Jul 17, 2017

What surprised Trump-watchers most in his first 6 months

Carolyn Kaster / AP

In our 100 days report card back in April, Jim VandeHei and I noted that one of Trump's "misses" was: "Little personal growth in office" — a loose style and resistance to structure that leaves White House aides insecure, and created internal inefficiencies and blind spots.

As Trump approaches the six-month mark on Thursday (Day 182, with 1,280 till the next Inauguration Day), that factor is still hampering his presidency, one-eighth of the way into this term.

We asked several top Trump-watchers what has surprised them most about the first six months.

Chris Wallace, anchor of "Fox News Sunday," writes: "What's been most surprising to me is how little Trump has changed as President. He has the same strengths and the same weaknesses he's always had. Washington certainly hasn't bent to his will. And he hasn't bent to the ways of Washington."

Other surprises:

  • Maureen Dowd: "I marvel at Donald Trump's talent for cliffhangers. It rivals that of Dickens. Except that Trump's daily dramas are invariably self-destructive — legislatively, politically, legally and grammatically. It's not that easy to be in the center of a special counsel probe within six months of taking office. It took Nixon until his second term. (And this is the only time you will ever hear Trump compared to Dickens. After all, it is the worst of times and ... it is the worst of times.)"
  • Michael Wolff, author and columnist: "That, in the face of the onslaught, he seems to be enjoying himself as much as he is."
  • Maggie Haberman: "I'm most surprised he hasn't set foot in NYC since mid-January."
  • NBC's Chuck Todd: "I guess I'm surprised he didn't make more of an effort to develop a personal relationship with Schumer and Pelosi. Culturally, he's more familiar with them and knew the two of them more superficially than any of the GOP leaders. I didn't expect much of a Democratic outreach, but I thought he'd attempt a little wining and dining of those two, simply because he had that earlier connection back when he was a donor."
  • ABC's Jon Karl, who covered Trump in New York: "That he has held only one real press conference, and has never set foot in the White House briefing room. ... And that he has done so few interviews outside of Fox News. ... This is the candidate who loved engaging the press so much that he turned his primary victory nights into press conferences, which we've never seen before."
  • Josh Green of Bloomberg Businessweek, author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency" (out tomorrow): "What's surprised me most is how quickly Trump abandoned the working-class coalition that won him the GOP nomination. ... Had he pursued something like infrastructure instead [of health], he might've built a bipartisan populist coalition and tied pro-labor Democrats in knots."
  • Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief: "That he's been so bad at the game of buying reporters' favor with access."
  • Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax: "Someday historians will join me in looking back in awe at how Donald Trump wielded the power of the 'bully pulpit' like no other president ... [f]rom unscripted press avails to thunderous tweets."
  • Noah Shachtman, executive editor of The Daily Beast: "I guess I'm most surprised that people thought a 70-year-old, self-employed man would remake himself once he got to Washington."

What has surprised you? Drop me a note: mike@axios.com. If your answer surprises me, I'll share it with the AM family.

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