Why Trump’s Vendetta Against Obama Is a Losing Proposition

The president’s incompetence overshadows his malevolence. 

Barack Obama took advantage of an anniversary on Monday to poke at one of the lies being repeated by his successor.

Since his administration began, Trump has attacked Obama’s record of job creation and touted his own. Perhaps long-time readers here at the Washington Monthly will enjoy the fact that I intend to expose that lie based on information provided by Steve Benen and Kevin Drum. Here’s Benen:

As we discussed after the release of the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trump has now been in office for three full years (36 months), and during that time, the economy has created 6.56 million jobs. In the final full three years of Obama’s presidency, the economy created 8.08 million jobs.

Of course, Drum put the specifics into a chart.

It will surprise no one that data means nothing to Trump.

As the saying goes, Obama has taken up residence in Trump’s head—rent-free.

Jonathan Chait recently documented another way that Trump’s efforts to undo Obama’s legacy are failing.

One of the Obama administration’s most effective climate initiatives was tightened regulations of auto emissions, which will reduce carbon emissions by billions of tons. Trump, of course, is trying to roll it back. The good news is that he is almost certainly too incompetent to pull it off in his first term.

When regulatory agencies write new rules, they have to follow some fairly complicated legal procedures, which often have to hold up under judicial scrutiny. Historically, agencies win about 80 percent of the time against legal challenges. But Trump’s regulations lose about 90 percent of the time, because his administration is staffed with incompetent hacks.

The courts will soon be fighting over Trump’s plan to weaken auto-emission standards. Trump is highly likely to lose, because, as two new reports show, the incompetence of his regulators reached almost mind-boggling proportions.

The reports Chait referred to come from an article by Robinson Meyer that details how the Trump administration’s attempt to kill the auto-emission standards has been a “complete debacle” and one from Coral Davenport predicting a dead end for Trump’s efforts.

What also caught my eye was the fact that Trump’s regulations (or attempts to roll back Obama’s regulations) have failed in court about 90 percent of the time. That number comes from the Institute for Policy Integrity, which has been tracking this administration’s record in the courts. Of the 70 cases they have followed, Trump has won four and lost 66. As Chait points out, typically federal agencies have won about 80 percent of the time, so this administration’s record is worse than abysmal.

In writing about the effort to roll back Obama’s fuel-efficiency standards, Davenport identified the problem.

In January, administration staff members appointed by President Trump sent a draft of the scaled-back fuel economy standards to the White House, but six people familiar with the documents described them as “Swiss cheese,” sprinkled with glaring numerical and spelling errors (such as “Massachusettes”), with 111 sections marked “text forthcoming.”

The cost-benefit analysis showed that consumers would lose more money than they would gain. And, because the new auto pollution rule lacks the detailed technical analyses required by law, the regulations would be unlikely to withstand court challenges…

More basic issues holding up the regulations point to another problem: the skeleton crew of inexperienced political appointees who are heading the drafting process may not be up to a job that would usually be handled by career federal workers with decades of expertise.

As Chait rightfully suggested, Trump’s actual goal of humiliating Obama can’t be included in the analysis. So his incompetent staff are left with trying to manipulate the numbers and the science, which don’t support the president’s goals.

For Trump, things like math, science, and expertise are anathema. His only concern is to prop up his own narcissistic ego and demean anyone he views as a threat. That is why Trump’s vendetta against Obama’s legacy will always be a losing proposition. His incompetence overshadows his malevolence.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.