Donald Trump is, by various accounts including his own, currently obsessed with the idea of getting something big and splashy accomplished before April 29, the 100th day of his presidency. The good news for Trump is that he should have plenty of options. There are multiple pressing issues at the forefront of the national consciousness right now—health care, the budget/tax reform, North Korea—on which significant executive action is possible. There are also a host of issues that Trump discussed during the campaign that he could move to the front burner if he so chose—trade fairness, the Iran deal, business deregulation, the opioid crisis, veterans’ health care, Middle East peace. And there are subjects he promised earlier in his term that he’d be addressing soon, like improvements to American cybersecurity in the wake of last year’s Russia hacks, the alleged surveillance of his apartment by Barack Obama, and the millions of illegal votes he says were cast in the 2016 election.
There should be a lot going on right now. And yet I, a professional news blogger who is widely acclaimed as “the best in the biz,” cannot currently find anything national politics-related to write about, because nothing of substance is actually happening in relation to any of those issues:
- There have been some anonymous quotes bubbling out this week about the possibility of finally getting a compromise health care bill written in the House, but there’s still no bill.
- Trump’s next big issue is supposed to be tax reform, but the current timetable on that is that a proposal might happen next week—or might not happen next week. Who knows? Certainly not the White House.
- I got my hopes up that I’d have something to cover when I saw that Trump had signed some executive orders relating to the rollback of Dodd-Frank financial regulations. But it turns out those orders, which the president made a show of signing, were just instructions to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to “review” the regulations.*
- Trump tweeted today that it’s China’s job to deal with North Korea. And the powerful Navy armada he’d bragged last week about sending to the Sea of Japan to intimidate Kim Jong-un turns out to have been 3,000 miles away from the Korean peninsula at the time. So the U.S. isn’t really doing anything in that area right now either.
- The administration has reportedly decided it can’t make significant changes to NAFTA. And Trump has publicly given up on the idea of aggressively confronting China over the trade practices he condemned endlessly during the campaign.
- The Russian hacking/cybersecurity report that Trump said would be done within 90 days of his taking office is not only not done, it hasn’t even been started and it doesn’t seem like anyone knows who’s even supposed to be doing it.
- The “major investigation” into voter fraud that Trump said Mike Pence was launching two months ago has never been heard from again.
- The Iran nuclear agreement—whose dismantling Trump called the “number one priority” of his administration—remains intact. But—and stop me if you’ve heard one this before—the administration just announced this week that it would launch an “interagency review” of the Iran deal! It “did not say how long the review would take,” Reuters reports.
- There is no evidence that the Obama administration surveilled Donald Trump, and the White House’s suggestion that Susan Rice acted inappropriately in “unmasking” the names of Trump advisers mentioned in intelligence reports seems to have fallen apart under scrutiny.
- Israel/Palestine, the opioid crisis, veterans’ health care and a number of other issues have been assigned to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has no policy or political experience and reportedly developed a foreign-policy position during the 2016 campaign by looking up the word “China” on Amazon.com and calling one of the authors whose names came up.
- Remember the not-a-Muslim-ban travel ban? Donald Trump doesn’t seem to!
None of this is really surprising. As has been well-documented, Trump—though he claims to be a “builder”—actually made most of his hay in the private sector by licensing his name. He’s the guy who makes big promises at the ribbon-cutting and gets the name of the project in the newspaper, not the guy who gets the permits and arranges the funding and hires the subcontractors. He doesn’t make things; he talks. (When he does try to make things, they go bankrupt.)
There are a few areas in which Trump has changed federal policy since he’s become president: He’s given ICE the go-ahead to crack down on undocumented immigrants, and he’s given the military the go-ahead to launch what appear to be riskier and larger-scale attacks than they’d been making under Obama. Both of those initiatives, though, appear to have involved simply signing off on escalations that American security forces had already planned on their own. If you bring Trump an idea, he will put his name on it try to sell it—which, as Paul Ryan’s health care bill and Steve Bannon’s travel ban have proven, does not mean that he’ll sell it effectively. But he’s not going to come up with anything on his own.
Which is probably a good thing!
*Correction, 8 p.m.: This post originally misstated that Trump signed the financial executive orders in the Oval Office. He signed them at the Treasury Department.