(CNN) — There is nothing unusual about a new president arriving in Washington with a promise to right the perceived wrongs of his predecessors. George W. Bush pledged ”to restore honor and dignity” to the White House after the Clinton scandals and Barack Obama took the reins with a notion of mending a nation divided by war and increasingly dislocated by a spiraling economy.
In that way, President Donald Trump is very much like those who came before him. His candidacy was staked on a twin rejection of Washington’s “swamp” culture and, in more specific terms, Obama’s political and cultural legacy. The decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate deal has elements of both — the potential to undermine of one of Obama’s defining accomplishments while at the same time issuing a broader rebuke to a global order the former president valued and sought to empower.
Still, Trump has registered only mixed results as his campaign promises, and the promise of dismantling Obama’s accomplishments, come up repeatedly against the stricter realities of governing.
Trump has succeeded in undermining a host of other Obama administration priorities. Environmental action, with regard to the Paris pact, but also in the more mundane and familiar regulatory theater, has been either limited or reversed. A pair of contentious pipeline projects — Dakota Access and Keystone XL — have been advanced by the new administration in defiance of Obama White House decisions to slow or stop them.
But it has been in the criminal justice arena where the Trump agenda — with Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the way — is running up against the Obama legacy, and repeatedly turning it back. The Justice Department under Sessions has in only a few months taken aim at some of the previous regime’s highest profile decisions.
“This is a new era,” Sessions told border patrol agents in Arizona last month. “This is the Trump era.”
What does that mean, exactly? On the…