Let us review.
Having watched the president get stiffed on healthcare reform by his party's extremist faction, virtually every competent political strategist — left, center, and right — has encouraged him to "pivot" (a word I have come to loathe; it is overused mediaspeak for, simply, "change"). He should extend a welcome to congressional Democrats, say Washington's wiser men and women. He should soften his tone, his demeanor, his hard-right policies (whenever they can be identified as actual policies, that is); he should embrace bipartisanship and thereby replace the useless votes of his extremist faction with more helpful votes from across the aisle. "And there," as Don Barzini said, "will be the peace."
Is the president accepting this rather sound advice? Of course not. Trump, being Trump, is instead upholding a posture of petulance. Yesterday he signed a wholly partisan Republican bill "that killed an Obama-era worker safety rule that required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose and correct serious safety and other labor law violations." At the same bill-signing ceremony, surrounded by unlit luminaries of the right, such as Virginia Foxx, he signed two other pieces of truculent legislation: one "scraps new requirements for programs that train new K-12 teachers"; the other "rolls back a set of rules outlining how states must carry out the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan federal law meant to hold schools accountable for student performance."
Democrats opposed these bills, as did civil rights groups and even business associations such as the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "argu[ing] that rescinding the rules opens loopholes that states can use to shield poorly performing schools from scrutiny, especially when they fail to serve poor children, minorities, English-language learners and students with disabilities."
There's more. Having already assaulted automobile fuel-efficiency standards, okayed the contentious Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines and rescinded "Obama-era restrictions on mining, drilling and coal- and gas-burning operations," today Trump "will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record..., instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions."
All the above quotes are from Washington Post front-page articles this morning, a tight journalistic bundle of Trumpian petulance. Take that, Democrats.
Petulance — and policy ignorance, we should add. "Is this really a good bill?" he repeatedly asked his aides throughout the healthcare debacle. He likely asked the same this week, even if blind indifference to smart policy is his default position.
As for the politics of it all, in the Post's back, op-ed pages, Eugene Robinson meditates that Trump as president "has let others lead — and is getting nowhere. He could still change course." (Thank you and coo coo ca choo, Mr. Robinson, for eliding "pivot.") "He could focus on parts of his agenda, such as infrastructure, that have popular support, including among Democrats," continues Robinson. "But that would mean acknowledging his mistakes thus far. Don’t hold your breath."
That advice is as sound as the advice political strategists have offered. One should not hold one's breath, for it's Trump who's the breath-holding toddler, throwing tantrums on Twitter and hurling petulance at the adults. But we ain't seen nothin' yet. Just wait till the Trump-Russia dots assume fully connected form and the "i" word finds itself seriously thrown around. Trump's petulance will then go pyrotechnic — a sight to anticipate, behold, and cherish.