No matter your opinion on Donald Trump, one thing that everybody who is paying attention should know is that virtually nothing has gotten done during his first 4.5 months in office. That means the presidential photo ops that accompany signing of major legislation have been few and far between. In fact, they have been almost non-existent.
It was a pathetic spectacle to many when Republican members of the House loaded up on buses and trekked to the White House like a bunch of drunken frat boys heading for spring break to celebrate their vote on Obamacare repeal. But that was nothing compared to what happened on June 5.
Trump has been promising to spend billions on infrastructure. So far he hasn’t done much of anything about it other than some occasional talk. But on Monday he took the first step toward putting his call for infrastructure overhaul in motion by endorsing a plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system.
It wasn’t Trump’s endorsement of the plan that is newsworthy. It was how he did it, with a fake bill signing ceremony at the White House.
The man-who-would-be-dictator has held several photo ops in the Oval Office as he signed executive orders. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen notes, that allows Trump to give the appearance that he is actually doing something, even though the events are largely theater. But an executive order is at least something official. What Trump did on Monday is what Ted Cruz, who was present, might under other circumstances call a “nothingburger.”
All Trump did was to put his signature to a memo and letter to Congress that outlines his “principles” for overhauling the ATC system. But the wannabe king hadn’t had his ego stroked recently, so he had to get his face on camera with this “ceremony.”
Trump was right in his element. He used multiple pens to sign the letter, as presidents do when they sign important legislation. Then he handed them out to the gathered congressional Republicans, who behaved like the loyal sycophants that they are. He beamed as the crowd applauded on several occasions.
Even though this proposal has gotten praise in some quarters as possibly helping to bring down carbon emissions, ATC privatization is opposed by some aviation groups. Those groups are concerned about the possible impact on flight safety that the implementation of user fees would bring in a private system.
It might have been better for team Trump to have done this quietly. Privatizing air traffic control isn’t the improvement most people were looking for when Trump promised to revitalize the country’s crumbling infrastructure — more Americans would directly benefit by long needed repairs to roads, bridges, and utilities. By drawing renewed attention to his past talk of an infrastructure plan Trump now runs the risk of having questions asked about where the rest of the plan is. This was yet another thing Trump had promised would be easy but has done next to nothing about.
It was obvious from the beginning that this is what we were in for with a Trump presidency. It’s a 24/7 prime time show, run by a host who doesn’t care whether anything actually gets done or not, as long as he can give the appearance of doing things when the cameras are on. And as long as the GOP controls Congress, their leadership appears to be happy to play the roles of supporting cast members. And they even got new pens out of the deal, which is more than the rest of us got.