CNN —  

Nine days ago, Donald Trump got the best news of his presidency: Special counsel Robert Mueller ended his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and, according to Attorney General William Barr, concluded that there had been no conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Less than 48 hours after that news broke came word that Michael Avenatti, one of Trump’s main antagonists over the first two years of his presidency, had been arrested on charges of attempted extortion and bank and wire fraud.

Put those two developments together and Trump should be enjoying one of the most positive periods of his presidency. Except that he’s not. Because of, well, him.

Even as America was still chewing over Barr’s summary of the Mueller report, the Trump administration announced that it was changing course and supporting a Texas judge’s decision that would totally invalidate the Affordable Care Act. Then, later in the week, Trump announced that he might close our southern border with Mexico entirely if Central American countries don’t restrict people trying to illegally enter the US. And, of late, he has sought to keep Congress from passing more funding for Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Maria. He’s kept all three issues on the front burner in the days since, tweeting up a storm.

This past 10 days should serve as conclusive evidence of one thing: Donald Trump isn’t playing three-dimensional chess with his presidency. He doesn’t have some sort of grand blueprint against which he has been and continues to execute. There is no method to this madness, he is making it up as he goes along.

Every day is a blank slate to Trump. What he said yesterday doesn’t matter to him – nor is it indicative of what he will say and do today or tomorrow. He takes in events and reacts to them in real time. Then he reacts to the reaction his actions create. That’s it. Any attempt to ascribe his actions to a deeper, more textured strategic gambit is looking for something that just isn’t there. And never has been.

Take health care. In the wake of the decision to back the complete elimination of the ACA, Trump told anyone who would listen that a) Obamacare was terrible b) premiums were too high c) Republicans had a plan and d) the GOP would be the party of health care, just you watch! Congressional Republicans all-but-publicly acknowledged that there was no plan and that, if Trump wanted a plan, he had better come up with it himself.

Then came this presidential declaration, delivered in a trio of tweets Monday night:

“Everybody agrees that ObamaCare doesn’t work. Premiums & deductibles are far too high - Really bad HealthCare! Even the Dems want to replace it, but with Medicare for all, which would cause 180 million Americans to lose their beloved private health insurance. The Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House. It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America. Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!”

Remarkable! Not only is Trump punting from his assertion last week that Republicans would have a plan ready to go if/when the courts invalidate the ACA , he’s also wrapping his arms around the idea of the 2020 election as a referendum on health care!

That is a very bad idea – for both Trump and Republicans. Why? Look at the 2018 election. Democrats’ entire campaign to take back the House was premised on the GOP majority vote in favor of a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. (The plan passed the House but died in the Republican-controlled Senate.) Democrats ran thousands and thousands of ads painting Republicans as the party who tried to get rid of popular elements of the ACA like no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and kids being allowed to stay on a parent’s insurance until age 26. And it worked. More than four in 10 voters said that health care was the most important issue facing the country; that group voted for Democratic candidate over GOP one 75%-23%. “Health care was on the ballot, and health care won,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in the wake of the election.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Which sort of seems like what Trump is doing here. We lost badly in a referendum on health care in 2018. Let’s overtly re-run that fight in 2020!

Then there is Trump’s ramping-up of his rhetoric regarding the ongoing immigrant crises at the border. In just the past few days, he has floated the totally impractical idea of closing down the southern border entirely and floated the likes of arch-conservatives Kris Kobach and Ken Cuccinelli to serve as a possible immigration czar.

These moves come just weeks after Trump declared a national emergency at the border in order to take money previously approved for other purposes and re-allocate it to build his border wall. Trump made that move despite a majority of Americans consistently telling pollsters that a) they don’t believe constructing a wall will solve the immigration crises and b) they opposed his national emergency declaration. So unpopular was Trump’s national security pronouncement that the Republican-majority Senate approved a resolution of disapproval on the move, forcing Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.

Picking a fight on immigration is – and stop me if you have heard this one – a bad idea, politically speaking. In a CNN-SSRS poll conducted last month just 39% of people said they approved of how Trump was handling immigration, while 58% disapproved. And that’s a consistent finding. Trump’s approval on immigration hasn’t been higher than 41% in CNN polling since March 2017.

Politics is the art of fighting on ground favorable to you because it increases the chance of you winning. And winning is the name of the game. Trump is doing the exact opposite of that right now. Handed two issues that seemed ready-made for him to run with for weeks if not months, Trump inexplicably pivoted to two other issues on which the playing field is already tipped against him.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s because it doesn’t make sense. Trump isn’t a grand political strategist, a puppeteer pulling the strings of the media and the Democrats based on some script that only he can see. Instead, he just picks up a different puppet every day and makes it talk. There’s no rhyme or reason. No secret sauce. Just Donald Trump doing and saying whatever he’s hot on at that particular second.