Here are five takeaways from President Donald Trump's first full week in office:
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President Trump thrives in crisis mode, and his method is chaos. The first seven days of his administration have been a blur of order and disorder, distraction and progress, movement, backtracking and public arguments. In other words, it’s very Trump.
What has emerged is a president who is comfortable shaking up established norms by throwing, and tweeting, nuggets into the news stream with the same regularity that he did as a candidate. His musings, including several that have no basis in fact, are making allies anxious and enemies furious. But that may be all according to plan.
Counselor Kellyanne Conway’s turn of phrase from the first weekend of the Trump presidency is already established in the political lexicon. That’s not just because it’s easy to mock on Twitter. It’s because it looks increasingly like a White House strategy to establish its own standards for truth.
That means treating the press, to quote chief strategist Steve Bannon, as “the opposition party.” It also means claiming outright falsehoods as fact, as the president has in describing the crowd size at his inauguration and in maintaining that millions of undocumented immigrants swung the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. The Trump team is creating a messaging universe that reaches a base that’s skeptical of the mainstream media. They are creating fights in areas that used to be off-limits, challenging the very definition of truth.
A flurry of executive actions have marked the early days of the Trump era. That means progress toward keeping campaign promises such as the border wall, “extreme vetting” for refugees from some Muslim countries, repealing Obamacare and scaling back trade deals. Or, at least, it’s the perception of progress: In many cases the true impact of these orders isn’t what the Trump team says it is. Only legislative action will repeal and replace Obamacare, and accomplish things like setting up the funding mechanisms to start work on a massive wall along the Mexican border.
In that regard, there’s no real progress a week in. Members of Congress of his own party are confused about the next steps, and worried that the next presidential tweet could veer them off-message for days or longer.
If it’s “America first,” we know who’s not. Trump has already begun his assault on globalism, with moves to end trade deals, order up the border wall and move away from international climate accords. His actions on the wall provoked the president of Mexico to cancel a planned trip to the United States. He put the new prime minister of Great Britain in an awkward spot during her U.S. visit, with his anti-NATO rhetoric and public endorsement of torture’s efficacy. And Trump still hasn’t brought himself to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he’s scheduled to speak to for the first time over the weekend.
The Trump team, it seems, still does not want to be taken literally. A border tax was announced by the White House, only to be rescinded hours later. The president himself said he is convinced that torture works, but added that he’ll probably let his Defense secretary overrule him. Executive orders have been scheduled but pulled back, with drafts circulating widely in advocacy circles. The president casually mentioned that he’s got his Supreme Court pick lined up to be announced next Thursday, and twice called the prime minister of Great Britain by her first name. He’s still Tweeting media observations and picking up the phone himself, taking a freewheeling style made famous on reality-TV shows right into the White House.