Jay Bookman

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

Opinion: President Show Pony and his do-nothing Congress

When Donald Trump walked out to the TV cameras and microphones at Trump Tower on Tuesday, his supposed mission was to publicize an executive order that he had just signed on federal infrastructure projects. As we know by now though, what he really, really wanted to talk about was Charlottesville.

Because that's how it goes under President Show Pony.

As part of his "Contract with the American Voter," candidate Trump had promised to enact a $1 trillion infrastructure plan within his first 100 days as president. It was actually a decent idea. The problem is that we are now well past Day 200, and no such plan has been enacted.

That's understandable, maybe. It's understandable that a political outsider such as Trump might underestimate the time needed to push his plan through Congress. The problem is that there is no such plan. There is not even a sign of such a plan being drafted. We have no bill, and no specific outline of a bill.  We have ... nothing.

Back in July, Trump did announce through an executive order that he would appoint a 15-member Council on Infrastructure, drawn from top experts in finance, real estate, economic development and transportation, to recommend means of funding and building new infrastructure. In short, they had a plan to someday have a plan.

But on Thursday, an anonymous press spokesman quietly announced that even that plan to have a plan has had to be abandoned.

"The president has announced the end of the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum. In addition, the President's Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which was still being formed, will not move forward," the spokesman said.

The same is true of almost every single item in that "Contract with the American Voter," which Trump has treated just like every other contract he ever signed.

He promised to repeal and replace Obamacare within 100 days, and he has failed. You can explain that failure a lot of ways, but it begins with the fact that neither Congress nor the administration had an actual, workable plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and neither was willing to do the hard work of creating such a plan.

That "contract" also promised to enact a bill to slash middle-class and corporate taxes. No such bill has passed; no such bill exists; we've seen no progress whatsoever on drafting such a bill, let alone building a consensus for passage. That list of promises also included a pledge to fully fund "construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall," but no such proposal has been offered or is contemplated.

Nothing is happening. Nothing is happening because the Trump administration, like its chief executive, has neither competence nor interest in governing. Like its leader, it lurches instead from self-inflicted crisis to self-inflicted crisis, looking for somebody somewhere to beat upon for some reason, because conflict is the only fuel that drives it, the only force that animates it. That addiction to conflict is so strong that members of the administration have turned on each other as well, producing the most viciously dysfunctional White House team in living political memory.

Under these circumstances, competent congressional leadership that was armed with a politically plausible agenda would be having a field day. They have a president who doesn't give a damn about policy outcomes and whose only goal is to sign things that make him feel presidential; they also have majorities in both chambers of Congress. But the legislative branch is forfeiting this historic opportunity to reclaim the initiative from the executive because it does not have competent leadership; it does not have a politically plausible agenda.

Like the president, it has no purpose for being other than the nurturing of its own deep resentments.


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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.