Donald Trump hosted a deeply unsettling cabinet meeting yesterday – his first full cabinet meeting as president – featuring a display for the cameras in which every member of Trump’s team took turns effusively praising their leader. It was unlike any cabinet meeting ever witnessed, at least in this country.
But before Trump listened to his cabinet chiefs express their adoration for him, the president took some time to reflect on how impressed he is with how awesome his tenure has been thus far.
“[W]hen I ran, it was make America great again, and that’s what we’re doing, believe me. We’re doing it and we’re doing it at a much faster pace than anyone thought. I would say that never has there been a president, with few exceptions – in the case of FDR, he had a major depression to handle – who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done, between the executive orders and the job-killing regulations that have been terminated, many bills, I guess over 34 bills Congress signed, a Supreme Court justice who’s going to be a great one, going to be a great Supreme Court justice, and many other things.
“We’ve achieved tremendous success. And I think we’ve been about as active as you can possibly be, and at a just about record-setting pace.”
Maybe there’s a broader political strategy behind such boasts. It’s quite likely, for example, that Trump is aware of how woefully unpopular he is. His White House is gripped by crisis and scandal; there are credible allegations that Trump personally obstructed justice; and his presidency is an international laughingstock. Perhaps, Trump has come to the conclusion that if he tells people he’s an extraordinary success, some marks might actually believe it.
The trouble is, reality is stubborn.
Trump has signed exactly zero major pieces of legislation since taking office. When he says there’s “never” been a president who’s had more accomplishments, Trump has it backwards: other than William Henry Harrison, who died a month after taking office, Trump is effectively tied for last when it comes to presidential successes.
Sure, Trump has put his signature on plenty of bills, but they’re all fairly minor and inconsequential. As NBC News noted yesterday, “Three of those bills were appointing three members to the Smithsonian’s board, another approved a war memorial, a fifth promoted women in entrepreneurship, and a sixth encouraged the display of the American flag on Vietnam War Veterans Day.”
Hardly the stuff of history in the making.
And sure, he’s signed plenty of executive orders, but nearly all of them are glorified press releases – and the most notable exception, the White House’s notorious Muslim ban, has failed spectacularly in the courts.
If Trump wants to make the case that he’s on track to eventually have important accomplishments, he’s welcome to try. But for the president to believe he’s already succeeding beautifully suggests he’s little more than a legend in his own mind.