WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump campaigned successfully on promises to immediately upend how Washington, D.C., operates.
He has governed these past 100 days on a learning curve, finding that delivering in the White House is much more difficult than delivering on the stump.
“I never realized how big it was . . . You know, the orders are so massive,” he told The Associated Press last week of the presidency. “This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world.”
While he has notched some wins, Trump suffered setbacks on signature pledges to repeal Obamacare and fund a border wall. He also reversed or revised several stances he took during the campaign.
“Governing is different,” said Meena Bose, Hofstra University executive dean of government, public policy and international affairs. “It’s not a spin game. It’s not just winning a communications war. It’s about getting results.”
Trump’s 100th day occurs tomorrow and his biggest achievement has been the April 7 confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch. The Senate Republicans invoked a so-called nuclear option to overcome a Democratic filibuster and restore the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
The president also signed executive orders rolling back environmental regulations to improve the economic climate for businesses.
Then, on Wednesday, he released an outline of his promised plan to overhaul the tax code. It was unveiled without details and in advance of what will be a drawn-out battle in Congress.
The legislative branch played a role in the most significant defeats of Trump’s young presidency.
His biggest was the yanking of a bill intended to repeal and replace Obamacare, a task he vowed during the campaign to immediately accomplish. Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress, Trump’s business negotiations skills took a hit because he failed to strike a deal between the conservative and moderate factions of his own party. House Republicans continue to try to hash out a compromise.
Also stalled is the funding process for the wall Trump has long vowed for the southern border to stem the flow of drugs and immigrants arriving illegally from or through Mexico.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told CNN earlier this week the president would sign off on a stopgap funding package to avert a government shutdown even if it didn’t include starter funds for construction of a wall. Trump campaign rally crowds had seized on the applause line that Mexico would foot the bill, but the administration has added an asterisk to when and how.
Trump tweeted earlier this week that U.S. taxpayers will be reimbursed “eventually . . . in some form.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told ABC News, “I don’t expect the Mexican government to appropriate money for it, but there are ways that we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue for it.”
Meanwhile, the president has switched stances on several policies.
When it comes to foreign relations, the changes came amid events such as Syria’s chemical weapons attack on civilians and continued North Korean ballistic missile testing.
Trump had tweeted in years past the United States shouldn’t intervene in the Syrian civil war and campaigned to put “America first.” But earlier this month he ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops after viewing images of Syrian children suffering after a poison-gas attack.
Separately, Trump is confronting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions, a threat he said complicates the calling out of China’s unfair economic practices. He repeatedly lambasted China on the campaign trail, vowing to label the country as a currency manipulator on Day One in office.
“Things change,” Trump told The Associated Press, citing a good meeting and friendship with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. “For me to call him a currency manipulator and then say, ‘By the way, I’d like you to solve the North Korean problem’ doesn’t work.”
After hosting North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said he no longer believes NATO is “obsolete.”
He told the AP he initially criticized the alliance when he was still a businessman “not knowing much about NATO. Now I know a lot about NATO.”
He has held steady, however, on pressuring NATO on prioritizing the fight on terrorism and increased member funding.
Trump has downplayed expectations at the 100-day mark — which, after all, is just a fraction of his four-year term. “It’s not quite as big as they say, but we have really laid a foundation,” he said yesterday.
David Birdsell, Baruch College dean of public affairs, said 100 days is too soon to assess how well Trump fulfills his promises and pointed to illegal immigration as among issues on which he has been consistent.
“Trump came into office almost certainly more ignorant of the actual demands of the presidency than his predecessors were,” Birdsell said.
A campaign long on attitude and short on specifics also may help him when it comes to “the perception among his base about what constitutes a violated promise,” Birdsell said.
Indeed, though Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Trump’s overall job approval rating at 42 percent, the lowest recorded at this point of any presidency since Dwight Eisenhower’s, it also revealed that 96 percent of those who voted for him said they would do it again.
Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said he is satisfied with the president’s performance. “I’ve always felt that a lot of his views are based on impulse or on gut instinct,” he said. “His views may be a little different, but his style is the same.”
Another Trump campaign surrogate, Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, said the president has delivered simply by restoring confidence among Americans. LaValle applauded Trump’s “raw leadership” in making deals with individual companies such as Carrier to save jobs and driving down the number of illegal border crossings.
It is Capitol Hill that stands in the way of even more progress, LaValle argued.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has maintained that Trump’s talk hasn’t matched his walk when it comes to the middle-class interests, citing lack of legislation to create jobs and invest $1 billion in infrastructure.
“In the first 100 days, so many of the promises the president made to working families during the campaign have either been broken outright or remain unfulfilled,” Schumer said.