Donald Trump was supposed to be the guy who would fix everything in Washington, but after two months in office he’s proving to be a terrible leader.
Trump was never very popular, but he got high marks for his leadership. Now that’s fading. In November just after the election, 56% of Americans thought he was a good leader — now it’s fallen to just 40%.
After two months, here’s what we know: He’s not going to fix everything. He’s not going to drain the swamp. He’s not going to make America great again. He’s not going to unite all Americans. He’s not going to replace Obamacare with something “terrific.” He’s not going to bring back the manufacturing jobs or the America dream. He won’t make America respected around the world. He won’t make us safer.
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Why not is He not? Because Trump isn’t the strong leader he pretends to be. Even if he believed in all the things he promised and wanted to accomplish them, he would fail because he doesn’t understand how to govern.
Trump is a failure because he ignored Ronald Reagan’s most important lesson about leadership: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Trump is still a great campaigner, no doubt. He can work a crowd like few others can.
But working the levers of policy, administration, legislation and diplomacy is beyond him. His whole career, he was the boss of an organization that he controlled 100%, but governing in a democracy isn’t like that. Democracy is about compromise, about give-and-take, about sharing the credit and the blame. And successful governing is about getting results for the people who elected you, and for the ones you hope will vote for you next time.
There’s an old joke in Washington that running the U.S. Senate is like herding cats. But Donald Trump thinks cats can be herded. All you have to do is say in a stern voice: “I’m coming after you!”
The voters who believed Trump would be a transformational leader thought that he would set the agenda in Washington, just like he did a year ago in the primaries when he was running circles around the field of traditional Republican candidates. He mocked John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Those humiliated Republicans degraded themselves by crawling back to Trump Tower to lick the spittle off Trump’s boots, and Trump’s supporters loved it.
Trump’s core supporters believed that Trump would rule the Republican Party with an iron fist, bending it to their will. They believed that Trump would force the establishment Republicans to come up with an Obamacare replacement that would cover everybody at lower costs. They believed that Trump would protect the safety net — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — against the establishment Republicans who only care about how much taxes rich people pay.
They believed that Trump’s populist movement would transform Washington.
But that hasn’t happened.
On the policies that matter to people, all of the initiative is coming from traditional Republicans, not from the radical outsiders Trump brought in. Trump campaigned against Paul Ryan, but he now allows Ryan control his agenda. Trump campaigned against Goldman Sachs and rich elites, but he hired Goldman alumni and billionaires to run economic policy.
What’s the result of Trump conceding policy to the establishment Republicans he ridiculed during the campaign? Things like the train wreck of a “health care” bill and the “budget” blueprint, both of which confer huge tax cuts on the very elites that Trump once attacked, paid for by the evisceration of the public services that are vital to the very people who most enthusiastically supported Trump in November.
And what did Trump say when Tucker Carlson asked him if the “health care” bill would screw over his supporters?
“Oh, I know.”
The president said he knew that the bill would devastate struggling families all across our land, that it would drive 24 million people off health insurance, send premiums and out-of-pocket costs through the roof, and kill a bunch of people. And he didn’t care. Because Ryan told him that he had to repeal Obamacare before he took up any of his other causes, like rebuilding America’s infrastructure, or bringing back the jobs, or remembering the forgotten people.
And every compromise that was struck to get the conservatives in the House to back the bill only made it worse for Trump’s forgotten people.
Trump promised us that the greatest dealmaker in the history of dealmaking would be on our side in the corridors of power in Washington. Not only was he not on our side, he didn’t even show up. Trump was too busy tweeting insults at Snoop Dog and Arnold Schwarzenegger, enriching his family, and trying to cover up the fact that he hired people who were loyal to Vladimr Putin.
It was the bigly-est bait-and-switch ever.
It’s hard to fathom that it was only two months ago that Trump took the oath of office and mouthed these lies: “I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down.”
I dare any Trump supporter to watch that inaugural address now.
Listen to this, if you can stomach it: “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
Trump promised that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
Trump is a terrible leader because he has forgotten who elevated him to this sacred trust. A politician who forgets that is nobody.
By Rex Nutting