Monday, May 1, 2017

Can Trump learn?

After the mess of Trump's first 100 days, it is worth remembering that other presidents have had messy early periods.  Bill Clinton, now remembered as more of an economic success (regardless of how much credit he does or doesn't deserve for it) and political expert had a rocky first two years.  After a bruising fight to pass his 1993 budget, he got very little else.  His healthcare plan flamed out (sound familiar?), contributing to a massive landslide against the Democrats in 1994, and his party never had control of another chamber throughout the rest of his presidency.  His first two years kind of made him look like a political dunce, except maybe for the fact that he actually got that '93 budget through.

Of course, Clinton did change course.  For liberals, the course change was not exactly a happy one since it included working with Republicans on a welfare reform bill that the left still considers a betrayal of the cause, along with a repeal of Glass-Steagall, which resulted in depositor banks trading mortgage-backed derivatives.  That way, when the housing market collapsed in 2008 because of the subprime loan stupidity, they were on the hook too, slowing lending, taking the whole economy down, according to one prominent line of reasoning.  Oh, and let's not forget Clinton signing the "Defense of Marriage Act" as a campaign stunt for the 1996 election.  For all those of you who ever say, "my policy is popular so we must have our way!" just remember that in 1996, DOMA was popular.  So, yeah, Clinton turned things around, politically, and Democrats now remember him fondly.  But not everyone does, and a lot of the left sees him as a betrayer.  He did learn though, and he was dealing with a Republican House and Senate.

What does this have to do with Trump?  Is Trump capable of recognizing what isn't working?  Maybe.  Does he have ideological commitments?  Whatever he has are weaker than Clinton's, with whom Robert Reich was so frustrated that he named his dog "Waffles."  What Trump cannot do is either work with Democrats because he has poisoned the well, or admit error.  That puts him in more of a bind than Clinton.  Trump is stuck with his base, and that hasn't worked for him so far.

Trump's first 100 days were a mess.  So were Clinton's first two years.  Clinton changed largely by virtue of finding himself working in opposition to a Republican Congress.  What happens if Trump finds himself in a similar situation? ...  ... ...  Yeah,   ...

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