A Step Back from Trump’s Start

STANFORD – The first few weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency have contained what felt like a year’s worth of activity and rancor. The US media is “all Trump, all the time” – and they’ve had plenty of fuel. Amid Trump’s initial moves to “shake up” Washington, DC, including a five-year lobbying ban and approvals of pipelines that President Barack Obama had blocked, he has made some serious – and avoidable – mistakes.

Trump is far from the first president to arrive in the White House planning to shake things up. President Jimmy Carter tried, but immediately ran afoul of his own party’s leadership in Congress – and subsequently struggled to get anything accomplished. For example, Congress turned his proposed tax cut for dividends into one for capital gains.

Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, was far more successful in pushing through tax-cutting reforms, as well as advancing the military buildup that helped win the Cold War. But he was unable to rein in spending.

Bill Clinton attempted to remake America’s health-care system. He failed, leading to a stunning loss for Democrats in the 1994 midterm congressional elections. People complain about disorder in the Trump administration, but Clinton’s White House was so disorganized that he had to bring in Leon Panetta as Chief of Staff and David Gergen as a communications counselor to right the ship.