Reality may be starting to make an impression on Donald Trump. He admits “communications miscues” and admits he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making – but miscues on that.
Trump, in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” specifically cited his immigration policy, and said that perhaps the rollout of his plan to keep out and remove criminal illegals hadn’t been communicated effectively.
“And maybe that’s my fault,” Trump said.
He later awarded himself a grade of a “C” or “C-plus” on communicating, straightforwardly saying, “My messaging isn’t good.” He clarified that he would give himself an “A” for achievement and “A-plus” for effort.
Admitting faults is something Trump has tended not to do before.
Trump also ramped up his war with the press, questioning whether many journalists are simply making up the stories he’s infamously derided as “fake news.”
“I believe that sometimes they don’t have sources,” Trump said. “I believe that a lot of the sources are made up. I believe a lot of the sources are pure fiction. They just pull it out of thin air.”
But then he blames the media again. They are far from perfect but I call bullshit on his claims here – he is pulling this fiction out of thin air. A common ‘Breitbart’ tactic is to transference of blame to others for one’s own actions.
Though he pledged to give the U.S. “the greatest military we’ve ever had by the time I finish,” Trump spoke somberly about the Jan. 29 special operations mission in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL. Sen. John McCain – a frequent Trump foil – had criticized the daring raid, saying he would “not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success.” Trump said McCain’s remarks were “inappropriate.”
“I feel badly when a young man dies and John McCain says, ‘That was a failed mission,’” he said.
It’s good to see that he recognises consequences of making military decisions.
As the president plans to boost the military, Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending is coming largely from cuts to the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency. He suggested Tuesday that foreign aid would be a target of the cuts.
“We’re going to do things having to do with other countries because we’re treated very, very unfairly,” Trump said. “…We’re taking care of their military and we’re not being reimbursed. They’re wealthy countries.”
Trump pledged to use his “Art of the Deal” expertise to drive down costs, as well.
“I am going to get involved in negotiating,” Trump said. “We have many planes and boats and ships … we’re spending too much money individually on.” He said the U.S. would “get a lot more product for our buck.”
Having the president getting involved in contract negotiations will raise a few eyebrows for various reasons. As does his escalation of military spending at the expense of overseas aid and diplomacy, things that experts have warned are at least as important as military might.
President Trump, meeting with the nation’s governors, conceded Monday that he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
I’m sure many people knew how complex it was.
The president also suggested that the struggle to replace the Affordable Care Act was creating a legislative logjam that could delay other parts of his political agenda.
Many policy makers had anticipated the intricacies of changing the health care law, and Mr. Trump’s demands in the opening days of his administration to simultaneously repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement made the political calculations far more complicated.
Running a government and a country the size of the US is very complex. Simple healthcare decisions can affect the lives of many people.
Perhaps Trump is starting to realise that being President involves more than waving a rhetorical wand.
And Trump’s first budget is a major test for him and the White House.
In the last few days, President Trump has made news by excoriating the “fake news” media as the “enemy of the people,” attacking the use of anonymous sources, and blowing off the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Trump also declared the election of Tom Perez as DNC chair to be “rigged” and tweeted this: “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to make the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!”
These are all ways of stirring the pot, and the self-absorbed media relish reporting on the president attacking them and then firing back, creating a seemingly endless loop.
But with the president delivering his first speech to Congress tonight, he faces a very different challenge—shaping a budget and pushing through his priorities—that will do more to determine his success than all the skirmishing with the press.
I was on a press call with a senior OMB official—a couple of reporters complained that the White House was putting out an “anonymous source”—who described the magnitude of what he dubbed a “security budget.”
The sort of anonymous sources he has criticised media for useing.
In pushing for a $54-billion boost in defense spending, Trump will demand offsetting cuts in the rest of the budget. That is huge, and reminiscent of what Ronald Reagan did in 1981.
And like Reagan, Trump also plans to push through a major tax cut that would undoubtedly drain revenue from the Treasury.
Plus, as he told me during the campaign and recently reemphasized, the president doesn’t plan to touch the big-ticket entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security—despite the adamant stance of House conservatives that without reform they are headed toward bankruptcy.
So that raises real questions about whether the Trumpian budget will blow a big hole in the deficit. Trump’s never been a major balanced-budget guy, and the issue hasn’t resonated in American politics since Ross Perot, but it does add to borrowing costs and impact the economy.
But what will become a massive story in media and politics is the attempt to slice more than $50 billion from what budget wonks call non-defense discretionary spending. That means the money will come from schools, housing, health, agriculture, environment—just about everything else the government does. And also foreign aid, according to the OMB official.
Every program is in that budget because it has a constituency, creates jobs in certain communities, and lobbyists who are prepared to defend it.
There will be a flood of stories about people who would lose their benefits, about the impact on food stamp recipients and farmers, clean air or clean water.
Some of the people affected by budget cuts will be people who voted for Trump, hoping for something better.
These are the realities of governing – it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. It’s hard enough pleasing half of the people half of the time.
It will take much more than eliminating communications miscues (that he is still making) to reform Washington and fix the country and the world.
One of the first things he could do to improve communications is to cut his contradictions on ‘fake news’, or gradually more and more people will wake up and become disillusioned, especially if he cuts their jobs.
Even Rasmussen doesn’t have him ahead on job approval now:
President Trump will address a joint session of Congress Tuesday 9:10 pm Eastern Time – that should be 3:10 PM Wednesday New Zealand time and will be on all the major US networks.