Politics & Policy

Trump’s Pettiness Is Damaging His Agenda

(Reuters photo: Kevin Lamarque)
The president’s tweets threaten not just decorum, but the GOP agenda.

In the course of an attempt to slam the Washington Post for its often negative coverage of his administration, President Trump tweeted an attack yesterday on Amazon, the Internet giant that was founded by the Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos.

“The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!” Trump wrote yesterday morning, following a Post report that Trump has adorned several of his golf clubs with fake issues of Time magazine — featuring himself on the cover.

Lost amid the furor of a presidential response to a petty news report, Trump endorsed a national Internet sales tax that has been opposed by Republicans for the last 19 years. Leaving aside the fact that Amazon pays sales taxes in all 50 states — and that the company is in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect taxes on online retailers — this tendency is a counterproductive one. How are Republicans supposed to hold the line against higher taxes and more centralization if a president of their own party is prepared to give ground in the interest of jabbing a newspaper?

Reporters, who jumped on the tweet as a threat to the free press, will now ask the White House and other Republicans if the president has plans to back an Internet sales tax. In consequence, Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or some other flack in the White House press shop will have to craft yet another Schrödinger’s cat of a response: Trump said that he’s in support of an Internet tax because he is, but also he’s not.

Time and time again, Trump’s loose lips — or thumbs — have threatened to sink his administration’s credibility and his party’s agenda.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly opposes the blockade of Qatar? Ninety minutes later, Trump declares that “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding [of terrorism].” Trump fired FBI director James Comey on the advice of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? Actually, the president just felt like it, or so he told NBC’s Lester Holt one day after the White House attributed the firing to Rosenstein’s advice.

Trump’s caprice has even affected the GOP’s health-care fiasco, with his careless campaign promise that his Obamacare replacement (aptly summarized by Marco Rubio in a 2016 debate as “get rid of the lines around the states”) would “have insurance for everyone,” that no one would lose coverage, and that no one would be worse off financially. As a result, the House and the Senate have been stuck trying to satisfy Trump’s Obamacare-style metric requirements while crafting a bill that actually repeals Obamacare. (In case you have not been paying attention, they can’t).

Trump’s caprice has even affected the GOP’s health-care fiasco.

By virtue of his bad habit of taking transient positions on the fly, even if the Senate bill actually does pass — and thus radically reforms Medicaid, which would be a positive development for a conservative agenda — Republicans are almost guaranteed to be saddled with accusations that their president has lied as baldly as did President Obama with “if you like your doctor, you can keep him,” and did President Clinton when he vowed, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Trump ran an entire campaign against entitlement reform. And now he’s going to sign off on the most significant Medicaid reform in decades?

Agenda aside, Trump’s onion-thin skin is in large part the reason his approval rating is so low. As evidenced by today’s attacks on “Low I.Q. Crazy” Mika Brzezinski, who, much like another blonde anchor before her, was accused by Trump of the high sin of “bleeding,” Trump has no interest whatsoever in adapting to the decorum required by his office. And yet, Trump’s staff took to the airwaves to defend his actions as tough and reactionary, as though emotional responses are a presidential positive.

“Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Fox News following the tweets. “There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but frankly to everyone around him.” At the White House press briefing later that day, Sanders asserted that his attack didn’t go “too far,” and that it was what the people had voted for.

It can be satisfying to watch Donald Trump slam the press for its double standards, but his temper is a double-edged sword, threatening not only his, but the entire GOP’s, credibility. Firm Trump loyalists may have voted for a knife fighter they believed could drain the swamp, build the wall, defund Planned Parenthood, and repeal Obamacare, but one has to ask what the result of all this has been? Aside from Neil Gorsuch, all the White House has at present is a set of drowning approval ratings, an agenda in disarray, and a press ready to pounce on every last promise.

READ MORE:

Why Trump’s Vengeful Tweets Matter

Trump’s Morning Joe Tweets

The Endless Ironies of Donald J. Trump

— Tiana Lowe is an editorial intern at National Review.

Tiana Lowe — Tiana Lowe is a senior pursuing her B.S. in economics and mathematics at the University of Southern California and a former editorial intern at National Review.

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