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President Trump Meets the Congress

Sometimes in politics, you’ve just got to give the people what they want.

Donald Trump proved an expert at that particular obligation during his campaign, enthralling his crowds like a rock legend performing his greatest hits—the mockery of his opponents, the off-the-cuff anecdotes and asides, pledging again and again to build that big, beautiful wall.

On Tuesday night, however, the people arrayed before President Trump were not the adoring faithful, but a considerably fussier bunch: the United States Congress. These 535 men and women will determine whether the bulk of Trump’s ambitious agenda becomes a reality. And they (or most importantly, the Republican half) wanted a different, more focused speech—a bit more hope and optimism, at least some substance if not specifics, unifying more than browbeating, an address they could go on TV and call, yes, presidential.

For a full hour, Trump gave it to them. He stayed on script. He reached out, at least rhetorically, to Democrats with calls for infrastructure spending and paid family leave. He didn’t digress into attacks on the press, or his other enemies. It was a subdued speech, even a little staid, and Republicans loved it all the more...

Trump's Budget Proposal Threatens Democratic and Republican Ambitions

President Trump reportedly wants to exclude Social Security and Medicare from budget cuts while severely retrenching other domestic federal functions. That represents a frontal challenge not only to congressional Democrats but also to Republican budget hawks led by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

From one direction, the administration’s emerging budget blueprint represents a clear generational tilt toward the “gray” over the “brown”: It would elevate the spending priorities of a preponderantly white-and Republican leaning-older population over the needs of heavily diverse, and mostly Democratic, younger generations. But the plan would also prioritize the demands of seniors over the long-running effort by Ryan-led House Republicans to restrain the long-term growth in entitlement spending––which almost all budget experts consider the key to controlling long-term federal deficits.

“If you want to solve the budget program, and you must, you have to look at those programs,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a conservative thinktank, and former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

In both respects, the emerging budget proposal––like Trump’s bristling criticism of free trade, foreign alliances and even legal immigration––would mark another milestone in his drive to reconfigure the Republican Party as a nationalist and...

Trump's Performative Presidency

The most enduring image for the Obama presidency may prove to be the photograph that Pete Souza took of the president and his aides during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. There’s no one reason for that—the moment was historic, the tension is engraved on the faces of the participants, the composition is nearly classical—but one reason is that it was such a rare look at what the presidency is like behind closed doors, in rooms full of people with security clearances. It’s like Aaron Sorkin, but in real life, and with blessedly less dialogue.

There are, however, other ways of getting a look inside the presidency at a moment of drama. For example, you can join the Mar-a-Lago club (initiation fees are a steal at just $200,000)—or for those on a budget, be Facebook friends with a Mar-a-Lago member. As news broke over the weekend that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile, President Trump was dining at the club with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and some people present in the dining room got to see a crisis unfolding. From one perspective, this is a dangerous breach of security and protocol...

The Obama-Trump Truce Is Already Over

It took George W. Bush and Barack Obama a while to warm up to each other. They had many differences—in party, in age, in temperament, in style. Obama had risen to the presidency in part by peddling a harsh critique of Bush’s administration. The relationship grew gradually over time. The two men joked at the unveiling of Bush’s White House portrait in 2012. Bush invited Obama to the opening of his presidential library. By the time Michelle Obama and the former president embraced at the opening of the National Museum of African American History, stories emerged about the odd friendship between the couples. 

That growing warmth was fostered in part by a detente between the two men. While Obama fired broadsides against Bush on the campaign trail, Bush mostly shrugged it off. He instructed Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to keep Obama briefed on responses to the economic crisis, Jonathan Alter reported, with Paulson deeming Obama far more informed about the economy than John McCain. During the transition process, Bush invited Obama and his national-security appointees to war games.

After Obama’s inauguration, Bush quietly left the scene and mostly avoided talking about politics. He repeatedly stressed the...

How Many of His 'Day One' Promises Did Trump Fulfill?

“On Day One.” The notion of immediately turning the page on policy is a staple of presidential transitions, from Franklin Roosevelt’s “first 100 days” on, but Donald Trump made the promise of things he’d get done on his first day in the White House into a special mantra throughout the campaign.

The full list, as Tim Murphy chronicled, included some things that were either wildly implausible and evidently figurative, or things that are impossible to assess. (How would you “fix” the Veterans Affairs Department on Day One? What does it mean to start taking care of the military?) But Trump also laid out a set of 18 specific, discrete promises for his first day in office in what he called a “Contract With the American Voter.” So how did he do?

First, let’s acknowledge that Trump changed the criteria a little bit, designating Monday as his real first day. “I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration,” he told The Times of London. With that, on to the promises.

The first six concern corruption:

Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.

If Trump...

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