A United States President’s first hundred days are incredibly important. It’s a statement of intent; the world’s first glimpse as to how the winning candidate will govern as Leader of the Free World. The term was coined by FDR in the thirties and it stuck, and in 2017 we still look to an American President’s first hundred days – they are relevant, and typically the transition phase between talk and action. Will they stick to their promises? What are their priorities? President Donald J. Trump has almost certainly experienced the most high profile first-hundred days in history. You could blame that on a number of factors – in 2017, even more so than Obama in 2009, news is everywhere – it’s increasingly accessible via social media and, more than ever, interesting. It could also be blamed on the fact that he is, I would argue, the most famous man in the western world – a celebrity, and an inflammatory one even in his private-citizen days, who went on to have immense public power. His campaign trail speeches were always entertaining, be it when he went into full stand up-comedy mode to mock Marco Rubio, or when he told the masses he could shoot someone and wouldn’t lose votes. It could be his overcoming in the polls, and the fact a year ago the overwhelming masses in the media said Trump would never be president. Nevertheless, whichever reason it may be, the eyes of the world were on the White House’s new tenant.
He meant it when he called for a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’, although his landing has been botched to say the least. The travel-ban was seemingly and attempted ‘Muslim ban’ by any other name; indeed, Team Trump disputed this label at every opportunity. The Executive Order blocked immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for a period of 90 days – Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – and suspended the U.S. taking in refugees for 120 days. Public outcry from vast swathes of Americans, and the international community, was immense. Protests followed, and the not-so-silent minority made their voices heard. The first travel ban was blocked by, as the President called him, a ‘so-called’ judge in Seattle, and called on the people to blame him if there was a terrorist attack while the order was blocked. A second travel ban, permitting entrance to permanent residents, while excluding all the same countries as the first ban except for Iraq, was issued. A humiliating moment for the President who, with this ruling, officially got tired of winning on February 5th 2017. This looked set to go the distance, with apparently more legitimate legal backing this time around. After the first, it was reported the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has to explain the Geneva Convention to Trump over the phone, in what was seemingly one further bid to confirm that we are, in-fact, somewhat tragically, post-satire. Therefore the next Executive Order looked set to be legally sound, if anything just to avoid further embarrassment, but it was blocked once again – this time by judges in Hawaii and Maryland (interestingly, like Washington, 2016-Democratically-voting states).
The long and the short of the travel ban is that no-one should be surprised by this. Outraged perhaps, disagree with him if you like, but surprise is not a justifiable feeling. It was one of his few tangible policies on the campaign trail – his supporters loved it, cheering wildly in the video linked above. He had a mandate from his supporters, and his Electoral College majority (yes, no matter how irked by it he may be, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote), and he was determined to act on it. While this particular policy looks destined to be thwarted at every turn – he has at least given it a go, and it would be no surprise if he tried it again, potentially with success.
The Obama ‘Wiretap’ Claims
A big deal. The current President accusing his predecessor of wiretapping him during a presidential election. This extraordinary claim has been widely refuted. Paul Ryan, majority leader in the House of Representatives, stated that ‘no such wiretap existed’. FBI Director James Comey, the man who announced a further investigation into Hillary’s email scandal just days before the election, stated before the Senate that he had ‘no information to support the tweets’ and that also he would have known about a court order like this. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, ‘We don’t have any evidence’. Richard Burr, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, ‘no indications’ that Trump Tower was tapped. GCHQ, the British Intelligence Agency, said that Trump’s claims were ‘nonsense, utterly ridiculous and should be ignored’ – a big claim from an organisation that usually neither confirms nor denies. Obama’s team said that these allegations were ‘completely false’. So, pretty much, this was a lie. Trump could have found this information out for real with a few phone calls, yet he insisted on going public with a falsehood (or, if you will, an alternative fact) in order to create a media storm, which he succeeded in doing – as if this had been true it would have tarnished the Obama name, regardless of personal political leanings or feelings towards the 44th President, would have been impossible to ignore. Nixon and Obama would’ve walked hand-in-hand into the history books, but no. This was just a lie, that is the bottom line, and it has shown that Trump is openly and brazenly willing to do so in order to control the mainstream-media narrative and to deflect, albeit with great success and distinction in a manner that few can muster.
