Donald Trump and his allies have expressed quite a bit of dissatisfaction this week with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and this afternoon, the president sent his third shot across his ostensible ally’s bow.
“Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!”
It’s hard not to appreciate the irony of the circumstances: Trump is in the early stages of a 17-day vacation at a golf resort he owns in New Jersey. For the president to urge McConnell to “get back to work,” while Trump continues his lengthy break, is kind of hilarious.
Regardless, the president soon after made related comments to the press.
When asked if McConnell should step down from his leadership position, Trump told reporters, “If he doesn’t get repeal and replace done, and he doesn’t get taxes done and…infrastructure…then you can ask me that question.”
Whether he understands this or not, this tells us quite a bit about how Trump views his role in governing.
Even as a candidate, Trump made clear he didn’t intend to do much real work. In May 2016, his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, said there were parts of the presidency Trump “doesn’t want to do.” He added that Trump “sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”
As we discussed at the time, it seemed obvious that Trump wasn’t especially interested in rolling up his sleeves and doing actual, mundane, unglamorous work. He’s the kind of guy who hires others to do heavy lifting.
And nearly seven months into his term, the president still thinks this way. As Trump put it this afternoon, he wants to sign legislation on health care, taxes, and infrastructure, but he doesn’t expect to play any meaningful role in the policymaking process. Trump much prefers to simply place an order, and wait for underlings to bring him what he requested.
Note, for example, that in today’s tweet, the president didn’t tell Mitch McConnell, “We can do it”; he said, “You can do it.”
This reflects a familiar and unmistakable dynamic: a boss telling a subordinate what to do, while the boss wraps up the back nine at the country club he owns.
The problem, of course, is that members of Congress aren’t Trump’s employees, and the legislative branch doesn’t exist to satisfy the whims of the executive. Indeed, Mitch McConnell said this week that the president doesn’t seem to appreciate the “reality” of the legislative process, the Trump today is effectively proving the Senate leader’s point.