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After 100 Days, Trump's Legislative Victories Are Lacking

Apr 29, 2017
Originally published on April 29, 2017 8:34 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Donald Trump wrote rode into the White House on a resume unlike any other president. Mr. Trump was a real estate developer, reality TV star, master marketer of his own personal brand and with no experience in government or the military. As he marks his 100th day in office, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has this look at how much the unconventional candidate has proven to be an unconventional president.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In his speech at the Republican National Convention last year, Trump's message was clear - he would upend the status quo.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Things have to change, and they have to change right now.

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KEITH: As a candidate, Trump had promised to work with Congress to introduce 10 major pieces of legislation and pushed for their passage within the first hundred days. As of now, just one of the items on that list has been introduced - the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But House leaders and President Trump decided in March to pull the bill without a vote because it was clear it was going to fail.

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TRUMP: We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the vote getting processed. We learned a lot about some very arcane rules in obviously both the Senate and in the House. So it's been - certainly for me, it's been a very interesting experience.

KEITH: It was an early reality check. Thursday in an interview with Reuters talking about his time as president, Trump said this.

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TRUMP: This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.

LEON PANETTA: Things don't just happen because, you know, you tweet that something should happen. This just doesn't work that way.

KEITH: Leon Panetta served under Democratic Presidents Obama and Clinton. He says many presidents have come in thinking they can do things differently.

PANETTA: Presidents who think that somehow you can bypass the system, you can bypass 535 members of Congress who will in their own way resist whatever the hell you want to get done, suddenly realize that there is no magic here. There's just a lot of hard work.

KEITH: And in the first 100 days at least, President Trump hasn't found a new way of passing major legislation. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican, says it's too soon to tell whether Trump will succeed legislatively. But Cantor thinks one thing that could work to his advantage when it comes to dealmaking is the way Trump communicates.

ERIC CANTOR: It's real time. It used to be that in Congress, you know, if you saw and read a statement from the White House, sort of understood the vetting that went into that statement beforehand and now, not so sure, given the Twitter activity.

KEITH: And Cantor says Trump is successfully keeping allies and adversaries alike off balance.

CANTOR: The consistency is the uncertainty.

KEITH: As President Trump has reversed his positions on a number of items that bring him closer to the establishment orthodoxy - no longer calling NATO obsolete, deciding not to rip up NAFTA, ordering that airstrike in Syria. Ronald Reagan biographer Lou Cannon.

LOU CANNON: If you sort of put the ridiculous things he says and the tweets aside and look at what's happened in the first three months of this, you see a president who, I think, has been changed - as more than he has changed anything - by the realities of the world order.

KEITH: Over the course of several interviews in recent days, President Trump has made it clear that the presidency has been eye-opening and his shifts are the result of learning on the job. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.