Trump's first 100 days

Every person, not matter how qualified or experienced, will be faced with a tremendous learning curve when taking on the job of President of the United States. It’s a role where you’re tasked with the responsibility of governing the largest economy in the world, with interests in every continent and an expectation to be able to solve nearly all the ills presented to you. But when you consider how little experience this particular President had upon assuming office, the challenge can be equated to trying to win a marathon after spending the previous two months preparing by eating Cheetos and watching the entire box-set of Friends. Indeed, this lack of experience was part of his core appeal during the two years of campaigning that came before. His learning curve was inevitably going to be very steep indeed.

                100 Days is an arbitrary point at which to judge how well a President is doing. If FDR, the first one to really emphasise this marker, had chosen 200 days, then that well could still be the point that the media choose to analyse to death at the beginning of the tenure. Trump is approaching this milestone with his usual tactics of confusion and contradiction. He has mentioned numerous times that he doesn’t care for the tradition, that it’s just Fake News spin. But if he really believed that, would the White House have scheduled a list of 100 Days briefings; 100 Days receptions; and a 100 Days website? This is an opportunity to judge the most unusual American President based on the first hurdle of his term.

                In the arena of domestic policy, Trump has one large success and one large failure. The success was in appointing Judge Neil Gorsuch to the bench of the Supreme Court. The Republicans had to change the rules of the Senate to get past the refusal of the Democrats to compromise on his nomination (they were still hurting over the treatment of President Obama’s pick in 2016). This is no small victory; Judge Gorsuch will now serve for decades and the decisions he is to make will undoubtedly weigh heavy on the future of American politics. The significant loss was in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Trump and the Republicans made overturning Obamacare one of the pinnacles of their campaign, but when they tried to make replacing it their first major act of policy in Congress, it was blocked by the most conservative members of their party. This was a huge blow to Trump and he will likely try to tackle the issue again before the mid-term elections of 2018.

 President Donald Trump introducing Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee at the White House, January 2017 | Photo by the Whitehouse

President Donald Trump introducing Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee at the White House, January 2017 | Photo by the Whitehouse

                Given race-baiting and ‘America First’ were core parts of his campaign, it was no surprise that immigration was an immediate priority for the administration. In order to make changes to the standing orders of border control and police forces, and in his attempts to enact his ‘Muslim Ban’, Trump used his power to enact 'Executive Orders’, essentially decrees that the President can make without needing Congressional approval. This repulsive Muslim Ban was struck down, twice, by Federal judges, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional to target people based solely on their religion. But the reforms brought in to the immigration enforcement agencies appear to have had the desired effect. Although sourcing reliable information on this is incredibly difficult, reports from the border are that illegal immigration has dropped dramatically since Trump has taken office. Whether this can be credited to either the actions or the rhetoric of the President, is impossible to determine.

 Photo by  Alisdare Hickson

                Foreign policy has proved just as eventful for the newly anointed Commander-in-Chief. Many of the leaders of the world’s nations have visited the White House and had to endure awkward meetings with a President who appeared to only be aware of the various talking points they raised once they raised them. Prime Minster Theresa May got him to confirm US commitment to NATO and Taoiseach Enda Kenny had him acknowledge the positive impact of immigration, but Chancellor Angela Merkel was snubbed for a handshake and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull received a berating over the phone. Trump has taken a tangent from his campaign rhetoric of American isolationism and stepped up the US military activities in the Middle-East and Afghanistan. Indeed, he has performed a complete 180 in his policy towards the Syrian conflict by ordering a strike on government airfields after Assad’s forces used deadly chemical weapons on civilians. And the situation in North Korea continues to escalate with what appears a collision of Strong Man archetypes in the guises of Kim and Trump.

                All in all, these first 100 Days have proven as bewildering, infuriating and exciting as we should have expected. It doesn't help to call Trump 'stupid'. He did build a media empire, come back from a number of business crashes and, ultimately, won the American Presidency. But he does appear to be utterly intellectually incurious. He doesn't read beyond his three morning newspapers and print-outs from websites like Breitbart and demands that memos and policy documents be presented to him in the form of bullet points or graphs. He consumes massive amounts of cable-news, which is essentially just repetitive, low-information garbage. Beyond the meetings he must have as President, it appears he doesn't seek additional advice from outsiders and relies entirely on his family and a few close advisors (many of whom cycle in and out of favour).

 Photo by  Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

                Even though he doesn't admit mistakes, is it possible that he is still learning from them? There is a definite decrease in the number of bonkers tweets since the incident in mid-March when he accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. This would appear to fit into the narrative that advisors behind the scenes are working to ratchet down the Tweeter-in-Chief's usual tactics of screaming and shouting, hoping to steer him more in the direction of a traditional President. That will never happen. He is still the same man who ran a toxic campaign, boasted about grabbing women by their genitals and made a pact with the White-supremacists of the alt-right.

                100 Days has passed, and unless this rollercoaster ride of a political narrative gives us an abrupt end to his first term, we have at least 1360 more days to go.