President-elect Donald Trump,  walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. 
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

Trump blasts obstructionism that exists only in his mind

In late February, Donald Trump sat down with Fox News, which asked the president about the vacancies in key posts throughout his administration. Trump said the question was based on a faulty assumption.

“When I see a story about ‘Donald Trump didn’t fill hundreds and hundreds of jobs,’ it’s because, in many cases, we don’t want to fill those jobs,” the president argued with a straight face. “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have… Many of those jobs, I don’t want to fill.”

Six weeks later, Trump apparently no longer remembers this argument. He sat down with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, and complained about “waiting right now for so many people” to get confirmed by the Senate.
BARTIROMO: You’re under staffed.

TRUMP: Hundreds and hundreds of people. And then they’ll say, “Why isn’t Trump doing this faster?” You can’t do it faster, because they’re obstructing. They’re obstructionists.  So I have people – hundreds of people that we’re trying to get through. I mean you have – you see the backlog. We can’t get them through.


TRUMP: And then the newspapers will say, ‘Trump doesn’t get them through.’ Well, not — nothing to do with me… I wish it would be explained better, the obstructionist nature, though, because a lot of times I’ll say, “Why doesn’t so and so have people under him or her?” The reason is because we can’t get them approved.
Oh. Trump has gone from saying he wanted key executive-branch offices empty on purpose, which didn’t make any sense, to blaming Democratic obstructionism for the fact that so many executive-branch offices are empty, which makes even less sense.

As the Washington Post noted, the reality in this case is both clear and quantifiable: “Out of 553 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, 478 still have no nominee, according to the Partnership for Public Service. Another 29 have been announced but not formally nominated; only 22 positions have been confirmed. Republican senators have said they are growing impatient with the White House’s slow pace.”

Senate Republicans, of course, are in the majority, and under existing rules, Democrats can’t use filibusters to block any executive-branch nominee. To date, Senate Dems have opposed all kinds of Trump nominees, but they haven’t managed to obstruct any of them.

So here’s my question: does Donald Trump believe his own nonsense? Does he really not know that much of the executive branch is empty because he hasn’t nominated enough people, or has he convinced himself that there’s widespread obstructionism that exists only in his mind?

The answer matters: the president can’t fix a problem if he doesn’t understand the basics of what’s causing it.