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3/21/17

The US in Limbo: President Trump Still Hasn’t Done Very Much - by Michael Grunwald

Monday marks the end of President Donald Trump’s second month in office. And once again, it was a month dominated by news coverage of President Donald Trump.

He plunged into a ferocious battle over Obamacare, delivered his first speech to Congress, released his first budget blueprint and revised his controversial travel ban. He also accused his predecessor of tapping his phones, demanded a congressional investigation of his accusation, and then refused to withdraw it even after the investigation swiftly debunked it.

If that didn’t seem presidential—well, it actually was, because Trump is the president. And he’s been a perpetual presidential motion machine, signing executive orders, announcing new policies, attacking the media and bragging about how much he’s getting done.

But he hasn’t gotten much done.

Trump signed only one substantive piece of legislation since February 20, repealing a minor Obama administration rule that made it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns. Otherwise, in Month Two his impact on the laws of the United States consisted of renaming a veteran’s health clinic in western Pennsylvania and signing two symbolic bills about the importance of encouraging more women in science and technology fields. His push to repeal Obamacare is stumbling on Capitol Hill; his budget seems dead on arrival; his revised travel ban, like the original, has been blocked by a judge. He made big splashes with executive orders purporting to roll back Obama-era environmental rules, but in reality they merely announced his desire to roll back those rules. He did fill four more slots in his Cabinet, but three slots remain empty, and below those headline jobs the vacancy problem in his administration is becoming extreme: Overall, according to the Partnership for Public Service, he has only filled 20 of the 553 key positions that require Senate confirmation—and has not even picked a nominee for 497 of them.

So far, though, the Trump presidency has been strikingly thin on lasting accomplishments, and presidents don’t usually find it easier to get things done as time passes, especially when there’s scandal in the air. Trump did greenlight the Keystone and Dakota pipelines that Obama had held up, while his Department of Homeland Security has already taken a much stricter stance on undocumented immigrants. And he’s certainly signaled a new approach to foreign policy with his relentless hostility to Mexico, his odd chumminess with Russia, and his White House’s groundless and inexplicable claim that the British were also spying on him. But the laws that were in place under Obama are still the law, and almost all the rules that preceded Trump are still the rules, even if Trump’s regulators seem unlikely to enforce some of them. In our review of Trump’s first month, we quoted the sage advice Bill Walton learned from Coach John Wooden: Don’t mistake activity for achievement. The advice remains sage even when the activity gets a lot of clicks and cable news hits.

Read more: President Trump Still Hasn’t Done Very Much - POLITICO Magazine

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