REPEAL AND REPLACE! REPEAL AND REPLACE! – has been the perennial cry from the Republicans for seven years. Oh, how they’ve loathed The Affordable Care Act, or, as it’s better known, Obamacare. The replace part of their chant has always been a little hazy, their end game unclear, but the repeal remained a constant. In their defence, in terms of political ideology, Republicans are small government to Democrats’ big. They would disagree with this on a fundamental level, and that’s okay. There should be debate. There should be opposition. That is how democracy functions (although the Republicans did seem to oppose all of Obama’s legislation, which is unhealthy). Thus, the American Healthcare Act was proposed.
Long story short of the first hundred days of Trump’s administration, they rushed the bill and couldn’t rally support in Republican-held Congress, and the bill was pulled before it reached before it reached the floor. Trump even descended to the Capitol in order to use his Art of the Deal deal-making skills in order to bolster support. Trump shifted blame (…obviously…) and Paul Ryan took the hit, calling the defeat ‘disappointing’, but it was unfortunately more. It has been a key Republican policy for years, and to not even be able to rally support amongst the Republican-held congressmen and women was a bitter blow. It didn’t go far enough for some on the right of the Republican Party (the Freedom Caucus), whilst also facing opposition from congressional Democrats (…obviously…). There were reports that the bill in its current form would leave 24 million uninsured, but would save over $300 million in the federal budget. In its early days Republicans stressed they didn’t want it called ‘Trumpcare’, and would react negatively to any name with ‘care’ in the title. We will never know the actual impact, positive or negative, from Paul Ryan’s initial American Healthcare Act. Like the Travel Ban, this will undoubtedly come back around in one form or another, but this has a certain inevitability about it. It’s been Paul Ryan’s political baby in the same way Obama’s was to close Guantanamo, the latter famously failing in that regard. In a twisted way, Democrats may see this as a positive that desire doesn’t always achieve in U.S. politics. But in Trump’s first hundred days, Healthcare was not a rip-roaring success, it better resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger’s SAD Apprentice ratings.
The scandal that just won’t go away. Worse than Ross and Rachel. Will they? Won’t they? Was the Republican nominee colluding with the Russians? Wasn’t he? DRAMA! Horrifying, corruption alleging, real-life political drama that is unfortunately longer than a 23-minute episode on NBC or Comedy Central. This is a saga. It’s Star Wars (before we even begin on the 1977 film being an allegory for the USA vs. USSR… sort of). A film, which spawns a trilogy. That’s fine, there’s a lot of story to tell. But then we get a prequel trilogy, an origins tale, the ‘why’ to the main events ‘what’. Spin offs, sequels, it’s unavoidable, it’s all encompassing, and, love it or hate it, relevant.
Trump called on Russia to hack (and release) Hillary’s emails because it would be ‘interesting’ and they would be ‘rewarded by [the American] press’. The Republican presidential nominee called on a foreign power to hack a former Secretary of State’s (often classified) emails. You don’t have to leap into the void of conspiracy theories to see why people think Trump has been involved with Russia, directly calling for aid on the campaign trail. While this happened before his tenure as President, it sowed the seeds of all that was to come.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s mid-2016 campaign manager. It was reported in late March this year that he secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to aid Putin. It also came to light that he had a $10-million-a-year contract with aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, which was signed in 2006. Now while it is true that Manafort was a private citizen, and entitled to work for whomever he chooses as a right of his, yet what matters is that this is who Trump has chosen to associate himself with, and closely at that. He resigned in August in the wake of reports of his lobbying efforts overseas, notably on behalf of Ukraine’s pro-Russia party, because it was becoming a distraction, not because of his actions. Manafort is likely to come under closer scrutiny as the FBI’s investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump continues.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s initial National Security Advisor. A resignation which came less than a month into the Trump administration, due to ‘a lack of trust’. It was reported that discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took the Oath of Office; it is illegal for private citizens to engage in diplomacy in the USA. He wants to testify before the Senate regarding the Russia investigation, but only if he gets immunity. As a man once said, ‘If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?’
Rex Tillerson, the current Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon Mobil. Not really a big story post-Inaugration Day, but worthy of note that he has the Order of Friendship from Russia, and Putin, for his time as the oil CEO. It is noteworthy that Trump wants to work hand-in-hand with a man with a Russian co-operation medal.
