The win­ning ar­gu­ment Democrats have against the pres­i­dent

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - BY RON­ALD A. KLAIN

What Pres­i­dent Trump has done and said in his short time in of­fice is bad enough. But Democrats may find that it is what Trump has failed to do — and is likely to con­tinue to fail to de­liver — dur­ing his ten­ure that pro­vides the most pow­er­ful case against him.

The im­por­tance of this line of at­tack is un­der­scored by the one pro-Trump find­ing that stands out among the pres­i­dent’s dis­mal poll num­bers: a solid plu­ral­ity be­lieve Trump is “be­ing ef­fec­tive and get­ting things done.” For Democrats, de­bunk­ing this mis­per­cep­tion is vi­tal.

Most of the coun­try is di­vided be­tween those who love Trump for the cul­tural war he is wag­ing, no mat­ter what else he does, and those who loathe him for his di­vi­sive­ness, even if he some­how pro­duces re­sults on other is­sues. As a con­se­quence, the fu­ture of Trump’s coali­tion — and the suc­cess of his pres­i­dency — turns on vot­ers caught be­tween the two groups, vot­ers who were trou­bled by Trump’s ou­tra­geous be­hav­ior and state­ments, but “held their noses” to sup­port him out of a be­lief that he would pro­duce change on health care, jobs, trade and in­comes.

Th­ese “in spite of the out­rages” vot­ers are look­ing for re­sults on bread-and-but­ter is­sues. Trump is not de­liv­er­ing for them, his claims to the con­trary not­with­stand­ing. Democrats need to point this out — re­lent­lessly.

Take health care. Dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump promised im­me­di­ate ac­tion to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare. In the world ac­cord­ing to Trump, ev­ery­one was “go­ing to end up with great health care for a frac­tion of the price” that would “take place im­me­di­ately after we go in.”

Now, 124 days after the elec­tion, Trump’s laugh­able prom­ise to call a spe­cial ses­sion of Congress to re­peal Oba­macare has evap­o­rated. The plan cir­cu­lated last week by House Repub­li­cans is un­der fire from con­ser­va­tives and lib­er­als. And Trump has still failed to put for­ward any ap­proach of his own. About that “great health care for a frac­tion of the price”? Don’t hold your breath.

Or take trade. Trump promised “in the first 90 days” he “would im­me­di­ately start rene­go­ti­at­ing our trade deals with Mex­ico, China, Ja­pan.” Not a sin­gle one of th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions has be­gun. He also said he’d “fight for . . . pas­sage within the first 100 days of my ad­min­is­tra­tion” for leg­is­la­tion to end U.S. com­pa­nies’ abil­ity to man­u­fac­ture goods over­seas and im­port them with­out tar­iffs. Again, Trump hasn’t writ­ten any plan to do that, let alone asked Congress to pass it.

Trump promised to stop the loss of jobs go­ing over­seas start­ing on “day one. It's so easy.” But ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers con­tinue to move jobs over­seas in far larger num­bers than the jobs sup­pos­edly “saved” at Trump’s De­cem­ber photo-op at Car­rier, even in­clud­ing jobs at Cater­pil­lar and Nu­cor, com­pa­nies rep­re­sented on Trump’s own job-cre­ation task force.

And then there’s in­fra­struc­ture. Here, too, Trump promised to fight for pas­sage of a $1 tril­lion pub­lic-pri­vate in­fra­struc­ture plan within his first 100 days. Many — my­self in­cluded — were skep­ti­cal that the plan Trump put for­ward dur­ing the cam­paign would cre­ate jobs or fund needed projects. But even the harsh­est crit­ics thought he would at least try. In­stead, the White House has told al­lies that Trump likely won’t even send an in­fra­struc­ture plan to Congress un­til 2018 — mean­ing shov­els won’t be mov­ing un­til 2019 at the ear­li­est.

The list of “kitchen ta­ble” con­cerns on which Trump promised fo­cus and ac­tion — “im­me­di­ately” — in his first 100 days as pres­i­dent goes on: af­ford­able child care, mid­dle-class tax re­lief, sim­pler tax forms, sav­ings ac­counts for el­der care and more. But Trump has not of­fered plans to do any of th­ese things thus far — not one.

Not only is Trump fail­ing to de­liver on the eco­nomic prom­ises he made dur­ing the cam­paign, but also he is break­ing new ones he made as pres­i­dent. On Feb. 23, Trump said he’d cre­ate jobs by in­sist­ing that the newly ap­proved Key­stone XL pipe­line “buy steel made in this coun­try” and promis­ing that all pipe used in the project would be “com­ing from this coun­try.” It took just days for the White House to re­pu­di­ate Trump’s prom­ise, say­ing that Key­stone would be ex­empt from any Buy Amer­i­can rule.

To be fair, most pres­i­dents tend to over­promise and un­der­de­liver in the early days of their terms; few achieve the kind of block­buster leg­isla­tive achieve­ments that Franklin D. Roo­sevelt or Barack Obama did in their first 100 days. And Trump’s “sound and fury” pres­i­dency has per­suaded a plu­ral­ity of vot­ers, at least for now, that he is get­ting things done.

But most vot­ers still don’t like Trump, and other than a sin­gle good per­for­mance be­fore Congress, he’s done lit­tle to as­suage their anx­i­eties and much to ex­ac­er­bate them. This puts the bur­den on Trump — even more than most new pres­i­dents — to de­liver on his au­da­cious cam­paign prom­ises or risk be­ing viewed as just an­other “all talk, no ac­tion” politi­cian. Ron­ald A. Klain served as a se­nior White House aide to both Pres­i­dents Barack Obama and Bill Clin­ton and was a se­nior ad­viser to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 2016 cam­paign.


Trump sup­port­ers rally near the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment on March 4.

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