In the first month of Barack Obama's second year in the White House, Fox News highlighted a controversy: a photograph showed his feet on the historic Resolute Desk.
"Is President Obama disrespecting the Oval Office?" the Fox website asked.
In the first month of Donald Trump's second year, he has called for the imprisonment of political opponents and taunted North Korea's nuclear-armed leader with threats of annihilation. In a new book informed by extensive White House access, top officials described the president with words like "crazy" and "stupid," depicting Trump as an immature 71-year-old incapable of maintaining attention long enough to process new information or even conduct a serious conversation.
The contrast underscores two things at once: the triviality of attacks on how Obama handled his presidential duties and the gravity of questions about Trump's fitness to handle them now. The latter poses a growing threat for Republicans who seek to maintain their majority in Congress in the 2018 elections while shielding an unpopular president from accountability.
Throughout 2017, Trump's behavior as president was the dominant national story, not much of which has flattered him or his party.
Most Americans disapprove of his job performance, and the tax cut that provided his sole major legislative accomplishment. Trump's alienation of big chunks of the electorate — notably college-educated whites, women and young voters — fueled striking Democratic victories last fall in Virginia and Alabama.