In private life, Mr. Trump was accustomed to negotiations based on the simple reality that everyone involved shared the same objective: profit. He has struggled to bargain with legislators, who want to satisfy many constituencies and have conflicting notions of the national interest. In that sense, legislative deals require far more art than commercial ones, and for that reason, Mr. Trump has found himself in over his head. This week, after congressional Democrats called his bluff, threatening a government shutdown rather than acceding to his bluster, he slunk away from a demand that Congress start paying for his wasteful border wall — you know, the one Mexico has refused to pay for.
“I thought it would be easier,” Mr. Trump admitted about his job to Reuters this week.
Does he show any signs of learning on the job? In fact, yes. He has backed off dangerous pledges like tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and accusing China of manipulating its currency. He replaced his first national security adviser — the cartoonish Michael Flynn, who turned out to have been on not only the Russian payroll but also the Turkish one — with the formidable Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.
But since his risible assertion of “American carnage” in the streets during his Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump has continually fomented fear and bullied vulnerable groups, particularly unauthorized immigrants. He has shown no interest in reaching beyond the minority of Americans who elected him, one reason his approval ratings are the lowest on record for a president at this point in his term.
And what of his central campaign pledge, to make America great again, presumably by creating vast numbers of jobs for those who helped elect him? This may prove the emptiest of his promises. The giant infrastructure program, which would indeed yield jobs, is nowhere to be seen. In its place are proposed tax cuts to benefit mainly the wealthy and photo-op executive orders to deregulate energy businesses that, even if sustained by the courts — a long shot — will merely enrich the likes of the Koch brothers.
Yet if his ratings are dismal, the other measure Mr. Trump has always lived by — his revenue — is booming, as he uses the presidency to promote his properties. His determination to leverage his office to expand his commercial empire is the only objective to which Americans, after 100 days, can be confident this president will stay true.