There is an old joke that has lots of truth in it and still provides a smile at the end. See if this one rings a bell.

A new president enters the oval office. Like most on their first day there is some confusion, not only about where everything is but what to do first. After some misdirection the president perseveres and gets things rolling with his new administration. At about the six-month mark he runs into trouble and begins to lose control. No matter what, he can’t regain his momentum. Finally, in desperation he decides to consult his predecessor, so he calls the former president who is pleased to help him.

After some conversation the former president suggests that he look in the bottom drawer to the far left in his desk. When he opens that drawer he finds three envelopes, numbered one, two, and three. A note attached says, in case of trouble open envelope number one. He opens it and it says, simply, “Blame your predecessor.” So he thinks about how best to do that and shortly, every issue, every problem has the same answer, it is caused by something done by his predecessor.

That worked for a while. About a year later he was again having major difficulty with the problems of the country so, remembering the envelopes in the lower drawer, he takes out the second envelope, opens it, and finds the word, “Reorganize.” So, he calls in his staff, terminates some, and makes new assignments to others. Before long there was confusion about who to approach about their concerns or how to get a hearing for their new ideas.

Like the “blame your predecessor” advice, reorganizing his staff worked pretty well for a while. About a year later there was again great turmoil. Almost at the end of his rope he again remembered the envelopes in the drawer. He thought to himself that the other two bits of advice had gotten him through some difficult times and perhaps there was one more good diversionary tactic left in the third envelope.

When he opened it he sat dejected at his desk for a very long time. There on the desk was the last sheet of paper with the words plainly written, “Prepare three envelopes.”

I will let you decide whether or not President Barack Obama left three envelopes in the desk for his successor. Blaming your predecessor and reorganizing the White House staff seem to be remedies already explored in this presidency. One has to wonder what is next.

President Donald Trump is not the first president to have difficulty getting his administration moving forward toward accomplishing the goals set during his campaign. Jimmy Carter had a very difficult first year in office as did Bill Clinton. President Carter never did seem to recover. Clinton, dubbed the come-back kid, was back on his feet and moving forward by the beginning of his second year and won a second term by a significant margin.

Washington pundits have said this is the least productive six-month period of any president’s administration in modern times. Built on top of the worst “gridlock” years of the U.S. Congress in anyone’s memory, one might expect it would be difficult to get the wheels rolling again. So far, the one accomplishment of this new administration, other than reversing some of the Obama Administration’s Executive Orders, is placing a new Justice on the Supreme Court.

Of the major campaign promises the possibility of repealing Obamacare failed and is now history. Still sitting in the wings are tax cuts, renewing our infrastructure, building the wall, forcing illegal aliens out of the country, and a series of other less formidable goals. Inauguration Day in January was such a day of possibilities, one laments losing that momentum and hopes it can be rekindled. On that major question the jury is still out.

— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states. Books by Hopkins currently available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble include “Journey to Gettysburg” and “The Wounds of War,” both Civil War-era novels, and “The World As It Was When Jesus Came.” Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.