Jeff Sessions, current Attorney General and former Senator for Alabama. It has come out since the inauguration that Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak (a recurring character by now) during the campaign, despite telling the Senate under-oath during his confirmation hearings that he had ‘no communications with the Russians’. The spin was that they didn’t talk politics, but… seriously? That seems a long shot, but is the line they’ve gone with and the line they stuck with. He has since resigned from an FBI Russia probe.
Trump himself seems unsure on whether he’s met or spoken to or had any contact with the Russian President either. One minute he has met Putin, the next he hasn’t. Various (disputed) reports have come out as to the Russian government having leverage over Trump, but all have been vehemently denied by his team. The investigation looks set to carry on for quite some time, and, findings dependent, will be discussed for decades.
The Military: Syria, Islamic State and North Korea
Undoubtedly a huge surprise to the ‘Trump’s a Russian agent’ camp and indeed the world. In the wake of Bashar Al-Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack on his own people, Trump was swayed from his non-interventionist talk on the campaign trail and fired 59 missiles at a pro-Government air base in Syria. The key phrase in his speech announcing this was his focus on the ‘beautiful little babies’ – the images across the hours of cable news that it is known Trump watches every day clearly triggered the President into action which was largely unsuccessful; there were reports that the base was up and running again within a day. This angered the Kremlin, and ties were said to be worse under Trump than Obama by those at the top. It was Trump’s first major military action as President, and as many in the U.S. said, ‘the moment be became President’. He reportedly told the Chinese President over cake, and then forgot where he sent the missiles in an interview, but for the most part reaction to the strikes in the USA was moderately positive.
The MOAB – ‘Mother of All Bombs’. Under Trump, the largest non-nuclear weapon was dropped on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, killing 90. Trump fumbled a question about whether or not he personally ordered this action, but the use of this weapon, devised in the early 00’s, was bold from a new President – it occurred not long after Trump’s strikes in Syria too, perhaps spurred on by the praise he received.
North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have long been debated, causing concern for American Presidents for a number of years. With intercontinental capabilities on the horizon, Kim Jong-Un – the youngest world leader – has been told he will be ‘brought to his senses’ by America. Both sides have led live-fire military drills and the North held parades in the fortnight leading up to the 100 day mark, flexing their muscles until the other falters – North Korea is a long term problem for the USA that will not go away and Trump’s policy on North Korea will be one of the most interesting and influential aspects of his tenure.
It’s widely known and documented that Trump works very closely with his family. His oldest three children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric, all hold senior roles in the Trump Organisation. Ivanka has historically been his favourite, even sometimes worryingly so, and so it seemed logical that at some point, once the heat around the inauguration had died down, a role would be found for her in the White House. It took just over two months for her to have an office in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She’ll have a security clearance, access to classified information, but no official title or salary. President Trump clearly didn’t care about the people’s views on, effectively, hiring his own daughter – he went and did it almost as fast as he possibly could. Even before this was confirmed, Ivanka was pictured next to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump even wielded his presidential power to chastise Nordstrom for them no longer stocking Ivanka’s clothing line, with Kellyanne Conway giving a ‘free commercial’ from the White House in an interview. This was wildly inappropriate – the President criticising a private business for what he perceived as an assault on a family member. Nordstrom insisted that they stopped stocking her products because they weren’t selling well. Ivanka’s husband, real estate developer and newspaper owner Jared Kushner, is employed as a Senior Advisor to the President.
Trump’s inner circle is small, and apparently very loyal, and he doesn’t seem to be looking to expand it any time soon. But why on Earth would he? Look where it’s got him. The highest office in the land, yet perhaps his first on the ground floor in decades.
Trump & the Press
The White House Chief Strategist is Steve Bannon – the ex-driving force behind right-wing news outlet Breitbart. You would think, given Bannon’s media background, that he would support a free press, and all that comes with it. You would think wrong. His time as, supposedly, the puppet master has led to Trump labelling particular mainstream media outlets as ‘the enemy of the American people’. It’s extraordinarily plain that Trump, even for a politician, is particularly thin-skinned. The slightest criticism from any organisation or individual leads to a ‘fake news’ label – an insult, and crutch, gifted to Trump by the outlets he now criticises. Sure, there was a fake news problem in the run up to the election last November, but such a meal was made of it that the term ‘fake news’ has become an easy line for Trump or his associates to reel off in order to discredit unfavourable press. Labelling CNN, for example, ‘fake news’ is simply unfair and untrue, as Kellyanne Conway tried to do with Anderson Cooper.
