May 31, 2017

No Trumpian executive orders since Establishment takeover, aside from trade

On the campaign trail, Trump said that he preferred to get things done by passing legislation through Congress, but that if they weren't up to the task of Making America Great Again, he would sign executive orders all day long -- both to undo or counter-sign those of Obama, as well as his own distinctive orders.

When he first took office, he did indeed sign one major executive order after another, complete with photo ops and Twitter updates. But it seems like it's been awhile since we've seen one of those. Sure enough, check out the list of executive actions so far.

Within the first 10 days, he ordered The Wall to be built, sanctuary cities to be defunded, and a travel ban placed on seven countries with jihadist problems. Then the ban on executive branch employees from becoming lobbyists (end the revolving door of corruption), looking at a new Glass-Steagall Act, the revised Muslim travel ban, and the last Trumpian order on March 13 -- a comprehensive plan to drain the swamp in the entire executive branch of government. Among others.

Since then, two and a half months ago, the only Trump-themed orders have dealt with America-first trade policies. That was a yuge part of his appeal during the primaries and general, particularly in Rust Belt states that he narrowly carried. This is the one issue where the Establishment has caved, since the GOP does actually want to control the executive branch at the national level, and that's not possible unless they give the Rust Belt voters something to turn out for. Even Establishment Republicans like Tom Cotton are speaking on behalf of "Buy American / Hire American".

And of course there have been other orders that will please Republican / Trump voters, such as ones favoring more lenient energy / oil policies and boilerplate about respecting religious freedom in health services, but those would have been implemented under any old Republican president. Jeb, Marco, Ted, all would have signed those if they'd ridden into the White House on the protectionist trade platform.

The same pattern holds in the presidential memoranda: immediately he issued memos on withdrawing from TPP, defeating ISIS, re-organizing the NSC to reduce the Pentagon and intel agencies' influence (later overturned), and the last Trumpian memo on March 6 -- extreme vetting of immigrants. At the end of April, several memos address trade imbalances.

Compared to the rapid-fire pace of major orders early on, the flatlining of the past two and a half months on everything except for trade, and the standard Republican fare (oil pipelines, deregulation), looks striking. Trump is a man of action who sleeps at most six hours each night, and came into office intent on not wasting a day when there's so much to do in so little time. At the very least he could spend part of each day counter-signing a bunch of Obama's orders (that list should have been researched and drawn up by Inauguration Day).

And when was the last time you remember those photo ops of Trump signing the order, with others watching nearby, him flashing the order to the cameras, and handing the pen to some lucky official? It's been since March for me. Those photo ops really established an image of experience for a man who came into office without ever working in government or the military, as well as emphasizing his own authority apart from that of Congress.

Indeed, rather than continue to pursue the MAGA agenda through executive orders, the White House has gotten bogged down in the boring and pointless legislative agenda of the do-nothing Congress. It got sucked into the healthcare quagmire beginning in March, and then various budget and tax code reform battles since then. That's all you hear about in the media -- healthcare, tax cuts -- and that's all there is from the White House's own team, because the White House has ceded the setting of the agenda to Congress (and to the Pentagon on war).

It's obvious that the GOP Congress plans to stall for time by pursuing issues that Trump did not win the primary or the general on, so that they'll never have to get around to the Trumpian issues, while he signs whatever BS they churn out on healthcare and taxes -- assuming they ever hammer out an agreement in Congress. They're going to keep sending bills back and forth on those two issues until Trump's term is over. That way, they don't outright defy the President by pursuing contrary policies, but they also don't have to get their cuckservative hands dirty with populist and nationalist outcomes either (aside from trade).

The timing of the shift from Trump the Order-Giver to Trump the Congress-Herder coincides with the general withdrawal of focus on Trumpian issues, other than trade. Most notably the total 180 on foreign policy, but also the non-results on immigration / deportations / refugees, draining the swamp, prosecuting leakers, the topic of illegal campaign surveillance, etc.

Sometime toward the end of March, he got The Talk from the Pentagon boarding party, letting him know that The Blob were through tolerating Trump being Trump, and either he get on board with the Establishment's agenda -- except for their one concession, trade -- or be marginalized, delegitimized, and perhaps even shoved out of office. The first key signal there was the Pentagon's strike on Syria in early April and insistence ever since on regime change, contradicting what the Secretary of State, UN Ambassador, Press Secretary, and of course the President himself had been saying less than a week before the strike.

The entire Establishment has let the anti-Russian witch hunt grow, fester, devour more and more of the news cycle, and threaten Trump's political capital in DC. If Trump goes back to the issues of his first two months, and all of the campaign season, they will ratchet up the intensity even more and begin impeachment proceedings. It's clear by now that they don't care about what the lowly voters want -- otherwise, they would be implementing the Trump agenda.

As the witch hunt only grows and grows, it is more necessary than ever for Trump to simply change the topic by signing one major executive order after another. If he cannot, for threat of impeachment, then just keep hammering on the trade theme over and over. Or counter-signing Obama's orders to gain favor with the GOP Establishment.

If he's feeling bold, take the sledgehammer to one of the Democrats' interest groups, so as to not upset the GOP Establishment. Order the Antitrust Division at DoJ to break up each of the five media monopoly companies into 10 apiece, of similar market share size. That ought to tie up the media from whining about Russia, and focus on their own very survival for once.

Anything to drive the news cycle away from the witch hunt -- and more importantly, to drive the actual goings-on in the government away from the witch hunt. Leave his enemies dealing with a stream of executive orders, rather than the constant defense against the witch hunt charge du jour.

