Donald Trump spends very little time actually working as president, and during the time he actually spends working, he is clearly in over his head, failing to understand policy issues on even the most basic level. Congressional Republicans are using this to their advantage, exploiting the weak and feckless chief executive to force through their own policy agenda that seems to be at odds with Trump’s own, Vox is reporting.
Using tech language as a metaphor, Vox writer Matthew Yglesias calls Trump’s laziness and ignorance a “feature rather than a bug,” at least in the eyes of congressional Republicans. As a symbol of the Republican Party and the discontent among conservative voters that propelled him to the White House in the first place, Trump serves as something of a focal point for the issues of those Republicans. Pin an idea on Trump and Republican voters will eat it up, regardless of Trump’s inability to understand it or care about it.
Perhaps nowhere was this more obvious than in a recent infrastructure kerfuffle. You may remember that Trump made improving the nation’s infrastructure a key point of his campaign. As the Hill reported shortly before Trump’s inauguration, Trump had promised to fix the nation’s countless crumbling roads and bridges, at a projected cost of $500 billion to $1 trillion.
The GOP appears to have settled on an infrastructure vision that Dems probably won’t like. https://t.co/4Pdi2s3AHp
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) January 16, 2018
Laudable though that plan is, it’s a big-government spending package that makes Republicans reel. Congressional Republicans are generally more likely to hand out infrastructure money in the form of tax breaks. And as it turns out, says CNBC’s Eamon Javers, Republicans — led by White House economic adviser Gary Cohn — have exploited Trump’s ignorance and overall lack of interest to force through their own, much smaller infrastructure plan.
In fact, Donald Trump almost certainly doesn’t run the Trump White House. The man who would rather spend his time tweeting or golfing often finds himself being manipulated by staffers who would rather push through their own agendas over his.
Consider, for example, the whole “s**thole countries” debacle. The whole thing erupted during a debate on immigration, a debate during which Trump was apparently willing to concede at least some ground to Democrats. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham were prepared to present Trump with a bi-partisan immigration bill. As the Washington Post reports, the compromise bill would have kept in place some things that Republicans would be on board with, such as cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent while still prioritizing countries already in the system.
White House’s chief immigration ideologist Stephen Miller was having none of that, so he secretly brought in immigration hardliners to the meeting to steer Trump’s opinion away from the bill.
Similarly, last week Trump had agreed to a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan put forth by Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. At a meeting to discuss the issue, it became clear to Republican Kevin McCarthy, also of California, that the Trump’s willingness to compromise was at odds with the administration’s stated immigration policy. McCarthy took control of the meeting and steered Trump towards scuttling the deal.
While Trump has objectively failed to achieve most of his campaign promises, such as the border wall and a generous infrastructure effort, he has succeeded in what congressional Republicans need the most: a figurehead who serves as the embodiment of their own agenda.
That Trump’s own agenda is often at odds with their own is not a problem: considering that Trump is so unprepared for and uninterested in governing, he’s easily manipulated to give Republicans what they want and convince voters it was his idea. It’s a win for everybody — except the country.