President Trump’s news conference/tirade last Thursday was really something. Much of the 70 or so minutes was Trump blasting the media for “fake news” that ignored his many achievements thus far as president and cast an unwarranted pall over his White House staff. In the process Trump told several easily verifiable falsehoods himself and made illogical arguments, but to dwell on them is to dwell on distractions. He always does that.
The heart of the matter is: “….. in the midst of it all, what has he actually done?” That question is raised by Fareed Zakaria, one of my favorite political commentators. And his answer detailed in a recent column is: “Hardly anything.”
Zakaria employs an analogy proffered by philosopher Alfred Montapert: “Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.’ We are witnessing a rocking-horse presidency in which everyone is jerking back and forth furiously, yet there is no forward movement.”
Here is a synopsis of Zakaria’s main points. Trump has claimed “There has never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time.” Zakaria points to several presidents who accomplished much more in their first 100 days than Trump is likely to, including Barack Obama.
Trump has said his White House “is running like a fine-tuned machine”, but it “has not even begun serious discussions with Congress on major legislation. (also) According to The Washington Post, of the 696 positions that require Senate confirmation, the president has yet to nominate 661 of them.”
Also, while Trump has “issued a series of executive orders with great fanfare” the only one that affects much is the travel ban that was so badly conceived and written that it got stuck in the courts. Seems like that machine has a lot of important parts missing.
Zakaria quotes a piece by Zachary Karabell in a recent Politico Magazine that sums up Trump’s presidency. “So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.”
In short, the fine-tuned machine works best blowing smoke.
Zakaria concludes with two aspects of the Trump presidency. There is the “freak show” that dominates the headlines but there is also “the savvy businessman” who picked some intelligent heavy weights like Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis to key positions.
It seems to boil down to this: “For many people, the bargain of the Trump presidency was that they would put up with the freak show in order to get tax reform, infrastructure projects and deregulation. That may still happen, but for now at least, reality TV is in overdrive, and not much is happening in the realm of serious policy.”
Those interested in reading the full editorial can go here.