John notes that some Republicans may be panicking about the Trump administration. He argues that such panic would not be justified.
The question I want to raise is whether President Trump is panicking? The answer, I think, is no. However, there are signs that he may be a bit unnerved and that he’s overreacting to early setbacks.
The Trump administration is nearing the 100-day mark. This represents a non-event — a “ ridiculous standard” — as the president has put it.
Yet, there were reports that Trump wanted the House to move towards passing a tax bill and Obamacare repeal and replace legislation this week — even as it tries to avoid a government shut down. Why the rush? Probably because the 100-day mark is approaching.
This isn’t panic, but neither is it calm, rational governance. As Sen. Tom Cotton has said: “It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.”
There have also been reports that Trump reacted to the administration’s defeat in court on its first immigration/travel order and its defeat in Congress on Obamacare replacement by elevating certain advisers — Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn — at the expense of others — e.g., Steve Bannon. I doubt that any changes in the pecking order at the West Wing can be attributed solely to early setbacks. It isn’t even clear that such changes are primarily due to setbacks. Indeed, we don’t really know the extent to which the pecking order has changed.
But no one disputes that Trump hates to lose, and it’s hard to deny that he lost the first big fight on two signature issues — immigration and Obamacare. Thus, reports of unhappiness with certain advisers associated with these defeats give rise to the suspicion that Trump is a bit unnerved by the early setbacks.
Why might Trump overreact to initial defeats? We’ve already cited one reason — he hates to lose.
Another reason might be cable news. Robert Costa and Ashley Parker discuss Trump’s alleged obsession here. They claim that “the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.”
According to Costa and Parker, “those Trump tweet-storms, which contain some of his most controversial utterances, are usually prompted by something he has seen on television just moments before.” Tweeting in response to stuff on television isn’t panic. But depending on what Trump saw and what he tweeted, it can be viewed as overreacting.
Moreover, if cable news is “influencing. . .policy,” this doesn’t seem like a recipe for calm governance.
John says of Trump’s poll numbers, “who cares”? It’s likely that Trump does. During the 2016 campaigns, he discussed his poll numbers non-stop.
The obsession continues, at least according to Costa. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Costa said that Trump views polls like “ratings” — the be-all and end-all in television.
Trump is too smart to panic over poll numbers, especially this early in his term. He knows that in the 2016 general election, polls were unfavorable to him almost until Election Day.
But this understanding doesn’t mean that bad poll numbers won’t lead to “course corrections.” Some conservatives fear the direction of changes on issues like immigration will be unfavorable from their perspective.
Conservatives shouldn’t panic, but it’s not unreasonable for them to be a bit unnerved.