For President Trump, sometimes the easiest problems to solve are the ones created by his own policies.
On Thursday, Trump said he was reversing proposed funding cuts to the Special Olympics — after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and his reelection campaign spent days defending the cuts — which were outlined in the president’s own budget.
“The Special Olympics will be funded,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I have overridden my people.”
In a statement, DeVos praised Trump for reversing a position that she had justified just hours earlier, saying Democrats’ criticism of the administration’s proposal was “just disgusting and it’s shameful.”
It’s far from the first time the president — who won his election after saying “I alone can fix it” — has come to the rescue to quickly solve challenges created by his own policies. He often relishes in the reversals, performing them in front of cameras and without mentioning his role in creating the situation. Praise from Republican officials usually follows.
In June, after public outcry over Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that forced the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents, the president signed an executive order to “maintain family unity” at the southern border.
“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump said.
On Twitter, Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump congratulated her father for his decision.
“Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border,” she tweeted, not mentioning that it was Trump’s administration that initiated the zero-tolerance policy.
In January, Trump agreed to sign a short-term spending bill and reopen the government after a 35-day partial shutdown that began after he decided to reject a bipartisan spending deal because it did not include funding for his desired border wall. Speaking in the Rose Garden, Trump said he was “very proud” to sign the spending bill, even though it included no money for a border wall and was essentially the same deal he rejected seven weeks earlier. As the cameras rolled, Trump cast himself as a defender of federal workers, many of whom had been forced to work without pay.
“I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly, or as soon as possible,” he said. “It’ll happen fast.”
In a statement, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) thanked Trump for taking “decisive action today to put people above politics” by reopening the government that he shut down.
The president has found no shortage of opportunities to play the hero by either creating or amplifying crises and then quickly defusing them, sometimes with the simple stroke of a pen. The pattern has popped up on issues ranging from trade skirmishes to military decisions to foreign policy. Republicans mostly go silent when the emergencies arise, finding more value in effusively praising Trump for solving self-imposed problems than publicly criticizing him for self-imposing them.
Some of Trump’s reversals come because he is at odds with his own government, and occasionally unaware about what his administration is doing or proposing. While Trump has claimed that his administration operates as a “well-oiled machine,” insider accounts and tell-all books have indicated that Trump’s ad hoc approach to governing is often the source of the very chaos the president ends up having to resolve.
“The reason he gets surprised by these problems is because he’s not detail-oriented,” said Tim O’Brien, author of the biography “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.” “He has a really short attention span, and he’s profoundly impatient.”
In addition to claiming he wasn’t aware of the funding cuts to the Special Olympics — which have been in Trump’s last three spending proposals — the president announced Thursday that he was defying his own budget to support funding to clean up the Great Lakes.
“I support the Great Lakes. Always have. They are beautiful. They are big, very deep. Record deepness, right?” Trump said to applause during a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. “And I am going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which you have been trying to get for over 30 years.”
In reality, all three of Trump’s budget proposals, including the one published this month, have called for cutting Great Lakes cleanup funding by at least 90 percent to $30 million. Congress has ignored those requests and funded the project at the $300 million level.
The president rarely makes a public case for his budget proposals and has regularly cast aside things that are in them that may be politically inconvenient. Congress normally ignores his spending plans.
Trump’s mercurial approach to foreign policy and trade has also led to several whiplash reversals and last-minute rescues just before self-imposed deadlines.
After announcing the complete, immediate withdrawal of about 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria in December, Trump said in February and March that he agreed that some U.S. troops would remain to fight the Islamic State.
The December decision, made without consulting allies, was followed by the abrupt resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and a rare flurry of public criticism from Republican lawmakers. By March, some Republicans were praising Trump for not following through on his promise to pull troops out.
“To the president’s credit, he adjusted his policy,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said.
Trump has also sought to clean up problems caused by his aggressive trade policies.
Last month, Trump said he would delay his own March 1 deadline for increasing tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, putting off a move that lawmakers and business leaders feared could hurt the economy. Trump said he delayed the 25 percent tariffs because progress was being made on a trade deal with China.
“Encouraging news from @POTUS,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) tweeted after Trump’s announcement.
After threatening for weeks to impose tariffs on almost $200 billion in foreign-made automobiles, Trump went to the Rose Garden in July to announce a deal struck with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to begin trade negotiations.
“We agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods,” Trump said July 25 as more than two dozen Republican lawmakers broke into applause.
Several of the lawmakers present for the impromptu news conference had publicly warned Trump that his proposed car tariffs would hurt their states. While the Trump administration has not reached a trade deal with the E.U. in the eight months since that statement, Trump has largely moved on from publicly threatening new car tariffs.
To help farmers deal with the losses caused by trade wars with China and other countries, the Trump administration announced a $12 billion aid package last year. Trump sought to take credit for the bailout during a speech in January to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“As we reverse the damage of decades of unfair trade, we are also providing up to $12 billion in relief to protect our farmers from unfair foreign retaliation,” Trump said. “We helped our farmers out.”
Ashley Parker, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Damian Paletta contributed to this report.