The Plum Line | Opinion
April 17, 2017 at 10:28 AM
THE MORNING PLUM:
The 100-day mark of the Trump presidency is approaching, and his aides are worried that the media narrative will depict his historically awful lack of accomplishments with highly unflattering levels of accuracy. But don't tell that to President Trump. He knows the real problem is that the news media won't acknowledge how terrific the start to his presidency has actually been in comparison with his loser predecessors:
A new Gallup poll out this morning, however, strongly suggests that an increasing number of Americans just don't believe Trump's spin about his presidency anymore. It finds that only 45 percent of Americans think Trump keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in February, an astonishing slide of 17 points:
Note that the drop has been 11 points among Republicans and 9 points among conservatives. Meanwhile, among Americans overall, there has been a 7-point drop in those who think Trump can bring about the change this country needs, from 53 percent to 46 percent, and a 6-point drop in those who think that Trump is honest and trustworthy, from 42 percent to 36 percent.
Trump's failure to fulfill his promises is worrying to Republicans, too. The Post reports that Republicans, eyeing the 2018 elections, are fretting that Trump has achieved "no major legislative victory," which cuts against his promise to execute "beautiful" deals in Washington. As GOP pollster Frank Luntz puts it, Trump and Republicans must post "a record of accomplishment," because "if you don't, no rhetoric will fix it." Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) commits full-blown heresy, warning: "We can't blame this on Barack Obama. We have to look in the mirror." (Can we have that in writing, Tom?)
It's important, however, to drill down with more precision on what it really means that Trump is failing to "keep his promises." There are several ways this is occurring, and they are distinct from one another. First, Trump is explicitly adopting policy goals that contradict black-letter promises (the GOP health-care plan that he championed would roll back coverage for 24 million people and deeply cut Medicaid, after he vowed "insurance for everybody" and promised not to cut Medicaid). Second, he is failing to unite the party to accomplish generally promised goals (Republicans have yet to pass anything that can satisfy the baseline need to be described as "repeal and replace").
Third, other general promises may be in the process of running aground, or just disintegrating, now that the difficulties of translating them into detailed policy are proving that the original promises were unrealistic, rooted in bad faith or outright fantasies.
The travel ban is blocked in part because the true motives behind the measure — combined with the lack of any serious rationale for it — put it in legal jeopardy. Ambitious tax reform may founder due to GOP divisions over specifics. The promise of massive infrastructure spending may shrivel into an unambitious, cronyist tax-break-and-privatization scheme. The bluster about China and trade and NATO and the Export-Import Bank is all getting retracted in the face of factual reality. The vow not to touch entitlements cannot be squared with the ideological imperatives of congressional Republicans, so it has quietly been put in a drawer.
More broadly, Trump is generally moving away from the "economic populism" that was supposed to make him different from other Republicans and increasingly embracing a more-orthodox GOP governing approach (while doubling down on Trumpism's nativism and xenophobia). Meanwhile, that approach is itself proving to have been based on unrealistic promises. (Many congressional Republicans are not actually willing to roll back coverage for millions while deeply cutting taxes for the rich, it turns out; GOP fiscal priorities are deeply unpopular, and — as I believe we will discover during the coming budgetary and tax reform debates — mathematically unworkable.)
Many pundits are ascribing a number of Trump's recent reversals to a learning process, in which Trump is discovering that our challenges are much more complicated than he originally thought and is evolving accordingly. But as Brian Beutler points out, what all this really demonstrates is that the original slate of false promises and assumptions is failing him.
As my attempted taxonomy of Trump's broken vows suggests, different groups of voters may be basing their conclusion that Trump isn't keeping his promises on different things. But at bottom, this all originates with the increasingly undeniable reality that much of what he campaigned on was based on one sort of lie or another.
* TRUMP VOTERS WONDER WHEN THEY'LL SEE THE 'WINNING': The New York Times talks to voters in a Pennsylvania swing district that narrowly backed Trump and finds glimmers of dissatisfaction with Trump:
Many still trust him, but wonder why his deal-making instincts do not seem to be translating. They admire his zeal, but are occasionally baffled by his tweets … Perhaps most forcefully, they question when they will begin to see more of that word they were promised, the outcome that voters were supposed to be "sick and tired of" by now, in Mr. Trump's campaign estimation. Winning.
Silly voters. Don't they know that Trump's administration has had (as he has told us) one of the most tremendously successful starts in U.S. history?
* PENCE VOWS AN END TO 'STRATEGIC PATIENCE': Tensions with North Korea are escalating, and in an interview with CNN, Vice President Pence explains the administration's new approach:
"We're going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably."
But in reality, Trump has played the situation militarily as cautiously as his predecessors did. By the way, can you please stop the president from tweeting about this situation?
* HOW TO READ TOMORROW'S SPECIAL ELECTION: Nate Silver predicts that Democrat Jon Ossoff probably won't win tomorrow's special election with 50 percent outright, and after that, the runoff is anyone's guess. Here's how to interpret the final results:
An Ossoff win would unambiguously be good news for Democrats. But a narrow loss could be anywhere from disappointing to encouraging for them, depending on the margin and whether you think 2016 represented the new normal in the district. If judged by its 2012 results, merely coming within single digits in Georgia 6 would count as a decent result for Democrats, as was the case in a special election in the Kansas's 4th Congressional District last week.
Silver forecasts that if Ossoff falls short of the 50 percent needed to win outright on Tuesday, he has a 50-50 chance of winning the runoff.
* TRUMP ERA PRODUCES MASSIVE SURGE OF FUNDRAISING: Bloomberg Politics reports that campaigns for the 2018 House races have hauled in a record $96.1 million in the first quarter of 2017:
That's a 45 percent increase over the $66.2 million raised during the same period two years ago, the previous record. The maximum contribution amount to campaigns was the same during both periods. Republican incumbents and challengers raised $49.8 million, while Democrats pulled in $46.3 million.
For now, they're at parity. One big question will be whether this surging energy produces more turnout on the Democratic side, as happened in last week's Kansas special election.
* CORPORATE AMERICA BREAKS WITH TRUMP ON CLIMATE: Axios reports that corporations seem to be increasingly at odds with Trump on his vow to pull us out of the Paris climate accord:
In a shift that is changing the debate, the biggest and most important U.S. energy companies are now dropping their resistance to a global climate deal. Broader corporate backing of global action on climate change is helping push President Trump away from his campaign promise to pull out of the climate deal, which was struck by nearly 200 nations in Paris two years ago to slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
We keep hearing that Trump is increasingly responsive to business leaders, which is supposed to prove he's being more sensible. Let's hope this applies in this area in particular.
* TRUMP'S FALSE PROMISES ABOUT JOBS: Paul Krugman punctures Trump's false promises about restoring coal and manufacturing jobs, and adds:
While we can't stop job losses from happening, however, we can limit the human damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate retirement income for all. We can provide aid to the newly unemployed. And we can act to keep the overall economy strong — which means doing things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down.
Trump is selling false promises about bringing jobs roaring back and trying to help Republicans cut the safety net (while cutting taxes on the rich), which could produce a doubly cruel outcome.