This week’s guest columnist is an operations officer at Leeds Beckett University. She previously worked on Barack Obama’s campaign during the 2012 USA presidential election
The concept of judging a president by their first 100 days in office began with Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected at the height of the Great Depression amid a shattered economy.
Despite unfavourable conditions, in just 100 days, Roosevelt passed 15 bills through Congress which led to a stabilisation of the banks, reduced the numbers of Americans queuing on a breadline, and introduced the reforms which eventually ended the troublesome Prohibition era.
Roosevelt’s remarkable first 100 days has set the benchmark for every American president since, with all of them racing to be seen as decisive and effective.
President Trump is no different to his predecessors, with his team having reportedly held meetings solely to discuss how they plan to successfully frame their own first 100 days.
Of course, Trump himself has told reporters that has enjoyed “one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the Presidency.” Really? Roosevelt’s stellar record looks pretty safe to me.
However, it is fair to admit that Trump has had some early victories. Quickly electing a young conservative judge to the Supreme Court is a good win, especially as Obama couldn’t fill the vacant seat. Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a key Obama legacy, will also be claimed as a ‘victory’ by Team Trump.
Clearly, such victories were in Trump’s mind when he gives us his confident evaluation of his performance, conveniently forgetting that he hasn’t yet passed a single significant bill through Congress.
As predicted, Trump is a President with few friends in the Senate or the House, and so we see that his first 100 days have been characterised by his withdrawal from agreements and removing regulations for business. This lazy approach to government doesn’t require anyone to be ‘onside’ to get things done. In reality, the ‘wins’ such as the TPP withdrawal, the reversal of the Clean Power Plan, and the reduction of funding for National Parks, to name a few, are all Trump taking pot shots at easy targets from the comfort of his Mar-a-Lago sun lounger.
While the administration may be happy about the quick wins, they cannot deregulate, delay and defund for the next four years if the objective is to deliver on his election promises. His first 100 days have shown Americans that his attempts to draft new legislation have been a failure.
His withdrawal of the Obamacare replacement plan, and the failure of his selective travel ban, are painful reminders that Trump is new to Washington and making deals in DC isn’t the same as ‘closing in California’.
Trump, and his inexperienced administration, have wildly underestimated the difficultly of negotiating both domestic and foreign policy. Comments he made after meeting with China’s President, to discuss North Korea, show that Trump himself acknowledges that he has underestimated how difficult it is to be a world leader. “After listening for 10 minutes, I realised it’s not so easy,” he told reporters. Similar comments were made at a press briefing following his failed healthcare bill.
Trump has flip-flopped on some major issues such as Syria, Nato, China, and the US’s relationship with Russia. It might be funny, if it wasn’t so serious.
Whether one agrees with Trump or not, it is clear that if he is to succeed in his plan to ‘make America great again’ he has to gain support to govern. He needs to seek experienced help to produce new, sound domestic policy, and steer America through very troubled foreign policy waters.
He must stop occupying his time with easy withdrawals and reversals of Obama-era policies and, as we say in Yorkshire, “get his finger out” to make some real progress in the US and with its allies.