Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: No perfume can disguise the stink of failure

As of Monday, the Republican-run Senate lacks the 50 Republican votes needed to even hold a vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare, a task that as a candidate Donald Trump often described as "so easy."

Also Monday, the Trump administration quietly conceded that Iran was fully abiding by the nuclear arms deal that the president describes as "the worst deal ever," a deal that he promised that he would tear up immediately upon taking office. He still wants to tear it up -- he reportedly agreed to certify Iran's continued compliance only at the unanimous insistence of his foreign-policy staff -- but he has nothing with which to replace it, and no negotiations under way that might create such a replacement.

The giant infrastructure bill ... well, there is no giant infrastructure bill. There's not even a tiny infrastructure bill. We did have "Infrastructure Week," which was kinda nice I guess, but that came and went more than a month ago. The tax reform bill ... well, there is also no tax reform bill, and no sign of one appearing anytime soon.

Last week, a House committee did vote to include $1.6 billion in next year's budget to tighten border security, a move that the administration hailed as evidence that it would indeed build "The Wall". (That $1.6 billion would come from U.S. taxpayers, not from Mexico.) And with minimum estimates for such a structure coming in at $25 billion and ranging up to $70 billion and beyond, at this rate it would take roughly a quarter century to fund it. That puts its completion date at roughly the end of President Malia Obama's first term.

Overseas, the president has become a laughingstock or pariah, depending on the country and the day of the week involved. International trust in the United States as a source of global stability is plummeting, and North Korea doesn't seem at all intimidated by the president's aggressive attacks via Twitter, having recently tested -- successfully -- an intercontinental ballistic missile theoretically capable of reaching parts of the United States. In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 63 percent of Americans say they don't trust their president to handle that situation.

Meanwhile, the president's son, his son-in-law, his former campaign manager and his former national security adviser face varying levels of legal jeopardy regarding their interactions with the Russian government during the campaign, and the president himself is polling at the lowest numbers ever recorded for someone this early in his term.

The only somewhat bright spot has been the economy, which continues to produce new jobs, although at a rate slightly below that of the Obama administration. The stock market continues to advance, again at roughly the rate during the Obama administration. The latest projection for second-quarter GDP growth from the Atlanta Fed puts it at 2.4 percent, again roughly what it was under Obama.

If there's a miracle buried in there somewhere, it's the fact that the very same economic statistics that were cited as evidence of Obama's ineptitude are now cited as evidence of Trump's wisdom and leadership, even though the numbers themselves haven't changed.

On Thursday, July 20, we will be six months into the Trump presidency, one-eighth of the way through his constitutional term. The deal-making prowess that he cited in the campaign is nowhere in evidence.  "The best and most serious people" that he pledged to hire have for the most part been drawn from the ranks of family members, sycophants and fringe groups. And if he's running the country like a business, that business would be the Trump Taj Mahal, which now sits empty and boarded up.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.