100 days of President Trump

It feels much longer, doesn’t it? He seems to have been in our face for eons. Of course he has been. As he relentlessly plied his way from rank outsider to winner of the presidential race, there never has been a candidate in recent history that has been thrust at us so disturbingly for so long. There has never been a presidential runner that has attracted so much attention.

He tells us often: “I won”. We know we are stuck with him for four years, maybe longer, unless something catastrophic overtakes him. 

Why should we who live in the Lucky Country care? We care because he occupies the most dominant position in the world: ‘Commander in Chief’ of the most powerful nation on earth, both militarily and economically. We care because the curbs on his enormous power seem too limited for someone like him. We fear what his decisions might mean for us, indeed the whole world.

So how has he performed in his first 100 days as President of the United States of America? 

There have been countless commentaries from the ‘experts’. I won’t repeat them here. If you’re inclined to read them, you’ll find some of them here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.  

For what it’s worth, this commentary is by an ordinary Aussie, a retired medical academic with no political affiliations, who has been following politics closely for the last ten years.

Where should I start?

Much of what Trump has said and done seems inexplicable, at times bizarre, sometimes ridiculous. A glimpse at his personality might explain the Trump we have come to know all too well.

It’s not a secret that Donald John Trump is narcissistic and a megalomaniac. He is arrogant, bellicose and belligerent. He relishes power. He craves the capacity to make decisions and have them carried out. He is accustomed to giving orders and exercising authority (‘You’re fired’ is a favourite expression). He enjoys being in control, delights in being successful, and takes pleasure in making money, expanding his territory, and advancing his Trump Empire. For Trump, winning is everything. Just as importantly, Trump craves recognition, even adulation, for what he has accomplished, or believes he has.

In the public domain, he has sought and enjoyed fame, prestige, and admiration for many years. His TV reality show is a perfect forum for him to attract attention, respect, esteem, even veneration. He is billed as a star in his show The Apprentice, which by all accounts is successful.

As well, he has prospered in the world of real estate and has many ‘Trump Towers’ around the world to show for his success. He is a multi-billionaire, although we know little of his financial status and the tax he pays, a carefully guarded secret.

You may think that a reality TV star and successful businessman could be well placed to govern the mightiest nation on the planet. That might have been the case had it not been for his personality traits.

As President, Trump expects the same adulation to which he is accustomed in the business and TV world. It is to him a source of great disappointment, frustration, and at times anger that he has not received the praise he believes he richly deserves.

I could go back through the campaign period to give examples, but let’s stick to his first hundred days.

From the day of inauguration he was at odds with the media. His claim that the crowds were the greatest in history was quickly refuted by photos showing Obama’s crowd was much bigger. Not satisfied with objective evidence, he claimed that the photos were ‘fake’, and Kellyanne Conway presented her now infamous ‘alternative facts’ to ‘verify’ Trump’s claim.

This exemplified a pattern of behaviour in Trump. Facts, evidence and reports he did not like were condemned as ‘fake news’, and the media was roundly condemned as unfair, untruthful, even corrupt for promulgating them. The concept of the media holding politicians, even the President, to account for truthfulness is anathema to Trump. Has there ever been a politician who has so frequently and vigorously lampooned the ‘failing’ media for its reporting?

Even as his 100 days approached, he preemptively condemned the media in one of his omnipresent tweets, claiming that it would ‘kill’ his achievements, and at his anniversary rally in Pennsylvania he reinforced this with: “The media should be given "a big, fat, failing grade" over their coverage of my achievements during my first 100 days.

The media obliged by ‘killing’ Trump as he expected. The Guardian described Trump’s early tenure as “100 days of failure”, “a disaster for American democracy”, and referred to the President as a “megalomaniac” and a “serial liar”. If you think this is too harsh, read the catalogue of lies exposed through fact checking by The New York Times in an article: Fact-Checking President Trump Through His First 100 Days.

My first conclusion then is that in his first 100 days his deeply flawed personality has led him into serious error.

He has wrongly accusing the media for doing what it is expected to do: truthfully and accurately report, appraise, and comment on political decisions and actions. He has been angered that the media has not festooned his presidency with praise and admiration for what little he has done, even for flamboyantly signing executive orders, so far his most noticeable activity.

Another personality flaw is his flagrant disregard for facts, figures and evidence. It has been documented that he reads little, and is impatient with his daily briefings from his professional staff on international and domestic matters. He says he is bored with the briefings, does not need to hear them over and again, because he is ‘very smart’. He is said to have a dangerous paucity of background knowledge on a raft of domestic and international matters, which understandably curtails and perverts his thinking and decision-making. He needs all the information and advice he can get, and the capacity and motivation to absorb it, yet eschews it. Accustomed to making business decisions, he believes that this skill transfers seamlessly into governance of a mighty nation. He’s wrong, but he doesn’t know it.

So my next conclusion is that in Trump we have a dangerously ignorant man who feels little need to read, to seek advice, and to learn. His ignorance on matters of science, and in particular his hazardous ignorance about global warming were addressed in The face of willful ignorance.

