Donald Trump holds a press conference and then speaks at a lunch for the Staten Island GOP, April 17, 2016 in New York, N.Y.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

Trump’s confusion about the ‘mess’ he inherited matters

In 2009, President Obama took office under the worst circumstances of any modern president, but he wasn’t supposed to mention it. Any references to his predecessor or the crises he found waiting for him in the Oval Office were met with swift rebukes from Republicans and much of the media: Obama was to look forward and solve problems, not point at George W. Bush.

Eight years later, Donald Trump shared a message with reporters.
“To be honest, I inherited a mess – it’s a mess – at home and abroad. A mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what’s going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places – low-pay, low-wages. Mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East, a disaster. North Korea – we’ll take care of it, folks. We’re going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know I inherited a mess.”
Stephen Colbert joked last night, in a message to the president, “No, you inherited a fortune. We elected a mess.”

To be sure, there’s no point in fact-checking every individual detail Trump struggles to understand, but it’s worth emphasizing a simple truth: the president doesn’t know how good he has it. Trump took office at a time of low unemployment, steady economic growth, the lowest uninsured rate on record, low crime, low inflation, a modest deficit, a rising stock market, and a country that’s broadly respected around the world.

Obama, in effect, handed his successor a gift, complete with a nice little bow on top. That’s not to say the nation isn’t facing real challenges, or that there aren’t many communities in need of assistance, but broadly speaking, these are conditions most new presidents would be thrilled to inherit.

But listening to Trump whine incessantly yesterday about circumstances he should appreciate but doesn’t, I started to wonder what will happen when the next time national conditions are an actual “mess.”

It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Trump is flailing when dealing with the easy stuff. The amateur president could be taking the opportunity to ease into his unfamiliar office, precisely because of the lack of messes. Instead, Trump appears to be struggling with problems of his own making.

Show of hands: who’s confident the president is well equipped and prepared to lead if/when tough times begin in earnest?

Barack Obama and Donald Trump

Trump's confusion about the 'mess' he inherited matters