Both Trump fans and Trump haters came into the new administration thinking he would be dictatorial, unrelenting, and a bull in a china shop. That lasted for about two months, before The Talk, and now it has become clear that if anything, the swamp will be dictating to him, as he has no leverage other than the size of his supporter base (useless in DC unless he wants to really mobilize us against the swamp, or until it's time for us to vote again). And he will have to wait as Congress and the courts drag their feet, while executive branch agencies including the Pentagon block his path with "leave this to the professionals".

Trump is not a powerful dictator, as he has stopped signing his style of decrees long ago, and many of them have been over-turned (travel ban, call for Glass-Steagall, anti-Pentagon structure for NSC, border wall). Instead, he is David trying to slay the totalitarian Goliath that is not only sidelining his agenda but actively trying to over-turn the election results and kick him out.


  1. "It's obvious that the GOP Congress plans to stall for time by pursuing issues that Trump did not win the primary or the general on, so that they'll never have to get around to the Trumpian issues, while he signs whatever BS they churn out on healthcare and taxes -- assuming they ever hammer out an agreement in Congress. They're going to keep sending bills back and forth on those two issues until Trump's term is over. That way, they don't outright defy the President by pursuing contrary policies, but they also don't have to get their cuckservative hands dirty with populist and nationalist outcomes either (aside from trade)".

    Jesse Ventura during his governor period complained that both parties were colluding to obstruct him and make him look bad. And, he feuded a lot with the media, at times calling them out for holding a grudge against someone who wasn't a product of either party's culture. Being that he won without either party's support, he was free to attack both parties. And he didn't have to worry about impeachment.

    Something that a lot of Trump critics are overlooking is that he if wanders too far off the reservation, both parties will unite in an impeachment effort. If Trump totally stuck to his guns, and his tenure flamed out, it would be curious to see just how enraged Trump's base would become.

  2. One of Trump's distinctions is he's not an ideologue willing to get martyred over the agenda he got elected to pursue.

    If he thought it were possible to accomplish it, he'd go full force. But if the Swamp has told him that he's allowed to pursue trade / manufacturing policies and nothing more from his distinctive agenda (standard GOP stuff is fine too), otherwise he will be impeached by Congress, set up by the intel agencies, crucified in the media, and finally taken over by the Generals from the Pentagon -- why would he make an example out of himself? Just to inflame the base and set them off on a bloody revolution against the swamp and the elites?

    Trump is a pragmatist, not a revolutionary, so he won't push things in that direction, fearing the chaos that the country would descend into.

    So far, it seems like his response has been to go along with the Swamp's agenda, while pushing as hard as possible on trade, and plan for someone with more political capital to take his place later on, someone who would be better positioned to stand up to the interest groups. And likewise for better people to get elected into Congress, not cucks or liberal traitors.

  3. One of my friends predicted in December that Trump would quickly realize that nothing short of outright civil war (maybe not even that) would really make the swamp drainable. He'd try his best for 2 months then coast for the rest of his term. I almost wonder if that's what happened after the immigration bans and he learned that anything important he does will get overruled by SCOTUS, but I'm doing my best to keep the faith...

    ...I'm waiting to see if something interesting happens around the time of this solar eclipse that everyone is talking about.

  4. Over four months after the Muslim ban was struck down, he still hasn't taken the Andy Jackson style action that many fans thought he would. I wouldn't count on the Supreme Court to back him up -- upholding a Muslim immigration ban is far more toxic to a cuck like Roberts than saying "sorry no gay marriage".

    He doesn't even use the Twitter bully pulpit to crusade against judicial overreach anymore, not since the second one was struck down.

    The only approved topics that he can rail against on Twitter are intel leaks to the media -- not the far more scandalous surveillance and unmasking by the Obama people -- and that the Russian story is fake news / witch hunt to explain why the Dems lost so pathetically.

    After each radical Islamic terrorist attack, you don't hear "Time to get smart, tough, and vigilant -- EXTREME VETTING".

    He doesn't talk about immigration at all, other than to say he has a heart about DACA.

    And so on and so forth.

    Again, what a reversal from what both the haters and the fans were expecting -- a daily tirade about his core issues, either in general or related to the news. So much for the Twitter dictator.

    As far as I can tell, the Left is still stuck in their delusion about him being a fascist dictator rather than an out-gunned hostage, aside from the trade issue. But then most of the Right is holding onto that fantasy too. Memes are more irresistible than reality.

  5. hopefully he rejects the Paris accord by Friday..

  6. he needs to use DACA as a leveraging tool...threaten to repeal the Obama executive order unless Congress will allocate funding to construct the wall.

  7. He can't threaten to repeal DACA any more than he can threaten to impose a Muslim travel ban, as leverage to get what he wants from Congress.

    By now Congress understands that he can only get his exec orders enforced if the Swamp / Deep State / Establishment is OK with them. They like DACA too much to allow it to be dismantled just because the election-winner puts pen to paper saying it shall be so.

    Anyway, the time to have used that leverage, if it existed, was leading up to the interim spending bill.

    And Trump doesn't need Congress to provide the funding -- remember all those creative ways he outlined of getting Mexico to pay for the Wall on the campaign trail? Increase the fees for visas -- that's through the State Dept, so "all he needs to do" is issue an exec order directing Tillerson to raise the visa fees by X amount in order to provide Y amount of the Wall costs.

    Or slapping taxes on remittances -- get creative and make them "fees" too imposed by an executive agency (Treasury?), not taxes needing Congressional authorization.

    Again, the time to impose those non-Congressional means was back when we found out we got hosed by that interim spending bill, and that Congress will never fund the Wall (unless we re-define it to be a patchwork of crappy low fences and worthless drones).

    The fact that he hasn't made good on any of those non-Congressional means is another example of the absence of executive orders to accomplish the distinctive Trumpian agenda, as of the past couple months.

  8. Much better messaging after tonight's jihadist attack in London. Vintage Trump:

    "Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump 4h

    We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!"


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