President Donald Trump famously promised Americans so much winning that they'd be sick of it. He appears obsessed with this promise, to the point of actively undermining it. He is so focused on winning — or claiming to win — every little battle, that he has neglected the patient work required to win big wars in Congress.
This strategy should unnerve conservatives; almost any other Republican president drawn from last year's primary field would be scoring more wins for their cause right now than Trump has. It should especially worry Trump's advisers. This week, the president appears set to obsess his way into a series of unforced errors that could hurt his agenda in the months and years to come.
Nearly 100 days into his term, Trump has delivered few major victories, either for the country or for his own supporters.
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He lost in his short-lived bid to repeal and replace Obamacare, demanding a rushed vote on a much-derided bill, only to back down at the last moment when it was clear he didn't have the votes. Courts have blocked two of his attempts to ban refugees and travel from several Muslim-majority countries.
Trump backed out of a currency fight with China, which he promised repeatedly while campaigning. He keeps punting on a pledge to detail his tax reform plan, and he hasn't stoked anything close to a massive jobs revival in manufacturing or coal mining.
His wins, such as they are, would be layups for any Republican president working with a full congressional majority. He nominated a Supreme Court justice who was confirmed by a GOP majority in the Senate that was willing to abolish the filibuster for judicial nominations. He canceled or began the work of rolling back several major regulations issued by President Barack Obama. He scorched a Syrian air strip, which appears to have won him a fleeting polling bump, but probably not much more. He has empowered Customs and Border Patrol agents to step up their aggressiveness in the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Where Trump has soared, compared to any other possible Republican in the White House, is in the deflection of defeats and the claiming of faux-victories. He has taken credit for thousands of job-creation announcements that were often planned long before his election. He says the health care effort wasn't a loss, only an ongoing negotiation. Last week, after Republicans just barely managed to force a run-off in a special election for a GOP-stronghold congressional seat in Georgia, he tweeted this:
Limping to a run-off for the seat formerly held — and repeatedly won handily — by Trump's Health and Human Services secretary is by no means a win for Republicans. It could be, when the special election is held in June, but for now, it's claimable as a victory by Trump, because it's not a proven loss, either. The same is true for health care, China policy, and a host of other issues; until Trump actually loses on any of them, he can say he's winning.
Which brings us to this week, which Trump has built into a minefield of his own making.