WASHINGTON – On Thursday, President Trump will have been in office for 181 days, a.k.a. 4,344 hours, a.k.a. 260,640 minutes, a.k.a. six months.
My first reaction is: “Only six months?” Perhaps it’s because so much has happened in those six months. And perhaps it feels like time has slowed down because, paradoxically, Trump has not overseen many tangible policy changes since becoming president.
So how has he spent these six months? Here’s a rundown, in seven issues that were central to his campaign.
1. Health care.
The promise: Repeal and replace Obamacare.
The reality: A fractious Republican Party hasn’t done either, and Trump has seemed mostly uninterested in trying to help them find a way to come together on it. On the day – actually, the moment – the bill died, he was chit-chatting over dinner with Republican senators who support the bill.
Watch for: Whether Trump (and Republicans) give up trying to repeal Obamacare and work with Democrats to tweak it.
The promise: Build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The reality: He still really wants to build that wall. Trump hasn’t been one to delve into policy details, but he’s uncharacteristically engaged on the finer details of the wall, our ace White House team reports: “The wall of his dreams – 700 to 900 miles long, with transparent sections so that border agents aren’t hit on the head by ‘large stacks of drugs’ tossed over from the Mexican side, and outfitted with solar panels.”
But Trump hasn’t figured out how to make Mexico pay for it, which means Congress would reluctantly have to.
Watch for: Whether Trump demands funding for a wall as Congress funds the government by Oct. 1, which could lead to a government shutdown. (He backed down from a fight with Congress in April.)
2b. The travel ban
The promise: Temporarily ban Muslims or people from terrorism-prone countries from coming to the United States.
The reality: As of Wednesday, his travel ban is half on pause while a federal court decides whether it’s actually constitutional.
3. Federal government
The promise: Make it work more efficiently.
The reality: Depends how you look at this. The Post’s Lisa Rein reports that the federal government workforce of 2.1 million people has become a target for Trump and his allies to “drain the swamp,” blunting morale for many of these workers.
Also interesting: A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that about half of Americans believe in the concept of a deep state – i.e. “military, intelligence and government officials who try to secretly manipulate government policy.”
No evidence of this exists, leading The Fix’s Aaron Blake to call this “Trump’s most compelling conspiracy theory.”
Watch for: Whether Trump nominates people to lead a historically understaffed federal government or leaves much of it vacant.
The promise: Stop China from taking advantage of the United States.
The reality: Again, depends how you look at this. International relations experts argued that when Trump left the Paris climate agreement, it empowered China, the world’s other largest greenhouse gas emitter, to cozy up to Europe. Trump also did an about-face from a key campaign promise when he suddenly decided China is not a currency manipulator.
Watch for: China and the United States’ so-so relationship to deteriorate. Any day now, Trump could light the spark for a trade war with China (and Europe) by restricting imports of steel.
The promise: To get along with Russia better than Obama did.
The reality: Trump may be getting along with Russia at the expense of his perception by Americans. We learned on Tuesday that he had a previously undisclosed one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit earlier this month.
And a July Washington Post-ABC News poll found that of the 60 percent of Americans who think Russia tried to influence the election, 41 percent think Trump’s campaign helped.
Watch for: Only special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his growing team of lawyers can answer what happened. They’re investigating potential collusion (like Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer), financial crimes and whether the president obstructed justice. Mueller’s timeline is months, maybe even years.
The promise: To make it work.
The reality: Trump does not have a good relationship with Congress. He works under chaos; Congress has a hard time functioning in chaos. He prefers to threaten lawmakers; Congress prefers to be cajoled. He’s not interested in details; Congress must have details.
The differences have manifested themselves in Republicans’ inability to pass major legislation, despite the fact that their party controls Washington.
Watch for: Privately, Republicans are fed up with Trump’s penchant for controversy. So is it a matter of when, not if, some of them start ditching him publicly?
The promise: See above.
The reality: This one’s in the eye of the beholder.