Donald Trump’s first one hundred days are up.
How does his report card look? Has he pleased or disappointed?
Has he made the first steps towards ‘making America great again’ – to borrow from his campaign slogan – or has he proved his critics right by achieving very little and generally making a hash of things?
The answer must be, to state the blindingly obvious, a little of both, since the country is divided not just on the political issues and how to resolve them, but on how it regards the Trump personas, presidential and private.
His popularity ratings have plummeted, or so I’ve read. But who cares at this early stage of his administration? Trump himself will be the last to care, as he has no doubt been telling anyone in earshot.
His support in the American heartlands may have slipped a little, but the majority of those who voted for him seem as enthusiastic for his swamp-draining agenda as they were during the campaign. Those who fumed then over the man’s politics, and over the man himself, are fuming still. It will stay that way, of course, throughout his tenure in the White House. Trump is a polarising figure of the kind who will never seek to inspire, or even encourage, a bipartisan consensus – and that, as the saying goes, is that.
Which, to be fair, is not to single him out for criticism in that regard. The Brexit referendum has divided Britain down the middle too, and divided it remains, on that and many other issues. The Conservative Party is as divided as the voters, and in normal circumstances would be exposed to a thumping loss at the forthcoming general election. But so inept and uncharismatic is the leader of the opposition party that it will probably win a thumping victory, pleasing very few in the process.
In France, the recent national elections saw off both of the mainstream political parties, both left and right, and in humiliating fashion, in favour of ‘wild-card’ candidates. One is a centrist and one on the far right, but neither has come up through the political ranks in any conventional way, and neither has a seat in the Assembly. The centrist will almost certainly win, not because he is a popular figure but because the electors either fear or loathe his opponent.
Partisanship, then, and the cult of the outsider, seem to be the political order of the day everywhere.
In my view, Trump has been and done everything that I expected him to be and do. He does not sit easily in the White House – any more than he does with me – because he has no political experience, has an ego that makes him unwilling to learn the ropes, and would rather spend his time attacking his perceived enemies than tackling the nation’s problems. Bashing the media is fair game when you haven’t met your promises.
Trump claims to have been an activist during his first one hundred days but activity is not achievement. So far, he has accomplished little.
He promised to dismantle and replace Obama-care ‘immediately’ and has produced nothing in its stead. The handling of the affair in Congress exposed the incompetence of the executive and the legislature alike. Trump is promising a second action-packed episode. That means little, because he can’t help himself. Then again, it might actually happen.
Trump signed an executive order banning entry to travellers from seven, later reduced to six, Muslim countries, and was blocked from implementing it by the courts. Rightly so, in this writer’s view, but it remains to be seen what will emerge from the differences between these two arms of governance. Some form of compromise, presumably. But Trump pledged to get away from compromises. The swamp was, by implication, built on compromises, which by Trump’s own definition were mostly sordid and self-serving.
He promised to start building a wall on the border with Mexico – at Mexico’s expense – the day after his inauguration. So far, not a metaphorical brick has been laid. And now it appears the American taxpayer will have to foot the bill, at least initially, to be paid back in some indirect form later on – whatever that might mean.
Clearly, Trump has an agenda, but he doesn’t know how to get it activated. Meanwhile, half the country lives in hope that he’ll soon learn and the other that he never will.
In foreign affairs, Trump has reversed himself on all counts.
He promised an America First policy but has intervened in the three world hot-spots: in Syria by bombing an air-base following the regime’s chemical attack on civilians; in Afghanistan by dropping a MOAB, the so-called Mother of all Bombs; in the South Pacific by sending a US Navy fleet to intimidate North Korea.
He was going to build a new constructive relationship with Putin, but now reviles him. He called China a currency manipulator and by extension a threat to the US economy, but now woos the Chinese leadership to lean on North Korea.
Clearly, Trump has no coherent foreign policy, nor does he have an underlying philosophy to guide him. The man doesn’t read books, so geo-political history is unfathomable, leaving him to make things up as he goes along, or listen to the last person he spoke to. His son-in-law may be able to restrain his more aggressive impulses – although what Jared knows about anything is unknown.
The Republican-dominated political class in Washington DC has been neither good nor bad, merely as confused as the rest of us.
The situation may improve. Equally, it could get worse. Trump may benefit from his on-the-job-training, or he may get bored with the whole business.
Which way it is likely to go defies my analytical powers. To quote the old Chinese proverb about living in interesting times is meaningless. We live in unpredictable times, led by unpredictable people.
I wish America well. I wish us all well.