If the Trump campaign had one signature line—one yuge line—it was that we’re going to build a wall.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order to begin construction of a wall along the Mexican border.
That doesn’t mean Congress will pay for the estimated $14-billion cost or that opponents won’t mount arguments that the wall will have limited impact and isn’t worth the expense. But Trump did what he said he was going to do.
White House officials also leaked word that Trump will temporarily bar immigrants from seven terror-plagued countries where Muslims are a majority (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). The idea is to call a halt until tougher visa restrictions are in place. This was the modification of Trump’s original campaign pledge that all Muslim immigrants would be temporarily barred. He struck an emotional chord by recognizing, in the audience at Homeland Security, families who had a loved one killed by an illegal immigrant.
What’s striking about this is that each of these proposals caused a media and political uproar during the campaign. The wall was widely mocked, especially the part about making Mexico pay for it. (Trump told ABC’s David Muir that Mexico will indeed pay, perhaps in “complicated” form, and that construction will begin in months.) And some pundits essentially declared Trump’s campaign over when he announced the Muslim immigration ban.
There was also a theory during the campaign—sometimes voiced by his supporters—that Trump throws out a lot of wild ideas but he won’t actually do this stuff if he somehow wins the White House. Uh, no.
Whether these are good or bad ideas—he also signed an order to carry out his promised crackdown on federal aid to sanctuary cities—President Trump is delivering on what candidate Trump said he would do. And with a Supreme Court nominee coming next week, he’s off to a fast start.
At the same time, there have been all these distractions, some of them self-inflicted. Topping the list is Trump’s insistence that up to 5 million people voted illegally in the election, for which he has no evidence. Trump doubled down yesterday by asking for an investigation, which will undoubtedly find outdated and duplicate voter rolls in many states—but that doesn’t necessarily translate into massive voter fraud.
As a front-page Washington Post story put it, “Donald Trump, having propelled his presidential campaign to victory while often disregarding the truth, now is testing the proposition that he can govern the country that way.”
This reminds me of what happened when scandals erupted during Bill Clinton’s presidency, even before his lying about the Monica Lewinsky fiasco led to his impeachment. The media would obsess on each scandalous twist and turn, but a majority of the public remained focused on his proposals (school uniforms, V-chips for TV) and the booming economy, keeping his popularity high.
The country remains deeply divided over this president, but no one can deny that he has hit the ground running on the kinds of issues that resonate with ordinary voters.
As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, the president apparently reacted to an “O’Reilly Factor” segment on Tuesday night. Bill said that “in the first 23 days of this year, 42 homicides in the windy city, up 24 percent from last year. An unbelievable 228 people have been shot and Chicago in 23 days”—and asked whether Trump could step in and stop the murders.
Trump quickly tweeted, using a word from his inaugural: “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
Even the left-leaning Atlantic says, “What if the Trump presidency is actually off to a surprisingly effective start? For months, Trump has shown a perverse ability to overshadow his own message with chaos and disorder, and the first five days of his administration fit right into that pattern…
“It doesn’t require any alternative facts, only an alternative interpretation, to look at the Trump administration and see a presidency moving forward on many of its key goals and notching political victories.”
There’s plenty of heavy lifting ahead, but Trump hasn’t even been in office a week.