I can be precise. When did Donald Trump's much-vaunted political instincts abandon him? In the early afternoon of January 20th. It was then that the job he never expected to win, and for which he never prepared, overwhelmed him. His decades of professional training in deceit, artifice and bunco artistry had served him well on the campaign trail, right up to November 8th, when the clownish bamboozlement of the populist masses was all that mattered. Then, a bit more than two months later, came the far greater challenge of converting his political instincts to presidential competence. Kaboom.
Stunning may not be the only word for what has unfolded since that sunshiny rainy afternoon of 20 January, but it is perhaps the Trumpian best — in that the Donald, as president, has been stunningly amateurish, naive, and inept.
As a candidate he promised swift, first-100-day action on, among other items, tax reform, infrastructure initiatives, wider school choice, improved child care and, of course, ridding the republic of villainous Obamacare. Notes the Washington Post: "Now past the 50-day mark, only one of those bills — the House GOP health-care plan — has been introduced. And its path has grown more treacherous by the day."
It is not, however, Trump's numerical legislative failures that have stunned. It is, rather, that his political instincts have so utterly failed him. Mere middle schoolers with a current-events-class subscription to the NY Times could have observed, days ago, that Paul Ryan's Trumpcare was treacherously imploding and thus ferociously imperiling any who dared to embrace it. And yet, mere days ago, Trump was hailing Ryan's politically suicidal bill as "wonderful," "tremendous," and "great." Indeed, as late as yesterday the administration "launched an intensive effort … to salvage support for the Republican plan … even as a growing number of lawmakers weighed in against the proposal…. Widespread dissatisfaction among House and Senate lawmakers — conservatives and moderates alike — showed no signs of dissipating."
Whatever it is that Trump thinks he's accomplishing by continuing to back this turkey of a bill is anybody's guess; what's unquestionable, though, is that his thinking is stunningly vacuous. This, some of his friends know. "Trump’s allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill," continues the Post, "arguing that it would fracture Trump’s coalition of working- and middle-class voters … [and violate] some of his biggest campaign promises … in service to an ideological project championed for years by Ryan and other establishment Republicans." Again, a bevy of schoolchildren could have provided the president with such a screamingly obvious political analysis. Yet there sits Trump, oblivious, cutting his own throat.
Now it's a given that whenever Trumpcare finally and magnificently implodes on Capitol Hill, its eponymous supporter will declare that he always opposed it, just as he opposed the Iraq war by supporting it. It's also a given that most among his November voters will, perhaps after scratching their muddled heads, willingly buy into Trump's alternative history. But most are not all; many will instead see that the man who is president is a colossal bundle of incompetence — that his once-winning political instincts have gone to rot. For the job of POTUS was always too big — its pressures, too overwhelming — for a mere bunco artist.