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Trump's Chaotic Launch is Mostly His Fault

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's job approval polls are plunging to historic lows as voters realize that he may not be able to keep some of his top campaign promises. The Gallup Poll, one of the oldest and most respected surveys in American politics, reported this week that his approval rating was a dismal 40 percent.

While Gallup said that was "a three-point improvement from last week's record low of 37 percent," his numbers were still at historically low levels in the third month of his presidency.

Barack Obama's approval score was around 60 percent at this point in time, though it dropped to 40 percent in the first two years of his presidency and was below 50 percent for much of his two terms in office.

What has caused Trump's polls to drop to such deeply embarrassing levels? First and foremost was his humiliating failure to pass Republican legislation that would have erased key parts of Obamacare, while keeping other insurance portions of the law intact.

It was the biggest test of Trump's promise to "repeal and replace" Obama's signature accomplishment, one that he said would be done relatively "quickly."

But not only did he fail to deliver on that promise, in a Congress controlled by his own party, he also wasn't even able to get a vote on it. House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to pull the bill after a bloc of conservatives threatened to vote against what they correctly called "Obamacare-lite."

Then came Trump's request of $33 billion in new funds for defense and for building his wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The money was in a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government open past April 28, but included $18 billion in cuts to medical research and job training. But the bill was opposed by House Democrats, and even some conservative Republicans, who feared it would lead to a government shutdown.

Missing from news reports on the issue was another of Trump's repeated promises relating to the giant wall across the 2,000 mile-plus southern border: that Mexico would pay for it at an estimated cost of $30 billion. "And who will pay for the wall?" Trump would ask at his campaign rallies. To which all of his supporters would reply in unison, "Mexico."

Despite repeated statements from Mexico's government that it will never pay for any wall, Trump still insists he will make it pay through a border export tax or some other still-unknown scheme. But most economists say that a border tax is nothing more than a "consumer tax" that Americans would pay in the end.

What is clear right now is that Trump wants Congress to pony up the money, which of course comes from American taxpayers.

As for Trump's sweeping budget-cutting blueprint that he sent up to Capitol Hill earlier this month, things aren't going so well on that front either.

GOP defense hawks think his plan to sharply raise the Pentagon's budget falls far short of what they believe is really needed. And a number of rural conservatives are in rebellion over Trump's domestic spending cuts that they say will hurt constituents in their states and districts.

The harsh political reality that is slowly dawning on the White House is that the Trump budget will be designed by Congress.

"While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president's skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive," said former House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky. "We will certainly review this budget proposal, but Congress ultimately has the power of the purse."

It's hard to recall a more chaotic launch of any other president in modern U.S. history, most of it due to remarks and controversies of Trump's own making. I mean, who was the last chief executive who began his presidency being investigated by Congress after key men in his campaign and his administration had suspicious and possibly illegal contacts with America's chief adversaries in Russia?

Perhaps the biggest mistake by Trump and the GOP's leaders in Congress was to make Obamacare its No. 1 priority, instead of leading with tax reform and job creation. In the past eight years, the underperforming economy was the No. 1 concern of most Americans in just about all the polls -- not Obamacare, and not illegal immigration.

Now the plan is to wait until April or even later to tackle the tax-cutting reforms needed to get America's economy moving again. What a mess.

(Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.)

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