If I mention Barney Oldfield will that show my age? Barney was an early twentieth century racecar driver. His image is that of a wild man wearing a leather crash helmet with goggles sitting in an open top, no windshield racer.
I bring Barney up because I was trying to think of an analogy for our new president, and he came crashing into my consciousness. When I think of Mr. Trump and his first month in office, I get this image of Barney sitting in his racer, in the desert, goggles pulled down over his eyes, leaning forward peering through the steering wheel. He’s got the pedal to the metal while smoke from the car and dust from the desert fill the air–wheels spinning wildly. The racecar is out of control turning in circles.
Mr. Trump is driving Barney’s car creating a din to insult our ears, raising dust to bock out the sun, and smoke to blur our vision. All the while spinning madly, making no progress.
He likes to say that he’s doing more than any other president, and doing it with less support. He certainly is welcome to his opinion, but I don’t think those pesky facts pan out. He has sent no legislation to Congress. Congress writes its own bills, but the president often suggests them. Mr. Trump has been satisfied with continually scrawling his name with a Sharpie on the bottom of a ton of executive orders (EO) that are quick and easy, but ephemeral unless backed up with enacted law.
The alpha order to date is the travel ban from seven Arab countries. The problem was that it was done in haste. I don’t think anyone would challenge the president’s power to slow or even stop immigration for security reasons. But, due to frenzy and inexperience around the Oval Office, this ban included people with green cards, people who live here, and people formerly vetted with connections to our country. Professors and students got trapped away from schools. A grandmother with a green card and a job was detained. A doctor with patients waiting got held up. A family with complete clearance, a house, and jobs waiting got sent back. A woman coming for an operation was delayed and subsequently died. People working as translators for the U.S. were denied entry. These are all people who were hassled for no good reason. A little thought and planning–a little less dust in the air–would have avoided the whole nightmare.
Mr. Trump issued an EO to Health and Human Services that was a gag order to not communicate with Congress. Another took down the Agriculture Department web sites containing a ton of research data scientists rely on to do their work. The Environmental Protection Agency’s climate data were to be scrubbed. There was to be a Veterans’ Administration hiring freeze. The agency was in the process of hiring tens of thousands of people critical to serving ailing vets. And, the Affordable Care Act’s paid for commercials informing people about open enrollment were to be canceled even though there was still time to sign on for this year. Much to the chagrin of Republicans, the ACA is still the law of the land.
All of these were quickly rescinded, some within hours when the utility of the functions were revealed–extreme wheel spinning.
To save face there was an explanation that the VA’s freeze was being modified to allow “essential” jobs to be filled. What actually occurred was that more than 30 different jobs including everything from doctors and nurses to janitors and general labor were advertised as “absolutely essential.” Why didn’t they just repost the openings and not try to sugar coat a reason for their inability to properly function? The racecar driver is blocking out the sun with smoke.
The president sent EO’s to congress about building The Wall and repealing Obamacare, again. These were no more than convoluted requests for funding. They were not real orders. Congress has the authority to parcel out the money and the president has to ask. Neither of these requests has gone forward in a month.
Mr. Trump has talked and talked. He’s talked to foreign leaders, insulting some by misspelling their name when they came to visit, Theresa May; threatening tariffs that would affect domestic exports and our economy more than the target nation, Mexico; practiced his bravado on Australia, and has tried to pull everyone with whom he shakes hands out of their chair or off their feet–too much engine roar.
Two appointees have resigned/been fired, another took his name out of consideration, an NSA offer was declined, and six nominees have been ushered out of the White House because they can’t pass a background check. Plus, 500 or so positions are still awaiting a nominee. All of this is avoidable with a little proactive screening–less spinning in circles.
There are infrastructure projects, trade agreements, and job growth prospects that show promise from this president. The speech at Boeing last week that was sandwiched between two noise-filled campaign speeches, finally showed progress. If Mr. Trump backs off the gas pedal, eases the car into gear, and takes advantage of the populist ideals he touts that can continue our country’s economic growth, he may be able to start creeping forward.