Week In Politics: Trump's First Week In Office
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Well, today marks the end of Donald Trump's first full week in office. And we have a much better idea now of how Trump the president compares with Trump the candidate. The answer seems to be, there is not that much difference. He continues to pick fights on Twitter. And through executive actions, he has more or less kept many of his campaign promises on health care, that border wall with Mexico, refugees and more.
Joining us to discuss the new president's first week is E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times. Good to have you both here in the studio.
E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be here.
DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to be here.
SHAPIRO: Let's start with the executive actions that Donald Trump has signed this week. David, what do they tell us about the kind of president he's becoming?
BROOKS: You know, E.J.'s colleague Mike Gerson said it well. My expectations are never low enough.
BROOKS: No matter how low you start, he exceeds them. And I would say, in the first week, he's first of all erecting walls all around America, all around the world with trade in the Pacific. And he's picked a fight with our neighbor and second-largest export market in Mexico. And he's done it in the most annoying and frankly incompetent way - through a tweet, through a plan that would actually tax Americans to build the wall. And then the plan is maybe not going to happen, maybe is going to happen. And so the combination of bad strategy with bad implementation is so far the hallmark for me.
SHAPIRO: E.J., there are so many things to choose from here. As we were saying, there are six items a day that could have been a front-page (laughter) headline each day. Out of these executive actions, what stands out to you?
DIONNE: Well, I think the wall and also the attack on sanctuary cities, which - cities that decline to deport people who are here illegally - but I think what you saw - I think the key of the week is governing by impulse, which is a pretty scary way to govern because you've seen Trump kind of back into policies or the administration announce policies because of something Trump said off the top of his head.
As David mentioned, you suddenly - he said Mexico is going to pay for the wall. The next day, the administration is pressed on how. Sean Spicer says, oh, a 20 percent tax on imports. Whoops, that's really on Americans. The president says on David Muir interview, 3 to 5 million people voted illegally. There's no evidence...
SHAPIRO: This is on ABC News, yeah.
DIONNE: ...For that - on ABC News. And suddenly, we're going to have an investigation of a phantom fact - a fact that is not a fact.
SHAPIRO: There do seem to be two tracks here.
DIONNE: It's a very odd way to run the country.
SHAPIRO: There's the policy priorities, and then there are the things like the false claims of fraudulent voting, the crowd size at the inauguration, threatening to send the feds into Chicago if Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn't get things under control. David, are these things going to undermine his presidency?
BROOKS: I think lying tends to undermine your presidency. But there are two explanations which I've been reading about. One is what you call the Orwell explanation, which is that it's part of an authoritarian move to upend categories, upend objective truth like in 1984. The other is what you might call "The Madness of King George" explanation - is that just he's very egocentric. He needs facts that'll flatter his ego, that he had the biggest crowd and the biggest ratings.
And I'm going with "The Madness of King George" explanation because so far, the big untruths are about his narcissism, not about American policy. And so they tend to - his need to be the - have the longest standing ovation since Peyton Manning is the general twist of the things he really is not truthful about.
DIONNE: I think the...
SHAPIRO: So, E.J., where does that lead us?
DIONNE: Well, I think if - we think we learned the following this week, although you never know what next week will bring. It sure seems like the primary mover of policy in this administration is Steve Bannon with his nationalism, with his views on immigration, with his views on trade. He was it looks like the principal author or a principal author of the inaugural address, which was very hard and very pessimistic. The moves Trump has made this week are very Bannon-esque. And Bannon...
SHAPIRO: Bannon also gave this very striking interview to The New York Times yesterday where he said the media should keep quiet. He called the media the opposition.
DIONNE: Right. I guess I should just sit here and shut up and not say another word. And that was a really striking thing. The notion of turning the free press into the opposition is really unusual, where - yeah, conservatives have always said the press leans liberal. No one has ever said that we won't deal with the free press as an institution. The press - we're going to deal with them as the opposition.
And so I think that Bannon, again, was echoing Trump, and Trump was echoing Bannon. So so far, this is the presidency of Trump and Bannon, not Trump and Priebus or Trump and anybody else.
SHAPIRO: In so many ways, we do see Trump diverging from standard Republican norms and governing as more of a populist. He's doing things other Republicans didn't do, whether it's taking on the media or so on. And yet we don't seem to see Republicans in Congress standing up in large numbers and saying, this is not what we stand for. Do you expect we will see that, David?
BROOKS: I think so. You know, I've been caustic about Trump. But I guarantee you - I know from firsthand experience. I reflect the private views of a lot of congressional Republicans. And so far, they've made a Faustian bargain. And they've said, we're going to tolerate the mess that he creates, the disorder, but we think we can pass some things that we think are valuable, whether it's a tax reform or whether it's a more competitive health care plan, et cetera, et cetera.
I think they're going to get to the point where the Faustian bargain doesn't seem to make sense because the chaos he sows is greater than the policy benefits they can hope to arise. And it's not going to happen this week, but somewhere down the road when he picks a fight with Mexico, I think you'll begin to see Republicans saying, you know, let's take a congressional delegation to Mexico. Let's have our own policy here, and let's establish our own form of congressional governments. I do think that will happen.
DIONNE: But here's what...
SHAPIRO: I should say, we do hear from one of those Republicans elsewhere in the show today who is from the congressional district that shares an 800-mile border with Mexico. But, E.J., you were about to say...
DIONNE: I am concerned that Trump's more bizarre or colorful actions will distract us from where he really does agree with Republicans in Congress. We could be looking at, from everything that's been leaked so far, enormous budget cuts, particularly in programs that serve low-income people, coupled with enormous tax cuts.
And Trump has said that his tax cuts are going to be huge, that he's going to slash regulation by 75 percent or more. And we will have our eyes on the bizarre behavior, and we won't notice that these are revolutionary policies far beyond anything Ronald Reagan pursued. And I think the Republicans in Congress are going to stick with him at least as long as they can get the big budget cuts and tax cuts.
SHAPIRO: I want to end with the opposition that we have seen this week, whether it was millions of people in cities around the world marching last Saturday in the Women's March or states and cities that have said, we plan to be an opposition or even some Twitter accounts of federal government offices that seem to be renegade accounts tweeting facts about climate change and so on. David, where do you think the opposition is going to come from?
BROOKS: I'd pay attention to those Twitter accounts. Governing and implementing policy is really hard. Government has a lot of passive aggressive behavior. And so what you see among the civil service is a lot of people resigning and a lot of people who just won't do anything. I would go back and watch a BBC show called "Yes Minister," which was a British show about how the civil servants...
SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Worth watching whether or not it has anything to do with today.
BROOKS: Exactly, it can upend the political appointees. We're going to see a lot of that.
DIONNE: I agree. And I think the Women's March was really important because it was not only something right out of the box, but there was a very kind of peaceful and determined spirit to that. It wasn't sectarian. And I think a lot of that energy is going to go back to the states. And we're going to see something like the Tea Party on the left.
SHAPIRO: We'll leave it there. E.J. Dionne and David Brooks, thanks very much.
BROOKS: Thank you.
DIONNE: Thank you.
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