I’ve always thought that the benchmark of the “First 100 Days” was rather arbitrary, but the media is all abuzz about President Trump’s first 100, in large part because they want to beat him about the head with what he’s failed to accomplish thus far, but also because Donald Trump campaigned on a fairly ambitious agenda of what he would get done during his first 100 days.
Judging The Performance
Thus far, President Trump has done some good things, some bad things, and some dumb things…about what you’d expect from a party outsider with more rough edges than a pack of double-sided sandpaper. Trump jumped in with both feet on inauguration day, and after only 100 days, the Trump presidency has been anything but dull.
President Trump decided to keep his Android phone, and keep up his “Twitter diplomacy,” continuing his trend of shooting off inflammatory tweets…not quite the type of behavior one wants to see from the President of the United States.
For the President, keeping an unsecured phone is a definite liability. Android is a great platform for most everyday people, and can be made plenty secure enough for most people, but in the day and age of cyber-warfare among nation-states, it isn’t a very comforting to know that a foreign power could potentially hack the President’s phone, getting live video & audio whenever they please. This was, after all, one of the biggest reasons why Hillary Clinton’s use of personal mobile devices when she was Secretary of State was so controversial.
We can only hope that his advisers have convinced President Trump to keep his personal phone away from the Oval Office, as well as out of any sensitive meetings. He reportedly isn’t using his old Android phone for any official business, but does still use it to post on Twitter.
So far, President Trump has governed mostly by Executive Order…and while most of those EOs have been okay legally (a couple, most notably the one on immigration restrictions, or the so-called “Muslim ban,” are tied up in court battles), what’s at issue isn’t as much about the nature of President Trump’s executive orders as it is how he seems to want to govern.
One of the problems with executive orders is that they aren’t really law – their purpose is to define how the Executive Branch will enforce the laws passed by Congress. The problem with ruling via executive orders is that it isn’t all that difficult for the president to overstep his bounds, and start releasing legally questionable orders, such as President Obama’s executive amnesty. These can cause distractions, tying up the administration in court battles and Congressional hearings.
The other downside is that any policy implemented by executive order can be undone by executive order. A lot of President Trump’s EOs thus far have been undoing policies of the Obama administration, but some of his other policies, such as requiring the elimination of two regulations for every new regulation implemented, can be undone with the stroke of a pen by the next president.
Like his predecessor, President Trump has complained about how difficult it is to get things done in Washington. He has praised dictators like Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte (the latter of whom he has invited to visit the White House), due to their ability to “get things done.” But the slow-moving nature of American Republicanism is one of the most important backstops to our freedom – it prevents those with dictatorial ambitions from getting too powerful. While it sometimes makes it more difficult than we’d like to undo parts of the government that we don’t want to keep around, it’s also the reason why we haven’t gone full-out Soviet (yet).
What Legislative Agenda?
The other downside to President Trump’s seeming desire to govern by executive fiat is that he hasn’t had much in the way of a legislative agenda thus far. In fact, his ONLY major legislative push thus far was an utter failure, due in large part to the fact that he didn’t seem to care all that much about actually living up to the “repeal and replace” that he’d promised on the campaign trail…and while the newly-revised health care bill seems to have more of a chance at passing than the previous iteration, it still doesn’t repeal Obamacare.
Trump’s legislative record doesn’t improve any when you throw in the spending deal that just passed in Congress. There is additional military & border spending, which is something President Trump had pushed for, but other than that, it could have been put together by the Democrat Central Committee. Most notably, there is NO funding for a border wall, which means that one of the president’s main agenda items is dead at least until September, when Congress is set to vote on its next spending bill.
The big question (for now) on the legislative front is, how will the president’s tax reform proposal hold up as it moves through Congress? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Given the way President Obama debased our nation on the world stage for 8 years, this issue isn’t quite as cut-and-dried as maybe it should be, but things are definitely heating up internationally.
First, there’s the report that we’re dropping so many bombs we may start running out soon.
