The ap­pren­tice pres­i­dent

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - News­pa­per En­ter­prise Assn.

A White House doc­u­ment ar­gu­ing for tighter im­mi­gra­tion laws states that “im­mi­grants who come here il­le­gally and en­ter the work­force un­der­mine job op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­duce wages for Amer­i­can work­ers, as does the abuse of visa pro­grams.”

The Wall Street Jour­nal ed­i­to­rial page, hardly a bas­tion of bleed­ing­heart lib­er­al­ism, com­ments acidly: “What al­ter­na­tive econ­omy are they liv­ing in?”

“The real la­bor prob­lem is a short­age, as the job­less rate has hit 4.2 per­cent na­tion­wide,” adds the Jour­nal. “Amer­ica’s tight visa caps are send­ing high-tech jobs to Canada and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion to Mex­ico.”

The Trump White House is liv­ing in sev­eral “al­ter­na­tive” uni­verses, and its ap­proach to tax cuts is even more fi­nan­cially ir­re­spon­si­ble than its as­sault on im­mi­grants.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly stated that re­duced tax rates would “pay for them­selves” by gen­er­at­ing ex­tra eco­nomic growth. But that claim has no ba­sis in fact.

“We searched high and low and found no eco­nomic ex­perts who could point us to ev­i­dence of tax cuts fully pay­ing for them­selves,” re­ports CNN. The non­par­ti­san Com­mit­tee for a Re­spon­si­ble Fed­eral Bud­get ac­cuses the ad­min­is­tra­tion of mak­ing a “false claim” and “re­ly­ing on magic bul­lets and fairy dust to pay for tax cuts.”

An­other false claim be­dev­il­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion was made by eco­nom­ics ad­viser Gary Cohn: “The wealthy are not get­ting a tax cut un­der our plan.” Wash­ing­ton Post fact-check­ers la­beled it a “ridicu­lous state­ment” and “one of the big­gest myths spread by Trump and his aides.”

Wealthy tax­pay­ers would ben­e­fit enor­mously from ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­pos­als to lower in­di­vid­ual rates, while can­cel­ing both the al­ter­na­tive min­i­mum tax and the es­tate tax. A New York Times anal­y­sis con­cludes that Trump and his heirs would en­joy a $1.1 bil­lion wind­fall un­der his tax plan.

Fairy dust has in­fected the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­lit­i­cal think­ing, as well. Since Repub­li­cans hold only 52 seats in the Se­nate, they have a very small mar­gin for er­ror, and yet the pres­i­dent keeps alien­at­ing GOP law­mak­ers with abu­sive taunts and threats of po­lit­i­cal re­tal­i­a­tion.

His lat­est tar­get is Sen. Bob Corker of Ten­nessee, who he de­rided as “Lid­dle Bob” in a re­cent tweet. Corker, how­ever, is a key player on both for­eign and fis­cal pol­icy, and Trump will need his sup­port on a host of up­com­ing is­sues, from Ira­nian re­la­tions to spend­ing blue­prints.

“Un­der the nor­mal, tra­di­tional rules of pol­i­tics of the last 40 years of my life, a pres­i­dent would not poke a se­na­tor in the eye when he has a twoseat ma­jor­ity and a ma­jor leg­isla­tive agenda need­ing to be ac­com­plished,” for­mer GOP Con­gress­man Thomas M. Reynolds told The New York Times.

Trump and his team would ar­gue that these are not “nor­mal” or “tra­di­tional” times. And it’s cer­tainly true that the pres­i­dent won the elec­tion by de­fy­ing po­lit­i­cal rules and de­feat­ing more con­ven­tional can­di­dates like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clin­ton.

But run­ning the coun­try is a very dif­fer­ent task than run­ning for of­fice. Pass­ing leg­is­la­tion re­quires ex­pand­ing al­liances, not driv­ing sup­port­ers away. And while Trump has up­ended a lot of po­lit­i­cal as­sump­tions, he has not re­pealed the prin­ci­ples of math­e­mat­ics or ma­jor­ity rule. He at­tracted only 46.1 per­cent of the pop­u­lar vote and trailed Clin­ton by al­most 3 mil­lion bal­lots. His ap­proval rat­ing hovers at his­toric lows -- 36 per­cent in the lat­est Gallup poll -- but he keeps act­ing like a can­di­date, not a pres­i­dent, fir­ing up his base of hard­core loy­al­ists but fail­ing to es­tab­lish a broad coali­tion that can gov­ern ef­fec­tively.

“Don­ald Trump got elected with mi­nor­ity sup­port from the Amer­i­can electorate, and most of his ef­forts thus far are fo­cused on en­er­giz­ing and so­lid­i­fy­ing the 40 per­cent of Amer­i­cans who were with him, pri­mar­ily by at­tack­ing the 60 per­cent who were not,” Repub­li­can poll­ster Whit Ayres told the Wash­ing­ton Post. “That is great for his sup­port­ers, but it makes it very dif­fi­cult to ac­com­plish any­thing in a democ­racy.”

The Trump pres­i­dency is rooted in myth, not re­al­ity; fan­tasy, not facts. He’s an en­ter­tainer, not an ex­ec­u­tive; a ma­gi­cian, not a man­ager. As Corker said in the Times, “When I watch his per­for­mances, you know, it very much feels to me like he thinks as pres­i­dent he’s on a re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show. ... It’s like he’s do­ing ‘The Ap­pren­tice’ or some­thing. He’s just putting on an act.”

Corker’s right, with an ironic and dan­ger­ous twist: In this re­al­ity show, Trump is the ap­pren­tice, not the boss. He’s the am­a­teur, not the pro. But he has a four-year con­tract and no one can fire him, de­spite his dis­as­trous first sea­son.

Steve and Cokie Roberts can be con­tacted by email at steve­

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