The performance of Donald Trump during the next few months will be critical to the survival of his presidency. The most important elements of performance will be the successful enactment of tax reform and the president’s overall behavior.
The Trump administration has several things to crow about including confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, relaxed regulations, a surging stock market, improved economic conditions, low unemployment and no significant foreign terrorist activity. Yet the president suffers mightily with Congress and is not endearing himself to Americans.
Congressional tribulations have been exacerbated by an inability to keep the Republican caucus intact. The current power of the GOP (its majority) has been emasculated by disloyalty and ideological differences within the party.
The situation has worsened as Trump retaliates on a daily basis against Republicans and anyone else that disagrees with him using schoolyard banter on social media. Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake were victims of this brand of hardball politics. Creating more agitation is the threat of Steve Bannon who has promised to attack Republicans disloyal to Trump.
Tax reform could be the last chance for Trump to prove that he can be an effective leader of his party. The legislation is complex and involves many different issues that are being bird-dogged by any number of powerful lobbyists.
The art of this deal will be whether large tax cuts for the middle class and businesses can be enacted without significantly increasing taxes (on the affluent) or eliminating cherished tax benefits for others. The latter includes the deductibility of state and local taxes, deductibility of interest expense, a reduction in allowable 401k deductions and so on.
At this time the psychological impact of a Republican legislative victory cannot be overstated. And so Trump’s enemies are working overtime to muddy the water and attack the president. The absurd and never ending Trump/Russian collusion accusations continue to rankle the president causing him to respond in a very unattractive and un-presidential manner.
It is this behavior that could bring down the Trump presidency regardless of legislative victories, an improved economy and foreign policy gains.
It is dubious whether Donald Trump can turn his presidency around, in part because of his demeanor and child-like responses to every attack. He is incapable of letting nickel and dime criticism roll off his back. Every president has been challenged daily. It is impossible to respond to each of the darts thrown at the president by the opposition. A great president picks opportune moments to strike back.
Trump actually believes that his tweets and seemingly irrational behavior are legitimate presidential prerogatives. They are not accepted or appreciated by the vast majority of Americans or our allies. Making matters worse is the president’s unsavory way he injects himself in situations while his opponents are self-destructing on their own.
The Clinton dossier and uranium scandals have traction and Trump should stand aside and allow Hillary to seal her own fate.
Frankly it is a frustrating experience trying to support this president’s agenda while he continues to act the way he does.