PITY POOR Donald Trump, who is rapidly finding out that the president of the United States is not, in fact, the most powerful person in the world.
Perhaps he’s beginning to realize that the entire American structure of government was conceived and constructed in order to prevent any one person from wearing a crown and holding the absolute power of a sovereign.
Just ask King George III.
It could be that Trump was unschooled enough in elementary civics to think that occupying the Oval Office was equivalent to sitting on a throne, from whose lofty perch one need only issue decrees in order for the world to change.
Whether it’s courts or Congress acting as a check on unilateral action, the president occupies an office that’s almost completely beholden to a bureaucracy and constitutional framework. And that bureaucracy and framework has had more than 200 years to spread and congeal around the instruments and levers of power that are as diffuse as they are difficult to marshal and manage.
Trump will protest that his failure to make good on his campaign promises is not his fault. But defiance will quickly start to look like impotence
To be fair, in one area – foreign affairs – the U.S. Constitution gives the president very real power, so that the country speaks with one voice. As commander in chief of the military, the president also has the ability to deploy troops and engage in conflicts without a lot of initial oversight.
It’s probably from that fact that the “most powerful person in the world” label derives. But as anyone who is even a casual observer of American politics can attest, in the domestic arena Congress often dictates and shapes the agenda.
Trump has only been president for a little over two months. Surely it must seem to everyone – maybe even him – that it’s been more like two years. While it’s not out of the ordinary for the White House and its occupant to dominate the news cycle, the almost daily goings on since his inauguration risk giving even the most ardent news junkies the equivalent of a political ice-cream headache.
It’s been too much, too fast. Trump and his supporters must surely be starting to fear that implementation of his campaign promises is probably a bridge too far.
First, there was the debacle of his travel ban targeting Muslim nationals from select countries – encompassing in the early days those who already held valid U.S. visas. This attempt at making good on a sweeping campaign promise was quickly blocked by a federal judge and subsequently upheld on appeal.
His second attempt faced a similar fate – albeit from a different federal judge.
Trump and his tribe seemed surprised and shocked to have their billionaire butts handed to them by the judiciary. Their outrage makes one wonder if any of them had even a passing familiarity with constitutional law – on the level one might expect of the executive branch of government.
All of this pales in comparison to Trump’s humiliating defeat at the hands of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. As a group, they couldn’t offer enough support to repeal Obamacare and replace it with Trump’s version of a health care bill. That lack of universal party support prompted Speaker Paul Ryan to pull the bill from consideration without even putting it to a vote.
The blame game will only work so long. Trump will protest that his failure to make good on his promises is not his fault. But defiance will quickly start to look like impotence. His supporters will end up feeling that they have been hoodwinked yet again by the powers that be.
Trump was an untested politician when he won the presidency. But he did have a track record in the business world and was a self-proclaimed master at understanding “the art of the deal.”
So far, he has displayed none of the basic skills associated with nuanced negotiation and strategic compromise that are essential to a successful presidency. Instead of being untested, he is rapidly starting to look woefully unprepared.
Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. He brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
© 2017 Distributed by Troy Media