West Side: the history of this White House is a long roll of names, each figure more ineffectual than the last. These men betrayed Trump’s ambitions and were the architects of a thousand failed schemes of their own.
Trump was at his best acting unilaterally: canceling student loan interest, proclaiming a nation-wide moratorium on evictions, nearly canceling (above the cries of screams of the eunuchs at court) the entire outstanding fiscal obligations of Puerto Rico. His greatest achievement was wholly negative: He was the first president in nearly two decades not to enlist the United States in a meaningless foreign war. This is no small feat given the records of his two immediate predecessors, which bequeathed to us, among other things, the greatest refugee crisis in world history. But for many it is hard not to imagine that he might have done much more.