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April 29, 2017

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Inside Trump Tower

LONDON -- It would appear that even Donald Trump is realizing the difference between being CEO of a private company and sitting in the Oval Office of the White House. In Trump Tower, no underling dared to question his decisions or tell him he was wrong. As president of the United States, he has had to put up with congressional snubs and judicial rejection of his decisions ever since he was sworn in just over two months ago.

The American president is supposed to be the most powerful person in the world, and indeed, he is commander-in-chief of the most potent killing machine ever seen. This is a scary thought with somebody as erratic as Trump in charge of the nuclear codes. However, he is finding that his power is circumscribed by an array of constitutional checks and balances. These were built in by the country's founding fathers to prevent the executive from becoming too powerful, and have served their purpose by reining in a president who thought his word was law.

Trump had campaigned on the boast that he wasn't a politician, but a businessman who could get things done. But while this resonated with voters angry with mainstream politicians who, in their view, had marginalized and neglected vast swaths of the industrial belt, this attribute has not served Trump well. As he struggles to keep his electoral pledges, he has found his path blocked again and again by Congress and the judiciary. Meanwhile, the media are having a field day in highlighting these failures, stand-up comics are having a great time mocking the president, and the liberal left is gloating over these repeated stumbles.

Consider: Trump's most repeated (and popular) campaign pledges included building a wall to keep Mexicans out; denying entry of Muslims into the United States; rolling back the Affordable Care Act, his predecessor's hard-won medical care system; and doing away with a raft of Obama's environmental laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Out of these, the famous wall is facing funding and legal issues as several states along the border are resisting the federal government's attempt to erect an ugly barrier on their territory. And at an estimated cost of over US$20 billion, Congress is dragging its feet over authorizing this expenditure.

Two successive executive orders blocking the entry of travelers from a number of Muslim countries have been shot down by federal courts. The reason given by the judges is that the orders discriminated against people on grounds of their faith, something forbidden by the U.S. constitution.

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