Is President Trump evolving into a figurehead, increasingly ignored by Congress and even some members of his own executive branch of government?
Mr. Trump retains enormous direct powers – he can deploy troops, negotiate treaties, and issue executive orders. But his record is mixed at best on the larger, more complex aspects of presidential authority, which involve developing and helping to pass legislation, or lobbying the nation directly via the bully pulpit of the Oval Office.
Following the collapse of the latest attempt to repeal Obamacare in the Senate, a few administration critics have begun resorting to the “w” word – “weak.” There’s still time to turn things around for the Trump presidency, but it is already getting late, and many angry and incorrect tweets have flowed under the metaphorical bridge. A powerful and competent chief of staff, if that’s what new hire John Kelly becomes, would be a good start, says political scientist Matt Glassman.
“A fair amount of damage is done … but Clinton ’94 is a good road map for DJT: recognize weaknesses, bring in the right people,” says Mr. Glassman in a response to a reporter’s inquiry on social media.
Trump supporters think that if the president has fallen short of his goals it is due to the animosity of establishment Washington. The failure of Obamacare repeal lies with GOP leadership, in their view. Tax reform is still to come, and the stock market is booming. Maybe the president isn’t a policy wonk, but so what? That’s what he has staff for. Trump is a different kind of politician, to his voters, one who threatens incumbents.
PUSHBACK FROM CONGRESS …
But to see why some political scientists would call Trump ineffective, look at what’s happening in Congress this week. The president has railed on Twitter that Senators will be “quitters” if they don’t redouble efforts to repeal Obamacare. His budget director has said that the Senate shouldn’t vote on anything else until they vote again on health care.
Senators are apparently treating those words as empty threats. Majority leader Mitch McConnell has outlined legislative plans leading up to the August recess, and health care isn’t in them.
Then there’s the Russia sanctions bill. In a statement, Trump excoriated that legislation on Wednesday as partially unconstitutional. Yet as he did so, he signed it into law. He effectively had no choice, since it passed the…