His ignorance extends to domestic matters, trade, and international diplomacy. He scarcely knows how the Congress and Senate work, even as he vows to ‘drain the Washington swamp’. His ignorance and naiveté is exemplified in his recent astonishing concession: “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

His bungling in presenting and attempting to have passed his substitute for Obama’s Affordable Care Act demonstrated his ineptitude and ignorance about the processes of parliamentary procedure, and the roadblocks that arise, sometimes surprisingly.

He had little idea of how the ultra-conservative ‘House Freedom Caucus’ would frustrate and eventually block ‘House Republican Bill 1275’ that carries the flamboyant name: the ‘World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017’. He was not able to meet the Caucus’ radical demands for changes to the Bill, and so in the face of it almost certainly being voted down, House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew it to avoid further embarrassment.

Having learned little, Trump is trying again, but the same opposition is mounting. He told a meeting of the nation’s governors: "Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated." The Clintons certainly knew. Clearly he didn’t know, but should have.

Trump is not used to resistance to his will. He is unaccustomed to the democratic process, does not like it, and makes threats against those who oppose him (‘If you don’t vote for this, you may not get elected to your seat next time’).

My next conclusion is that Trump is ignorant of the processes of his own House and Senate, which Republicans dominate, and does not care for the democratic processes they use to make decisions. He resents having to listen to opponents, and hates not getting his own way.

On the international front he divides people in other nations into good guys and bad hombres. The latter are to be excluded, deported, or bombed out of existence.

On the international front, Trump condemned Obama’s diplomacy, no matter what Obama did.

Now in charge, at the one time he insists that it’s none of America’s business interfering in other places (“Syria is not our responsibility”), yet at another he takes radical action such as when Assad did something he disapproved of, namely attacking his citizens with nerve gases.

My conclusion is that Trump is impetuous, unpredictable and erratic. The combination of ignorance of international diplomacy, an unwillingness to listen to informed advice from experienced diplomats and military men, and a tendency to shoot from the hip and flip-flop on crucial issues, makes him a dangerous leader of the free world, as we have already seen in his handling of the threat from North Korea.

Trump has a reputation for making rash promises, ones it is improbable he will ever keep, even if he wished to. Perhaps the most extravagant is his promise to build a wall across the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, criminals, drug dealers and rapists! And even more implausibly, to have the Mexicans pay for it!

Even at his 100-day anniversary rally, where once again in campaign mode he ‘felt the love’ of his supporters, he reiterated: “We’ll build the wall people, don’t even worry about it.” Yet it is estimated to cost $21.6 billion and take three years to build. He knows that Mexico will not pay for it; indeed he has asked Congress to approve funding for it, a major sticking point in his legislative agenda. Of course he boasts that Mexico will pay ‘eventually’!

He promised to begin the Obamacare repeal process on his first day in office, but it still languishes in the House. So far he’s accomplished nothing.

He has promised a massive corporate tax cut, from 35% to 15%, but has not revealed how the consequent revenue shortfall of trillions will be covered. It’s trickle down all over again, with tax cuts for the rich but with no guarantee that any benefit will reach lower income earners.

His exaggerated promises are matched by his exaggerated estimate of what he’s accomplished so far. He boasted: “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days”.

Trump seems to think signing thirty executive orders are accomplishments. Many have been anti-science, anti-environment, pro-coal and oil, all of which are intended to undo Obama’s entire climate change agenda including crucial regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. He’s also signed orders to review fuel standards for vehicles, stifle energy development and begin the process of advancing oil drilling in the Arctic. Another order is to review national monuments that were set aside by previous presidents to limit use of public land for historic, cultural, scientific or other reasons. In other words, these orders are designed to dilute or erase all Obama’s attempts to protect the environment.

Some orders have been about border protection, particularly keeping Muslims out, but twice now they have been blocked in the courts by what Trump calls ‘so-called judges’. There’s no joy there for Trump.

My final conclusion is that Trump’s overstated promises are hollow and mostly incapable of realization. Whether he is deluded enough to believe his promises, or cynical enough to promise with no expectation of being able to deliver, is unresolvable for those who cannot fathom his mind.

I could go on and on, but that is enough.

To sum up, my assessment of Trump’s first 100 days is that his fatally flawed personality has led him astray and will continue to do so.

His wilful ignorance about matters scientific, his disregard of the threat of global warming, and his executive orders that reverse all that Obama did to protect the environment, cast him as culpably negligent.

His ignorance of political processes make his legislative efforts look childish, and render most of them fruitless.

His ignorance of international relations, and his reluctance to learn from those with experience, render him not just impotent, but dangerous in a volatile world where reckless leaders threaten destruction or even nuclear catastrophe.

His propensity for manufacturing unachievable promises portrays his untrustworthiness.

His exaggeration about his accomplishments makes him look foolish and naïve, and confirms his reputation as a habitual liar.

The first 100 days of Trump have been disappointing, frustrating and depressing. They have engendered a feeling of uncertainty and hopelessness among concerned Americans and citizens the world over, who are amazed that there were enough US citizens to elect this ignorant, implausible, incompetent and dangerous man to the most powerful position on earth.

Yet many in America still believe he is the one they want in charge despite the calamitous start to his presidency and all the ineptitude, stupidity and unreliability they have seen in his first 100 days.

Who can save us from this?

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