Gallup reports: “President Donald Trump’s job approval rating in Gallup Daily tracking is at 34% for the three-day period from Friday through Sunday — by one point the lowest of his administration so far.” Even worse, his support among Republicans is low by usual standards:
The president has talked in recent days about doing well with his “base,” but Republicans’ latest weekly approval rating of 79% was the lowest from his own partisans so far, dropping from the previous week’s 82%. Democrats gave Trump a 7% job approval rating last week, while the reading for independents was at 29%. This is the first time independents’ weekly approval rating for Trump has dropped below 30%.
We can speculate as to why he’s dropping so precipitously. There is the failure on health-care reform, the Russia investigation, the spate of firings and continued dysfunction inside the White House, the bullying of his attorney general, his bombast directed to North Korea and, most recently, his handling of the Charlottesville violence and reluctance to condemn white nationalists. His aberrant, unpresidential behavior in responding to North Korea shouldn’t be ignored. The Marist poll tells us:
Americans want the United States government to diffuse heightened tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear programs through diplomatic means and not military intervention. 76% of residents say the U.S. should either negotiate directly with North Korea, 39%, or convince China to use their influence to stop North Korea’s nuclear programs, 37%. Only 11% think the United States should employ air strikes to destroy North Korea’s nuclear facilities, and 4% believe the U.S. should launch a first strike nuclear attack. Two percent of Americans say troops should be deployed to overthrow the government. … While President Donald Trump’s base is confident in his ability to lead the nation during an international crisis, more than six in ten U.S. residents, 61%, lack faith in the president’s ability to do so.
In other words, he’s making most Americans feel more unsettled at a time they normally receive reassurance from the commander in chief.
The right is in a constant state of agitation. Trump flails away — ordering transgender Americans out of the military one day, assailing Attorney General Jeff Sessions the next — but the nonstop controversies no longer distract and keep the public off balance. (Was it just last week he declared some military option was on the table — for Venezuela!?) Instead, the aura of failure, panic and unprofessionalism now rests as a permanent cloud over the White House.
The events that usually prompt a rally-around-the-president phenomenon don’t perform that function; instead they underscore Trump’s defects. He looks rash and out of his depth on North Korea, the kind of national security semi-crisis in which normal presidents can show off their diplomatic skills and steady temperament. Not Trump. Likewise, in times of violence and national tragedy, Presidents George W. Bush (after 9/11) and Barack Obama (after the shooting of then-Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords and after the slaughter at the African American church in South Carolina) could rise to the occasion, transcending partisan divisions to create moments of unity and shared grief. Trump spreads anger and division.
The U.S. president has two functions — head of government and head of state. Trump has failed miserably at the first. His inability to understand the details of policy and his lack of persuasive skills (bullying and threats don’t work, as we saw in the Trumpcare debate) have left him with only a couple of accomplishments (getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, achieving some regulatory rollbacks). But, if it’s possible, he’s performing even more dreadfully as head of state. In that role, empathy, historical perspective, humility and eloquence are all required. Trump has none of these qualities. Rather than look bigger than life, he looks like a peevish child.
Trump never thought he’d be president and never was prepared to be. Now we see what happens when he is unable to rise to the occasion. And the country is getting tired of watching him lose it, day after day.