A hard act to follow
By Roger Childs
The first hundred days has been used since 1933, as a benchmark for how a new president is doing. Franklin Roosevelt took office that year in the midst of the Great Depression.
It was time of massive social and economic problems, and from 8 March to 16 June the President and Congress set up what became known as the New Deal with a raft of positive legislation covering everything from saving the banks and subsidising farmers, to providing youth employment and building new dams.
Donald Trump was keen to do something comparable to the great FDR, and set in motion a programme to put America First and Make America Great Again.
He had made plenty of promises on the campaign trail, but could he carry them out?
Not off to a good start
Trump realized that the way to make things happen was through executive orders (EOs).
Fundamentally EOs are ways of speeding up administering the laws of the land, and allow the president to implement pet projects, carry out foreign policy or get around opposition from Congress. However, they can’t happen if they go against the constitution, or if they require legislation which has to be passed by Congress.
One of Trump’s first acts was to declare a ban on Muslim immigrants from six Middle Eastern countries. However, a number of judges ruled that this policy was unconstitutional and acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, also rejected the EO, saying it was unjust. She was quickly sacked for betraying the justice system.
Not a good start for the new administration, as regardless of firing Yates, the ban didn’t go ahead in its original form.
Keen to turn back the Obama clock
There was a flurry of EOs as Trump sought to carry out the campaign promises and reverse many of the policies instituted by the previous administration.
The Dakota Access Pipeline construction was resumed; some environmental restrictions on mining and industry were rescinded and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was thrown on the scrapheap.
However two of the big ones have stalled. The claim that the Obama Administration had been lax on security on the southern border, was going to be dealt with by building a wall. And of course the Mexican government was going to pay for it. The Mexicans said “no way”, and Americans companies who showed an interest in the construction received plenty of adverse publicity and even death threats.
Trump’s request that Congress set asides billions to pay for it, was not greeted warmly and there is currently an impasse.
Ditching Obama’s historic Affordable Healthcare Act which added 20 million Americans to the national medical insurance system, was to be the signature legislative achievement of the first 100 days. All Republican politicians were united in wanting to see this happen.
However, despite Republican majorities in the House and Senate, the proposed replacement bill didn’t fly and, because it was so unpopular, was withdrawn without even being voted on. So Trump ended his 100 days with no legislation passed.
The new president has been a polarising figure for many reasons. His scepticism over climate change and consequent roll-back of environmental protection; his choice of ill-qualified billionaire friends for cabinet posts; his desire to ban potential Muslim immigrants and refugees coming to the US, and his propagation of “fake news” on various issues, has lead to tens of thousands marching in the streets.
Anything on the plus side?
His one solid victory has been to get the conservative majority on the Supreme Court reinstated. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch is probably the high point for Trump in the first 100 days. (However, this “achievement” should not have happened, as the Republican-dominated Congress would not allow President Obama to have his recommendation for the vacant position approved this time last year.)
Trump has hosted visits from many foreign leaders such as Theresa May, Justin Trudeau Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu. But he has not been on any overseas trips himself: perhaps a good example of putting America First: let them come to me!
He has promoted the idea of Buy American, Hire American; has laid out a plan for massive spending on infrastructure and spelled out some tax cut ideas. The latter would benefit the rich, like himself and his family, as well as businesses. However, it is dubious that these cuts would result in any significant economic growth and trickle-down benefits for the middle and lower classes.
His confrontation with North Korea is seen by some as being positive, but there are major worries about possible outcomes because of the nuclear weapons both sides possess.
During the transition and the subsequent settling down period in the White House there have been issues and casualties. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager in the presidential race was an early defection, and the resignation of National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn was embarrassing.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer has been a disaster, with an appalling record of dealing with the media. He will be forever remembered for the phrase alternative facts, and has produced plenty of his own. He ever compared Hitler favourably with al-Assad, claiming that the former, didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.
There has also been a battle to get the president’s ear, between media specialists like Steve Bannon, and the Trump family.
Donald’s son-in-law, real estate mogul, Jared Kushner seems to be winning.
Not a great first hundred days for President Trump, might just rate a D- on the report card.
In the meantime the cartoonists will continue to have a field day.