The president of the Red States of America
President Trump seems to believe he is president only of something called the Red States of America.
Since taking office, Trump has conducted campaign-like rallies in Iowa, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Florida. He carried all four states in 2016, and while Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Florida are all legitimate swing states, not one could be honestly described as blue. In fact, the only reasons Trump has even set foot in truly blue states since his inauguration was for military ceremonies in Virginia, Connecticut, and Maryland, to visit his New Jersey golf resort, to give a graduation speech at hard-right Liberty University in Virginia, and to meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a New York City military museum.
The idea of addressing or appealing to the wide swath of people who live in these blue states seems never to have occurred to our president. They are just golfover states to him.
There's another striking thing about President Trump's treks in office in comparison to the early days of Obama — he is not acting like the situation facing the country is nearly as serious as he says it is, and he is not doing much to press the agenda he and his allies claim is critical to a national turnaround. By July 2009, the indefatigable Obama had held multiple town hall meetings about health-care reform and given major addresses about his administration's policy proposals, including on credit card reform and the stimulus bill. Whatever you think of his policies, it's undeniable that Obama had a podcast wonk's command of the details and obviously took them seriously. Trump has not done a single town hall. He has addressed audiences that are almost exclusively friendly by design, including the Conservative Political Action Conference and the National Rifle Association. His public remarks and tweets betray a policy knowledge wormhole large enough to steer the Starship Enterprise through.
Obama's early months in office were consumed by efforts to press his policy agenda during the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Now, it's true that he did not embark on some national unity tour by putting wheels down repeatedly in Texas and Alabama. But he did set foot in hostile political territory on more than one occasion. In May 2009, he delivered a commencement speech in deep-red Arizona. In July, he traveled to Missouri to throw out the first pitch at the All Star Game (Trump, remember, was too terrified of a crowd that might boo him to throw out the first pitch of the Washington Nationals home opener in April). In August, Obama did a town hall meeting on health care in Montana. He also repeatedly visited states where his 2008 victories turned out to be a wave-year aberration, like North Carolina and Indiana. By the end of the year, he had also spent time in Texas, Alaska, and Louisiana. Can you imagine Trump holding a town hall in Oregon or Vermont to defend the GOP's MurderCare bill?
The word you're looking for is 'no.'
In keeping with the actually existing atmosphere of grave national crisis and economic hardship, Obama didn't go golfing until April 26, 2009. After harassing Obama like a stalker for his golfing, Trump has spent four times as much time on the links as his predecessor at this stage in his presidency, and has passed a total of 33 days at Bedminister and Mar-a-Lago alone. If he is spending his weekends at these grifter Valhallas working around the clock on urgent national problems, he is better at removing the evidence than Dexter is at cleaning up crime scenes. Even when he is in the White House, his aides relentlessly leak details of the president's inglorious sloth to the nearest reporter — he watches hours of TV every day, can't focus on anything, and must be minded at all times like a parolee. If this was the work ethic he brought to his business empire, he is the luckiest man alive.
Obama also used his overseas junkets to signal commitment to democratic friends and allies and to rebuild the international credibility that had been obliterated during the Bush administration. Obama traveled to nine democracies before making the inevitable journey to Saudi Arabia, where Trump went first. Of course, Obama went early to both Canada and Mexico, where, astonishingly, Trump has yet to appear. Instead, Trump has hosted an almost non-stop parade of dictators and their envoys at the White House. Visibly uncomfortable around the leaders of other democracies during his European whirlwind in May, he seemed most at home cavorting with his fellow potentates and hereditary princes of the Gulf oil tyrannies.
Remember, these are supposedly not normal times, right? We are a country at war, consumed by illegal immigrant-driven "carnage," wracked with endemic drug violence, scarred with Oxycontin overdoses, and ruined by shuttered factories and economic contraction. Our health-care system is spiraling out of control. "ObamaCare is imploding and it will only get worse" — the president tweeted on March 11. The next weekend he went to Mar-a-Lago for three nights. Is that what you do if one-sixth of the economy is teetering on the verge of calamitous collapse? Or do you perhaps put in some extra work hours to avert catastrophe if indeed you alone can save us?
Trump has not organized a single public event specifically around the cruel and detested health-care reform designed by his congressional allies since a lone rally in Kentucky on March 12. He spent July 4, our most important national holiday, at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. Had he been forced to work that day, he surely would have griped about it like his U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. This crew is less protestant work ethic and more protesting having to work at all.
These are the actions of a man who either does not believe his own noxious rhetoric about the dire problems facing the country or who has concluded that he is simply not up to the task of working hard to address them. His total aversion to facing down skeptical audiences full of people who maybe didn't vote for him suggests that he does not possess the requisite confidence or the underlying knowledge needed to sell his proposals to fence-sitters. And his relentless weekend jet-setting, which should be deeply offensive to the struggling white working class that put him in office, suggests that the gloomy oratory of his inauguration speech and the endless paranoid delusions of his Twitter feed are all talk, designed to stoke the outrage of the far right rather than do anything meaningful to solve America's problems.