President Trump proclaimed in a freewheeling speech to a conference of conservatives last weekend that “America is winning again.” But his administration has been on a pronounced losing streak over the past week.
Trump is losing ground on top priorities to curb illegal immigration, cut the trade deficit and blunt North Korea’s nuclear threat — setbacks that complicate his planned reelection message as a can-do president who is making historic progress.
Late last week, Trump flew home empty-handed from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi — and, within days, new satellite images appeared to show that the North was secretly rebuilding a rocket-launching site.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that unauthorized border crossings have spiked to the highest pace in 12 years — despite Trump’s hard-line rhetoric and new policies aimed at deterring migrants.
And on Wednesday, the Commerce Department said that the nation’s trade deficit is at a record high — in part due to punitive tariffs Trump imposed on allies and adversaries. Trump vowed throughout his 2016 campaign and during his presidency to shrink the trade deficit, which he views as a measure of other nations taking advantage of the United States.
“The president hasn’t shown much of an ability to cut good deals with Congress or anyone else,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who is mulling a Senate run in 2020. “Almost the only time he has been successful at one of his goals is when he can set the terms unilaterally. That’s why he’s done a lot of executive orders, executive actions, like the travel ban, deregulations, emergency declaration. Those are things that don’t require any negotiation at all.”
Trump took office on a pledge to buck conventional wisdom, sideline Washington’s political class and tackle long-standing problems with a mix of outside-the-box improvisation and dealmaking skills honed during his real estate career. “I alone can fix it,” he declared at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Yet as he has struggled to fulfill some of his signature campaign promises, Trump has consistently blamed others for his woes.
He has criticized the administrations of President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush for not reforming the immigration system or reining in North Korea. He has railed at Democrats for failing to support his proposed border wall and implored them to ratify new trade deals. And he has even attacked fellow Republicans, obliquely slamming former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) during a Rose Garden news conference last month for not having pushed faster to get a deal on the wall.