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Abandoning policy plans, Trump's 'fine-tuned machine' stalls

If the White House wants to inspire confidence in the president's understanding of events going on around him, the fine-tuned machine may need a new engine.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Trump speaking by phone with Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon,...
When Donald Trump unveiled his Muslim ban, the president made it seem as if he were responding to a national security crisis in need of immediate attention. When the administration's policy failed in the courts, Team Trump scurried to come up with a quick solution.More recently, however, the White House's schedule has slowed quite a bit. After Trump vowed he'd see his opponents "in court" -- a phrase apparently intended to signal new judicial appeals -- Trump's lawyers quietly moved in the opposite direction. When the administration decided to move forward with a new, revised policy, Trump said we'd see his executive order "toward the beginning or middle, at the latest" of this week.Yesterday, the White House said the new policy would be unveiled next week.In the meantime, Team Trump's plans to unveil proposals on health care reform and tax reform haven't just been delayed; CNBC reported yesterday those plans have been scrapped altogether.

Last year, candidate Donald Trump promised to repeal Obamacare and give Americans a better, cheaper replacement. Last month, President-elect Trump vowed, "we'll be filing a plan" as soon as the Senate confirmed his Health secretary.But, post-confirmation, Health Secretary Tom Price has told House Republicans "the administration wouldn't be sending us a bill" after all, said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Instead, Cole added, the White House "will cooperate and provide input into what we do."Two weeks ago, Trump said at the White House that "we're going to be announcing something over the next, I would say, two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax." But House Republicans do not expect the president to announce his own tax plan; instead, they anticipate he will simply align himself with theirs.

The "fine-tuned machine" Trump is so excited about doesn't appear to be running especially well.To be sure, the idea that the president would allow congressional Republicans to take the lead in crafting these proposals isn't shocking. On the contrary, throughout 2016, it was widely assumed that a Trump administration, if it existed, would defer to Capitol Hill on much of the legislative heavy lifting.Most modern administrations have preferred to come up with their own blueprints, and then send the plans to Congress for consideration, but it was never realistic to think a team of White House amateurs, after a campaign in which Team Trump never bothered to come up with any kind of detailed agenda, would start calling the policy shots in DC.That said, what's striking about all of this is the president's repeated promises about unveiling proposals that he should know won't exist. It's led to a bizarre series of claims that have effectively unfolded like this:Trump: We're going to unveil a new Muslim ban this week.Trump's team soon after: Maybe next week.Trump: Our health care reform plan is nearly done and will be unveiled soon.Trump's team soon after: We actually don't have a health care reform plan and never will.Trump: We'll soon announce our great tax reform package.Trump's team soon after: No, we won't.If the White House wants to inspire confidence in the president's competence and understanding of events going on around him, the fine-tuned machine may need a new engine.