The Trump v. Press rivalry is evolving, and developing into something quite sinister. Fox News, essentially, roasted everything Obama ever did, and POTUS #44 just took it without lashing out (as he should as an elected official), going so far as to even joke about it. The President of the United States of America shouldn’t be concerned with every bit of criticism levied his way – it’s par for the course (and Trump should know, given his retreats to his luxurious Floridian golf course which have become a regular feature already – Obama played a lot too, but took a roasting for it).
The White House seeing the press as the enemy is perhaps the worst part of his Presidency thus far. There’s a great deal of left-wing hysteria around Trump’s presidency which has descended into bouts of incoherent babble and directionless anger, but the fears around his attitudes towards the press seem justified at this early stage. Autocracies can form from relationships like this. It would be great to see a POTUS 46 too, so long as their surname isn’t Trump, Kushner, Bannon, or one of the Trump inner circle (I did feel the same about having another Clinton or Bush, pre-election for the record – political dynasties are not something to be strived for, and are inherently and ironically un-American).
Trump & the People
Protests have been prominent during Trump’s first hundred days in office. In the U.S., and globally, there was the women’s march. The day after the inauguration, 21st January, thousands descended on Washington D.C. to express their fears that women’s rights would come under threat under the new administration. Their fears were justified, after the horrifying Access Hollywood tape that was leaked, and various sexist comments from the new President over the years. This march was justified and powerful. It was demeaned somewhat by some hyperbole from Madonna, but nevertheless – once distractions like this had been abstracted from the core of the protest itself, it was moving to see so many people in support for women’s rights like this. Equality between the sexes – a cause for all to rally behind.
There was also great public dissatisfaction amongst non-Trump voters as to the Travel Ban, as mentioned above.
Some of the international protests seem a little more bizarre, however. You can read Burn FM’s coverage of the Birmingham Trump Protest here. While these protests have been prominent during Trump’s first hundred days, they seem a little misguided. All the F- Trump, Dump Trump and ‘Trump Cash Me Ousside How Bow Dah?’ banners seem sort of irrelevant internationally. Arguably a more useful protest in the U.K. would’ve been to oppose the immediacy of Theresa May offering Trump a full state visit – she is after all the British Prime Minister, and something that the British people are entitled to be indignant about and oppose if they wish. I would speculate that if the protests in Britain had been specific to that, more support would’ve been gathered.
Conclusion – Have Trump’s First 100 Days Been Successful? What Do We Know Now That We Didn’t Before?
Essentially, no, but it hasn’t been the disaster forecasted by many – but then again, does that mean we have a lower bar for Trump than, for example, Obama? Almost certainly. The bar of expectation couldn’t have been lower coming in to these first hundred days. Many apparently pleasantly surprised that nukes haven’t been used yet – what a treat. Trump has been baffled as to the limits of his executive power, and for a man with no government experience before the presidency, who has acted as the sole head of a business empire for many years, he may be surprised that he cannot just speak and have it done. He hasn’t been able to force healthcare reform through congress, the wall won’t be paid for by Mexico, it’ll be paid for by the American taxpayer, he is under intense scrutiny for his campaign’s relationship with the ambiguous (and arguably cinematic) notion of ‘the Russians’ and he’s publicly warred with the mainstream media. We know now that he did seem to genuinely mean an awful lot of his headline campaign-trail policies, and is keen to see them enshrined in law. We know that his key team looks solid around him, and, barring any seismic political revelations regarding the key players, they’re there for the duration. They haven’t been the catastrophe many feared, and things like his policies on the environment, which are disagreed with by many, particularly in Western Europe, are politics, and he was elected on the backing of such commitments. We are all still here, which given comments made by POTUS 45 on the campaign trail is greatly enjoyable, but we should still hold Trump to the tough standards that Obama endured for the remainder of his time in office.