Then, there’s the president’s confrontation in Syria. While the chemical attack there was horrific, a horrific attack that poses no threat to the United States does not give the President the authority to retaliate without Congressional approval. We seem to be in an era where “war” only means deploying troops…but the President can have the military drop as many bombs as he wants, no Congressional approval needed. The fact that the airfield that was bombed “to prevent Assad from launching more chemical attacks” was back up & running just a few hours after it was bombed just adds insult to injury.
And finally, there’s North Korea. Now, since President Clinton basically gave gave North Korea nukes, it’s been a very complicated situation…and now, it’s one that could end up in a shooting war. I don’t think we need to wait around for Kim Jong Un to actually be able to drop nukes on Hawaii or on the continent, but it’s a situation that definitely requires delicate handling, lest we start a world war with an ill-equipped West on one side, and China and Russia on the other.
The #1 biggest victory for President Trump in his first 100 days is the nomination and confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. With the death of Justice Scalia, getting a conservative justice on the Court was one issue that drew many people to vote for Donald Trump who may not have cared for him all that much in the run-up to the election…and on this issue, at least, Trump delivered.
The SCOTUS rumor mill is churning up again, with rumors that Justice Kennedy could be retiring sometime this summer…and it’s said that if Kennedy retires, Trump will be going back to his original list of Constitutionalist judges to fill the vacancy.
If that pans out, it will be a huge win.
Peace Through Strength?
While military action without Congressional approval is definitely a bad thing, there are some positive ramifications of President Trump’s tough foreign policy actions. Under President Obama’s weak foreign policy, we basically fought a shadow war, using drone strikes and a few token special ops to make it look like Obama was doing something to combat ISIS. But between the endless apology tours, the Arab Spring, and and the bowing to every foreign leader he ever met, President Obama severely diminished America’s influence around the world…and while shifting the US to less interventionist policies is not necessarily a bad thing, allowing bad actors & enemies of freedom like Russia, China, and Iran to step up & fill the vacuum makes it a bad thing.
It will take some time to undo the damage done by the Obama administration over the past eight years, but it looks like President Trump’s tougher stance may already be having some positive effects. While China had previously been silent on North Korea’s aggression, they recently told Kim Jong Un to cut it out, or face sanctions. Russia isn’t backing down, but there are signs that Putin may be less confrontational toward the West…but only time will tell. With a guy like Putin, he’s more likely to hunker down just a bit & play the waiting game, hoping for a more Obama-esque US president next time around.
One of President Trump’s first and most positive actions as president was to impose a 5-year ban on lobbying the US governmen and a lifetime ban on lobbying foreign governmentst by White House officials. This kind of lobbying has been a major problem for decades, and Trump’s EO putting a stop to it (for his administration, at least) is definitely a good thing.
Building The Economy
President Trump signed off on two new pipeline deals, Keystone and Dakota Access, both of which had stalled under President Obama. He’s placed a lot of emphasis on economic growth, and while some of his emphasis hasn’t been entirely positive, such as bullying private businesses at the slightest hint that they might be moving operations out of the US. Some of his other economic policies are a bit questionable, such as massive tariffs, but hopefully some of his other policies, such as his tax plan, will get the US economy moving onward and upward…and given time, his push to reduce regulations should end up being a HUGE boon to the economy, reducing red tape and helping companies to increase innovation and expansion.
The Letter Grade
Overall, I would give President Trump a solid C on his first 100 days. He’s definitely done some good things, but there have been some not-so-good things in the mix as well, and his continued penchant for irresponsible tweeting isn’t good, no matter how you spin it. As far as the agenda he laid out for his first 100 days, he really hasn’t gotten a lot of it done, and while the blame for that can’t be laid entirely at his feet, he went in with some pretty big boasts (and ripped everyone else for being “all talk, no action”). The big question moving forward is, will President Trump be able to get any of his big-ticket agenda items pushed through Congress? Executive orders will only go so far…