The surest thing in Washington about Trump Year One: exhaustion

Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at H & K Equipment Company during a visit to promote his tax and economic plan, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Coraopolis, Pa.

WASHINGTON — Saturday marked the one-year anniversary since President Trump took the oath of office — but if it feels as if it’s been more than a mere 365 days, you’re probably not alone.

The president has delivered tax cuts, deregulation, conservative judges, a partial rollback of the Affordable Care Act, and crackdowns on immigration, but it will take time for most people to feel the full effects of those policies.

Trump’s influence on the rhythms and tenor of civic life, however, have been sweeping and immediate — and frequently exhausting.

Through his Twitter feed and brash persona, the former reality-TV star has delivered drama, turmoil, sudden twists, and an evolving cast of antagonists. Only instead of airing once a week, this show runs 24/7, and there’s no changing the channel.

Consider, for example, the time around that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving.

You remember that, right? Turkey, football, maybe family and drinking? Time to relax and read something other than Twitter? It was less than two months ago. It feels like ages.

Back in Washington the day after the holiday weekend, President Trump called a U.S. senator “Pocahontas” — while leading a ceremony honoring Navajo war veterans.

Even that was barely a memory two days later, when, in the space of a few hours Trump retweeted a hate group from Britain, baselessly insinuated that an MSNBC host was involved in a murder, and pounced on a news station, NBC, over the sexual-harassment allegations against its former anchor Matt Lauer. All before 9:30 a.m.

 

Little has changed since then. The word shithole is now commonplace in news reports, a porn star is dishing about her affair with him, the federal government shut down, and  one of the president’s formerly closest allies, Stephen Bannon, faced a subpoena.

This was Year One under Trump.

In Washington, at least, days now begin with a check of the presidential Twitter account to see which fire he has chosen to stoke, continue with bombshell revelations throughout the day, and end with TV talking heads breaking it all down as we await the next downpour of dropping shoes. It’s a cycle that has swamped lawmakers, their aides, reporters, and many regular people who just want to follow the news.

Some gyms are now banning cable news in the name of wellness and in a recent Quinnipiac University poll 62 people described Trump’s first year as “chaotic” — the second most common word offered up. (Number one was  disaster and number three was successful.)

“Days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months and months feel like years,” a CNN reporter recently wrote about the president’s first year.

While most presidents are a major piece of the national fabric, Trump has imposed on nearly everything, including our respites from the real world. From sports to late-night comedy to family dinners, Trump and reactions to him are seemingly inescapable.

It has thrilled many of his supporters, who love that Trump is taking on the media and smashing Washington norms like so much dainty china. Others disapprove of his style but embrace his policies.

“He ran on a platform of chaos, and so in that sense he’s been very successful,” said Barbara Perry, who has studied presidents’ first years at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

Few people will have sympathy for the professional political and media class. Yet even some Trump supporters wonder if he will exhaust everyday voters who, if not ideologically opposed to the president, might simply tire of the strife.

“It just wears out a lot of people who would otherwise look at this national economy, look at some of the other things this administration is doing, and are just getting worn out by it and worn out by the daily controversy coming out of the president’s Twitter feed,” former Sen. Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican, said on CNN hours after another Trump-related shock wave, the Democratic victory in Alabama’s Senate race.

Other presidents, of course, have been embroiled in controversy. The country split apart during Abraham Lincoln’s first year. John F. Kennedy oversaw the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. Ronald Reagan was shot. Terrorists attacked during George W. Bush’s first year. Bill Clinton was enveloped in scandal.

But aside from Clinton, most of the chaos was foisted upon those presidents, not fostered by them, Perry said.

Part of the roller-coaster comes from Trump being one of the first presidents to take office amid the din of social media.

Our screens, wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty at the conservative National Review, “are like a two-direction orifice. The president shouts through it, and we shout into it.”

Even when not much of consequence is happening, Trump keeps his rivals, supporters, and the media in a frenzy.

“It’s 8:59 a.m., and I’m already exhausted,” one reporter tweeted Dec. 12 in the kind of message that becomes a regular meme among people who follow news for a living.

There’s no sign — or expectation — of change as we careen into Trump’s second year in office.

Thursday morning he stirred another mini-cyclone by criticizing a GOP bill to keep the government open — even as congressional Republicans were scrambling to pass it. Hours later, a Trump spokesman said the president did, in fact, support the deal. The shutdown threat ultimately became reality, taking effect on the same day Trump hoped to hold a high-dollar inauguration anniversary bash at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

It’s just another plot twist as the show starts Season Two.