There was plenty of chest thumping by President Trump and his staff on his first 100 days in office with appearances on weekend talk shows and during Trump’s Saturday night rant against his critics during a rousing, campaign-style appearance in Harrisburg, Pa.
Trump used his nationally televised speech to 7,000 dyed in the wool supporters at a farm expo center to tout his early domestic and foreign policy initiatives as “just about the most successful” early start of any president in modern history.
“We have signed massive executive orders clearing up the environmental bureaucracy,” he boasted. “We’re going to have jobs, and you’re seeing them already. We’ve also been very busy on the legislative front, which we have gotten no credit for, and yet I am signing away. I’ve signed 29 new bills – a record not surpassed since the Truman administration.”
It was an assessment eagerly embraced by supporters and roundly ridiculed by many presidential scholars and political analysts. They couldn’t help but note Trump’s repeated failures on health care and border security, his policy flip-flops, his sometimes amateurish dealings with some of the country’s closest allies, and his high-risk threats of military action against North Korea.
Trump said Saturday that he “will not be happy” if North Korea conducts another nuclear test and declined to rule out a U.S. military response to another provocative act by the unpredictable, baby-faced North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. “I don't know. I mean, we'll see," Trump said of possible military action during an interview with CBS News' John Dickerson that was aired on Sunday.
In a brilliant display of political jujitsu, Trump began his speech in Pennsylvania with a ten-minute screed against his perceived tormentors in the media – many of whom were gathering back in Washington for the annual black-tie White House Correspondents Association dinner that the president boycotted. Trump once again denounced the “failing” New York Times, CNN and MSNBC as “incompetent, dishonest people” and purveyors of “fake news.”
By Trump’s lights, the mainstream media remained an enemy of the people and incapable of getting over the fact that he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
“Their priorities are not my priorities and not your priorities,” Trump told the cheering gathering of supporters, including many who wore the familiar “Make America Great Again” caps. “If the media’s job is to be honest and tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade,” he said, adding that they were “very dishonest people.”
Yet in lashing out at the Washington establishment, Trump renewed his assault on congressional leaders of both parties who will be vital to the ultimate success or failure of much of his political agenda – from health care reform and tax cuts to infrastructure construction and new trade policies.
One of Trump’s biggest targets was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a veteran lawmaker and long-time Trump political sparring partner in New York political circles. Trump airily dismissed Schumer as an incompetent who was leading his party to “doom” with policies that are weak on border security, crime and tax policy.
“I’ve known him a long time,” said Trump. “Senator Schumer is a bad leader, not a natural leader at all. He works hard to study leadership. When you have to study leadership, you’ve got problems. And his policies are hurting innocent Americans and making it easier for drug dealers to enter our country. Schumer is weak on crime and wants to raise your taxes through the roof.”
Trump was probably seeking retribution for the “Fs” that Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave Trump in their report cards on how his first 100 days in office.
Still, the attack on Schumer was gratuitous and highly perplexing, if for no other reason than Trump will need the good will of Schumer and Pelosi on a wide range of issues if the president has any hope of breaking through the current logjam that is threatening his legislative agenda. Even on such routine matters as funding the government to avoid another partial shutdown, Democratic votes will be essential this week to passing a final $1.1 trillion spending bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
During an appearance today on Fox News Sunday, Schumer dismissed Trump’s latest salvo at him as presidential “name calling” that doesn’t work. Trump has previously belittled the minority leader as a “clown.”
“Let’s look at values and let’s look at issues,” Schumer told Fox News Sunday host, Chris Wallace. “I’d say the president’s first hundred days have hardly been a success. He has broken promises to the working people of America, unfulfilled others. You know, Chris, when he campaigned he campaigned as a populist against the Democratic and Republican Establishment, but he is governing like someone from the hard-right and wealthy special interests.”
Schumer insisted that despite growing tension – and Democratic efforts to slow the confirmation of many key Trump appointments to the executive branch – there is still the potential for cooperation on a host of issues.
“So the bottom line is very simple,” Schumer said. “The president, if he works with us, particularly on issues like trade and infrastructure, we can work. But on the issues so far – taxes and health care – he doesn’t consult us at all. He puts together a [tax] plan that’s very hard-right, special interest, wealth oriented, and then says the way to be bipartisan is to just support his plan. That’s not how America works.”
But Trump was not in the mood to extend an olive branch to the Democratic leader.
“Look where the Democrats have ended up,” Trump told John Dickerson of Face the Nation. “They had everything going, and now they don’t have the presidency, they don’t have the House, they don’t have the Senate. And Schumer is going around making a fool out of himself.”