In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character. He did little to avert or end the recent shutdown, and probably aggravated the situation.
When President Trump mused last year about protecting immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, calling them “these incredible kids,” aides implored him privately to stop talking about them so sympathetically.
When he batted around the idea of granting them citizenship over a Chinese dinner at the White House last year with Democratic leaders, Mr. Trump’s advisers quickly drew up a list of hard-line demands to send to Capitol Hill that they said must be included in any such plan.
And twice over the past two weeks, Mr. Trump has privately told lawmakers he is eager to strike a deal to extend legal status to the so-called Dreamers, only to have his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, make clear afterward that such a compromise was not really in the offing — unless it also included a host of stiffer immigration restrictions.
As the government shutdown appeared to near an end on Monday, one thing was clear to both sides of the negotiations to resolve it: The president was either unwilling or unable to articulate the immigration policy he wanted, much less understand the nuances of what it would involve.Julia Azari wrote at FiveThirtyEight:
Policy-making was much more Congress-centered in the 19th century. The clearest examples of this are probably from the 1850s, when presidents Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce left the difficult task of dealing with the growing crisis of slavery to Congress. (Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas urged Pierce to support the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which he eventually did – rather than the other way around.) After the Civil War, presidents grew less passive, but members of Congress still asserted their own agendas on issues like tariffs and currency — the big economic questions of the time. Presidents were more likely to be led by their parties than to lead them.
So far, Trump has mostly followed the 19th-century model, even if that wasn’t exactly his intention. Despite his clashes with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over health care, Trump has not shown an interest in the details of policy. He hasn’t fully staffed the executive branch and hasn’t appointed staff or Cabinet officials with a lot of relevant policy experience. This reflects older patterns in which the national government was smaller and did much less, and presidents didn’t have the extensive professional staff they have now.