Roberto Martinez, a DACA recipient, outside the U.S. Supreme Court...

Roberto Martinez, a DACA recipient, outside the U.S. Supreme Court last week after it rejected the Trump administration's attempt to end the program. Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

President Donald Trump and his administration look weak in several key ways at the outset of a campaign summer. These fragilities could undercut Trump's efforts to convince people that Democratic opponent Joe Biden would perform less effectively. The irony is that Trump so often intones the word "strong" as a mantra.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court blew up Trump's attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, a reprieve for nearly 650,000 recipients known as “Dreamers.” Even with a conservative majority on the court, White House lawyers suffered another embarrassing setback on the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program.

“The dispute before the court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so,” Chief Justice John Roberts declared. Whether that tainted procedure resulted from weak lawyering or poor execution doesn't matter.

Despite Trump's endless claims of winning, this loss was typical. One case backfired into a 6-3 assertion of gay rights from the high court. Earlier, the court denied Trump his chance to put a controversial immigration question on the census due to Cabinet-level incompetence.

Public relations for this administration proves as weak as its legal practices. Few if any honest observers say deploying tear gas to clear the way for a strange Trump photo-op demonstrated strong leadership. It was done to deny Trump's vulnerability after word spread of his nervous — and widely ridiculed — dive into an underground White House bunker while violence raged outside his security zone.

Weak negotiations marked his multiple failures in foreign policy. He asked China for a break for U.S. farmers, who still are struggling. He sought political favor from Ukraine, which got its arms shipments without it. Talks with North Korea were a bust. The border wall has barely progressed, and Mexico still won't pay for it. The status quo shifts little in the Mideast.

That Trump had no evident impact on calming the uproar over the George Floyd killing should come as no surprise.

In speeches and tweets laced with falsehoods, Trump appears unprepared to convince the public at large that he delivered a strong response to the coronavirus pandemic or the economic rupture that followed.

Last week, the White House displayed a further lack of strength and unity. Mary Elizabeth Taylor quit as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, saying: “The President’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions.” Did Trump or Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have the power to talk her out of embarrassing them at a critical time? Apparently not.

This administration's departures, firings, infighting, backbiting, leaks, alienations and chaos are legion. How does one spin these as strength?

Strong U.S. presidents have an authentic popular consensus behind them. Almost from the start, various tracking polls showed more Americans disapprove of Trump than applaud his performance. He never picked up the kind of backing that would have won him the popular vote four years ago. So despite the many advantages that incumbency offers to win points in different regions, the president trails Biden in the polls.

Trump's televised campaign rallies were staged to tout wide support, just as his reality-show role once depicted him as a decisive executive. Unfortunately, show business and strong governance are two very different things, even if this election is still the incumbent's to lose.


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.