Starting out, I’d like to acknowledge the difference between what conservative and progressive pundits say about the President’s record of action. To conservative pundits and White House spokespersons, “The President has accomplished more by this time than Obama did in 8 years”. According to progressive pundits, “The President’s start is disastrous, and has accomplished nothing.” Incoming presidents tend to “start off with a bang” to make an impact. Regarding executive orders and presidential memoranda; in the first 67 days of his term, President Trump has signed 23 executive orders, 17 presidential memoranda, 1 presidential determination, issued 20 presidential proclamations and 3 presidential notices. The full list can be found on Wikipedia at these links: Bush Obama Trump.

By this same time in former President Obama’s first term, he had signed 19 executive orders and 23 presidential memoranda. By the end of former President Obama’s two terms, the count was:  275 executive orders and 644 presidential memoranda. President GW Bush signed 290 executive orders and 6 presidential memoranda. In the table below, Trump’s numbers in parenthesis is a projection of his term’s total if it continues as it has at present

It should be clear that contrary to President Trump’s claims, he has not done more than former President Obama did in 8 years. The numbers indicate that he has currently signed 5% of the total of the Obama years. It is fair to say, though, that his first 67 days have resulted in more executive actions than other presidents. On the other hand, a number of his actions were not implemented. Further, the Republicans, who also control both house and senate, have been unable to move their signature campaign promise. This does reflect on the leadership of President Trump.  This last week, he decided to fire 59 cruise missiles at the Syrian armed forces as a response to a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government against its own people.

Along with the facts above, there are other observables on the Trump presidency: he changes positions on policy as he did during the campaign. He has not insisted that his appointees continue to fill all the necessary positions in their departments. He has not even submitted any of over 500 nominees for positions that are still open, that require Senate confirmation. The turnover in his nominees shows that the vetting processes for cabinet positions are clearly less effective than his recommendations for extreme vetting for immigrants. He continues to lay responsibility on others to prove his accusations, when proof would be immediately available upon his direction. His own statements on the recent attack on Syrian forces indicate that he was affected by publicity surrounding the results of the Syrian chemical weapons strike. The week before, Secretary of State Tillerson, speaking for the United States , said that Bashar al-Assad’s fate would be decided by the Syrian people. Now President Trump has reversed policy to take action in Syria.

We can conclude that President Trump is impulsive. From the lack of success of several of his initiatives (most notably the immigration executive orders), it is clear that neither he nor his staff knows how to take care of all the details to ensure success. This is also true of the level of personnel vetting that has pursued the Trump team since the campaign. Finally, while it is also true that while he has access to the most qualified and comprehensive briefings by experts of any subject, he finds his input watching Fox media and reading right wing blogs.

He acts in areas where he can act on his own  and needs no support, as is shown by the table above.  He cannot lead, because he is ignorant of all the details for each of the deeper areas (like healthcare and tax reform). In those areas, negotiation with opponents requires detailed discussion of alternatives and consequences.  Being president is unlike the Celebrity Apprentice. The president can’t say “You’re fired!” to the Senate or Congress. When he tried to bully the Congress on the American Health Care Act, he failed miserably. Perhaps it will eventually succeed, but that attempt was certainly a fiasco that everyone in government and media knew would be a failure. He has spent his power to get nothing. He made it clear that he can be defied without consequences. This does not demonstrate that he is the king of the art of the deal.

He talks in superlatives, he repeats himself. He needs to put his enemies down, and claim glory for himself that he hasn’t earned. He is inconsistent and heedless of consequences. He called Senator Shumer a clown, and then indicated that he is a reasonable man who will help him pass new healthcare.  He does what he wants, without regard to best practices, or ethics. His rhetoric towards his critics is also without regard to best practices or ethics.

He is a dangerously unstable and vindictive man who thinks only on a very shallow level. He has not demonstrated any understanding of the goals or nuances of his opponents or trade partners. He seems incapable of admitting he was wrong or acted unwisely.

So, you can expect more of what you’ve already seen. If it can make him look good, at the stroke of a pen, he’ll do it. If it requires long effort, patience, understanding, and commitment, you won’t see him do it. He’ll designate a person to be responsible, and if and when the issue fails, he will lay blame on that person.  Because he thinks shallowly, he will find his deals less than good for America, but he will proclaim them as the best deal ever.

William Casperson