At the 100-day mark for President Donald Trump, how Americans rate his accomplishments depends on which side they were on from the start. Voters who loved Trump as a candidate say they love his performance as president. Voters who loathed him as a candidate despise him as the nation’s leader, too.
Can there be an objective analysis of his presidency so far? He’s done poorly compared with what he promised; but compared with the apocalyptic doom many feared when he won, it could have been much worse. And in some cases, his blustery tone and willingness to shake things up may have changed the game in the ways he promised.
Presidents set a tone and path for the nation, generating enthusiasm or creating discontent, bringing us together or dividing us. They define the values of the United States to the world. They work with Congress to pass legislation to advance their agenda. They staff the government with aides to offer counsel and implement policies.
So how’s Trump doing?
His biggest win has been the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He’s the kind of judge Republican presidents would nominate and the kind Trump promised, and it’s been the biggest talking point in his 100-day-mark media push. Beyond that, his results have ranged from mixed to miserable.
Laws and policies
In late October, Trump issued a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again” that was his final sales pitch to voters, specifying initiatives and legislation. With the exception of increased deportations of immigrants here illegally, he’s failed to deliver on most promises. He’s often failed to even try.
He has not proposed a plan for building the Southern border wall that was his biggest promise to supporters. He has not drafted a constitutional amendment to term-limit Congress. He has not really done anything about the North American Free Trade Agreement; in fact, in the space of hours, he flip-flopped on his vow to withdraw or renegotiate. After promising to label China a currency manipulator, he now says it is not one.
He has not introduced promised legislation on ending job flight to other nations, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, creating school choice for parents, providing child care and eldercare, increasing community safety or enacting ethics reform in Washington.
His tax-reform package, hastily introduced last week, is a back-of-the envelope stab at an idea that would increase the national debt, not the promised comprehensive plan that would help erase it. His repeal and replacement of Obamacare failed because it would have devastated health care for tens of millions of Americans. His tries at banning immigrants from terror-prone Muslim nations and ending federal funding to “sanctuary cities” haven’t survived judicial scrutiny.
Concrete governance has proved very hard for Trump, and it has been his greatest failure.
His staffing efforts have been slow in their execution and deeply uneven in their quality. The pick and quick purge of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over his dishonesty about contacts with the Russians has given credence to the scandal engulfing the administration.
The selection of Steve Bannon as a top strategist disenchanted many, and eventually Trump himself. The inner-circle elevation of daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner smacks of nepotism even as it reassures those who think the isolation of the Oval Office demands the presence of those he trusts. Trump’s top Cabinet members haven’t made huge missteps, at least those who were confirmed, but less than 10 percent of 550 appointive positions who will do the heavy lifting for those secretaries have been nominated. Trump reportedly wants to personally review each one, and his staff is vetting candidates with a loyalty test few can pass: Did they ever speak publicly against Trump?
At best, Trump’s grade on hiring is incomplete. This is an area in which he and top advisers must step it up.
The stock market is up, as are real estate values, and confidence is steady. Although the first-quarter economic growth number was just seven-tenths of a percent, unemployment is trending down, and illegal border crossings have plummeted. These are positive developments, and ones for which Trump can take some credit. But how long can he float the economy on promises?
Trump also divides and alienates. He often seems as comfortable with a misstatement as a truth, is demeaningly dismissive of people who disagree with him, picks petty fights, behaves sometimes with a alarming lack of composure and dignity, and changes stances on crucial issues on a regularly irregular basis. His Twitter habit, in a job in which none of the needed nuance can be conveyed in 140 characters, is frightening. He has attacked both the judiciary and individual judges. He is often smaller than the office and erratic in a way that scares not just Americans, but international leaders, allies and enemies. Some Americans wake up every day fearing a potential international disaster from North Korea to China to Russia to the Middle East.
With 100 days down and 1,361 to go, Trump has given his supporters the demeanor he promised, but not the accomplishments. He has given his detractors the behavior they feared, but not the devastation. And he has given both camps ample evidence to believe he can do better, or worse.