Day 100 An astounding 1,362 days still to go
Donald Trump admitting that the job of president was harder than he realized, and that the government is bigger than he realized, is only astounding in that he admits it without any apparent awareness of what he is saying about himself. It reflects the same lack of self-awareness as his comment that health care was complex (and, according to him, who knew?) and his statement that a ten minute conversation with China’s president had convinced him that China could not just bring North Korea’s government to heel on its weapons program. Pundits who knew how ridiculous (and impossible) many of his campaign promises were (he would pay off the debt, he would provide better and cheaper health care, he would bring back a lot coal industry jobs, etc) have seized on this as yet another sign that they were right.
That is not what strikes me most about it. If you had just gotten a job that was bigger and harder than you realized when you went after it, and now realized that it is harder than you thought, wouldn’t you put as much time as possible into understanding the job? But not Trump, who doesn’t really seem to work at night and certainly does very little on weekends except golf and eat and socialize, who still insists his security briefings can only touch on the basics, who has not traveled to visit worried allies, and who still spends a significant amount of the time in the meetings he does bother to hold talking at length about having won the election. The job is hard, and he didn’t know it, but he makes no visible effort to develop a better understanding of its complexities. Because whether or not he understands it is not relevant to him; he won!
Alfred E. Neuman appeared on many Mad Magazine covers, and I have borrowed his slogan for this column. It strikes me as appropriate for Trump given that he seems unable to stay with one opinion (leave Nafta or not, label China a currency manipulator or not, and on and on) and has not managed to pass any legislation of note, yet views his first 100 days as enormously successful. A year from now he will be saying that he never really meant to build a wall, just as Paul Manafort, his campaign manager, is now described as someone who had only a small role. Reality in his mind is extraordinary flexible. He won’t improve the economy or provide better health care or stop North Korea’s missile program or bring peace in the Middle East, but it won’t matter. So what, he won the election, hadn’t you heard! What, Me Worry? is his basic philosophy. Given that the job of the US President is to worry about the well-being of the nation, meaning of its hundreds of millions of citizens, this is, ah, let’s say troubling.
Counting down how many days of this are left, as Gail Collins recently pointed out, may be a mistake. It is wildly depressing for those of us who want a competent, honest President to ponder that much time left with Trump in office.