In the summer of 2009, traveling diagonally across Colorado on highways large, small and barely maneuverable, brand-new "Project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" signs dotted the horizon.
Some of those roads stretched on for miles with scant evidence of any fresh or upcoming construction projects.
The signs were a marketing move by the Obama administration to revive its stimulus sales job to a weary public, by providing a visible platform to highlight where the jobs would be from stimulus-funded projects.
It was an effort that fell flat, as it became evident few new jobs existed, not in the numbers the administration projected and boasted.
The "shovel-ready" projects were really projects in state budgets meant for bigger cities, not smaller towns like Leadville, Colo., that never received a dime, despite their economic needs.
The signs were not just here in Colorado; they flanked roads across the country, costing state transportation budgets $2,000 dollars a pop just to make them.
The Stimulus Act failed for a number of reasons, first and foremost by selling a false narrative initially, then by failing to stand behind it.
The stimulus did patch state budgets and kept teachers employed, but the jobs market remained weak for years; millions of people dropped out of it as a result, and many of the jobs created were retail and service, forcing people to work two of them to make ends meet.
In that, the stimulus was a failure.
The first thing you do as president matters a lot. Just ask Barack Obama.
His decision in 2009 to allow Democratic majorities in Congress to have total control over writing the infrastructure bill (which eventually morphed into a stimulus bill) set his administration off on a very partisan footing, one from which it never was able to step back.
It was an outsourcing decision that ultimately snowballed into a political "shellacking," as Obama's described it, in the midterm elections one year later.
President Trump right now is poised to make a similar critical decision on healthcare reform. Is he hands-on in that process? Or does he hand it off to the House to make the sausage? And if the latter, what will be the downstream consequences for his administration if he takes the same route Obama chose on the stimulus?
Obama's stimulus bill was handled poorly from the beginning, from the messaging (create millions of new jobs for shovel-ready projects) to the execution and distribution of the money (think Solyndra, or filling in state budgets instead of creating new jobs).
It all ultimately ended with Republicans coining the simple but effective "Where are the jobs?" slogan that helped them win the midterms — not because it was a particularly clever phrase, but because the stimulus package did very little to create the jobs that Democrats claimed it would.
Which begs the question: Is Trump willing to outsource the gutting and replacement of Obamacare to Congress in the same manner?
Will he place one of the fundamental reasons that he was elected into the hands of the GOP congressional majority, with all of its egos, factions and frictions? Many of its members either want control for the sake of control, or are looking for a reason to go on cable television to stomp their feet when they can't get their way.
If Trump gets in there and starts massaging the process, he could pretty much do whatever he wants with this bill. Why? Because he is golden among Republican primary voters.
In other words, he can make House Republicans do whatever he wants on this subject; it's not something that is going to last forever, and that power is not without limit.
With foreign affairs, for instance, he could not wield the same power. But with Obamacare, he can: If he says "let's repeal" or "this is good," then that is what is going to happen.
If he says "this is not repeal" or "this is not good enough," House Republicans will be quaking in their boots because they know he has sway with primary voters right now.
Or, at least, for the time being.
The same does not hold true for, say, infrastructure projects. House Republicans secretly want him to force the infrastructure projects to happen; even if they don't like its budget-busting aspect, they still most definitely want to go cut the ribbon on brand new highways in their districts.
Yes, there would be a handful who might make noise, but they're going to get out-voted because there's a reason we have a bridge to nowhere: Politicians like to cut ribbons.
Trump has proven, up to this point, to be a very different political cat. He likes to dig in and get his hands dirty, to make his mark. He showed that he intends to be a player on the bill (which goes to committee this week) by his White House sit-down with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as well as the House and Senate leadership.
He appears ready to make the next healthcare program sufficiently conservative for Republican base voters while causing the least disruption, especially among the House's prickly Freedom Caucus members, who love to run to the nearest microphone whenever they don't get their way.
Trump is the only person who, for maximum impact, could go into a Freedom Caucus member's House district and say, "By God, Jim Jordan, you have to vote for this" — and Jim Jordan would vote for it.
If Trump wades into this mess called Obamacare, he could immediately end a Republican civil war before it starts.
If he doesn't, the next healthcare bill could end up like one of those stimulus signs that once flanked highways along with hundreds of orange cones, none of which ever employed anyone new or fixed any roads.
Salena Zito is a columnist for the Washington Examiner.