With President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office behind us, what now? Hopefully, we’ll see more of the willingness to learn that has been the most positive aspect of his early months in the hardest job in the world.
The level of difficulty seems to have come as a surprise. “I loved my previous life,” he told Reuters. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” Well, now he knows.
It’s refreshing that he has been so willing to admit all that he didn’t know before: that health care reform is hard, too, and that China can’t just end the threat of a nuclear North Korea by telling them to knock it off.
But even more refreshing, and one of the single most important things he could possibly learn going forward, would be to become more serious and careful about what he says. This will not be easy because his greatest successes have been in marketing — selling his brand, his reality TV show and himself. Life has taught him that enhancing the facts, a little or a lot, usually works in his favor. That’s a tough thing to unlearn at 70.
But the consequences of presidential prevarication are far more serious, and the 452 false or misleading Trump statements totaled up by the Washington Post Fact Checker in these first 100 days amount to a spectacular record of indifference to reality. Eventually, the facts will catch up with him, and with us, as they always do, whether he believes in them or not.
He has also made some strides in foreign policy and trade, backing off his threats to pull out of NAFTA, second-guess NATO and provoke a trade war with China. So there is reason to hope that he will similarly come to see that slashing the State Department budget by a third would do incredible damage, and that soft power tools like foreign aid and diplomacy are not optional unless we want to be always and everywhere at war. And he must do everything possible to de-escalate dangerously high tensions with North Korea.
Though we have no such reason to believe the president has come to see that regulations can provide vital protections, we do hope he will not keep his promise to continue killing rules like those that used to limit student loan fees and keep internet providers from selling consumer data without our permission.
In general, we hope Trump will take some deep breaths and slow down; he does not need to be bold on every issue, every day. That leads, as it already has, to constant and equally bold revisions.
Thoughtful, well prepared plans take more than a minute, and though off-the-cuff and away we go is his signature style, that won’t yield real progress.
With time and trouble, he could fix the Affordable Care Act instead of replacing it with a bill that would do the opposite of what he promised on the stump: The latest Republican iteration would make insurance even less affordable and put it out of reach altogether for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.
We’d rather see him simplify the tax code than try to push a Kansas-style cut that would have the same catastrophic results. Then, he could turn to a plan to rebuild our infrastructure — remember jobs, jobs, jobs? This is the president’s best shot at a substantial, bipartisan win, and the months ahead are the time to spend his political capital. It is not too late to do all of these things, but it soon will be.