On the campaign trail, Donald Trump pitched himself as a dealmaker who would look out for the country's "forgotten people," "drain the swamp," unite the country, "immediately repeal and replace Obamacare," surround himself with "only with the best and most serious people," and, of course, "win so much."
But this past week made clear that Trump is falling far short of fulfilling those promises.
He launched a divisive debate with racial undertones about whether professional athletes should stand for the national anthem, lashed out at Puerto Rico's officials for begging his administration for more help after a devastating hurricane and backed a tax plan that analysts say would greatly benefit the wealthy.
Meanwhile, his chosen candidate in the Alabama Senate race lost big to an insurgent challenger, the latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed, and his health and human services secretary resigned after using taxpayer dollars to pay for several expensive chartered flights, another major departure from the president's top staff in the first eight months of his administration.
"He campaigned on the basis of large promises which were, in many cases, disconnected from any concrete program for achieving them," said William A. Galston, a top policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "He entered office having issued a bunch of promissory notes but not having thought through how to redeem them, and that's a very difficult way to begin an administration."
Trump's problems this week mirror those that have dogged his presidency since the first day, but they are becoming more troublesome for the president and his party as they come under increasing pressure to deliver on at least part their agenda.
Galston cautioned against putting too much emphasis on one week and noted that it often takes presidents at least a year or two to install the right staff and learn how Washington operates.
"Thirty-five years of experience in Washington, for better or for worse, has taught me that things change," Galston said, explaining that Trump could still pass a package of tax cuts, the economy could continue its winning streak and Republicans could retain control of Congress during the midterm elections next year. "At this point in Bill Clinton's presidency — and I'm not comparing the two — his popularity had fallen very sharply, his health bill was in trouble, he was a year away from a total rout in the 1994 midterm elections, and yet he was reelected president by 8 percentage points."
Trump supporters argued that the past week had its upsides.
Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and a Trump friend, said it was actually "a pretty good week for the president." Trump is "very much on top" of the crisis in Puerto Rico, earned favor with Hill Republicans by supporting Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), sided with "most Americans" on how to behave during the national anthem and pushed a tax cut that's "going to be a massive windfall for all Americans," according to Ruddy.
"His approval numbers have been stable and trending up," he said Saturday afternoon. "Despite the negative press barrage, he is standing pretty tall in my book."
Before this past week, Trump's presidency did appear to be on the upswing as he hit more of a focused stride. His approval rating increased slightly after he worked with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown, rising from 35 percent in Gallup polling in mid-August to 38 percent in mid-September, a level around which it has stayed. The administration was widely praised for its initial response to hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and other Gulf Coast states. His angry, early-morning tweets became less frequent, avoiding the distractions they almost always bring.
But then Trump traveled to northern Alabama on Sept. 22 to rally support for Sen. Luther Strange, the Republican appointed to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions's vacated seat. Trump was reluctant to go, and from the stage he aired his reservations about endorsing Strange instead of former state judge Roy Moore, who is popular with Trump's supporters.
At that Friday night rally, Trump delivered a stream-of-consciousness speech that lasted nearly 90 minutes. He repeatedly cursed, jokingly threatened to fire a Cabinet member, called allegations of Russian interference in the election a "hoax" and repeatedly relived the 2016 race. He seemed angry and dispirited.
Trump told the crowd that he and Strange "are unified by the same great American values" and that they both "respect our flag." He then launched into an attack on professional football players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. He said such players are a "son of a b----" and team owners should fire them for disrespecting the American flag.
"If you see it, even if it's one player, leave the stadium," Trump said, calling on a boycott of a major American industry. "I guarantee things will stop, things will stop. Just pick up and leave, pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore anyway."
Starting that Sunday, the number of players who knelt during the anthem greatly increased — and they were joined by coaches and even some owners who stood with them in solidarity. Trump, who once promised to "bring us all together as Americans," had succeeded in dividing the country over an issue with racial overtones that had previously received little attention outside the sports world. He then escalated the tensions in several morning tweetstorms.
By Monday afternoon, it became clear that Congress's latest attempt at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act would fail, even though Trump once said he could accomplish the goal in just one day. The president would blame the latest failure on a Republican senator who was "in the hospital" and couldn't make the vote — even though Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.) was never hospitalized despite undergoing some medical treatment. Regardless, Cochran was not a deciding vote; there were enough votes to kill the legislation with or without him.
To explain his lack of legislative success, Trump often blames Republican lawmakers — even though he said in his speech accepting the Republican nomination that "I alone can fix" the country.
On Tuesday, Moore beat Strange in a Republican primary election, and Trump tweeted his support for Moore while deleting from his account some of his past tweets in support of Strange.
Meanwhile, food, water and fuel were running out in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria had decimated much of the island's roads, airports and ports, as well as its telecommunications infrastructure. Puerto Rico was almost entirely without power, a problem expected to continue for weeks, and about half of residents did not have access to clean water.
As the week progressed, conditions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands became only more dire. For days, cable news showed endless footage of the destruction and desperation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — along with increasingly critical assessments of the Trump administration's response. Reporters on the ground found that food, water and medicine had arrived to the area on boats but had not been delivered to people in need because of a shortage of truck drivers.
Trump took a much different tone in talking about Puerto Rico than he had with Texas or Florida, tweeting Monday that the island "was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt" before the hurricane hit.
He repeatedly praised his administration's efforts. "Great job," he said Tuesday. "Very proud," he said Wednesday. "Tremendous strides," he said Friday.
On Saturday, the president accused Puerto Rico residents — who are American citizens — of wanting "everything to be done for them." He lashed out at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has harshly criticized his administration's response and begged for help for her constituents.
"Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help," Trump tweeted.
The administration has defended its response to the devastation on the island, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Saturday tweeting a quote from Puerto Rico's governor saying that every time he has asked for help, "they've executed quickly."
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to represent "the forgotten men and women" and get them better-paying jobs and lower taxes. He said he would lower the national debt by bringing his "common-sense" business attitude to spending. This week, however, he released a tax plan that analysts said would benefit the top 1 percent more than middle-class families (although Trump continues to claim that the opposite is true) while greatly adding to the deficit.
Meanwhile, news broke that some members of Trump's Cabinet were using taxpayer money to fly private chartered jets along routes where much less expensive commercial flights were available. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took more than two dozen such flights that cost taxpayers more than $400,000, according to Politico.
Trump made clear that he was "not happy" about this, and Price resigned Friday.
"I certainly don't like the optics," the president said as he left the White House on Friday afternoon to spend the weekend at his private golf club in New Jersey. "We renegotiate deals. We're renegotiating trade deals. . . . I've saved hundreds of millions of dollars. So, I don't like the optics of what you just saw."
Some Republicans saw a silver lining in Price's departure.
"I think this is an opportunity for the president to kind of put a freeze on things, re-center, refocus everybody and say, 'Let's not get too comfortable in our jobs, because we're renting these positions that were offered to us by the American people,' " Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said on Fox News on Friday evening. "So, let's get back to our core mission."