As President Donald Trump closes in on his first 100 days in office he is scrambling to defend his inept performance so far in office. Perhaps this is best illustrated by his announcement last week that he was sending an armada toward North Korea, only to find out Monday that it was on its way to Australia.
Candidate Trump made big promises on the campaign trail. His promises were targeted at key voting blocks in order to mobilize them to vote last November. A crackdown on illegal immigration, a border wall with Mexico, tax reform, repeal and replacement of Obamacare, better trade deals, a ban on Muslims, extreme vetting, and a stronger military are among the issues Trump ran on. The strategy gave the GOP control of the White House and both houses of Congress in a bitterly fought election, which included an assist from Russia.
On Tuesday President Trump told a rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin, "No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days." Never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story, it appeared that the president was trying out his talking points in advance of the 100-day mark. But the truth is President Trump has failed to truly deliver on most of his promises. And a recent Gallup Poll shows that just 45% of Americans believe Trump keeps his promises, a sharp decline in two months.
For seven years Republicans demonized President Barack Obama and this eponymous health care bill. Candidate Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare on his first day in office. But Republicans could not bridge the deep divisions within their own party, especially with the conservative House Freedom Caucus. In February, a frustrated President Trump told a meeting of governors, "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated."
House Speaker Paul Ryan had to withdraw his healthcare bill, even following heavy lobbying from the president, in large part because polls showed it had the support of about 17% of Americans. The GOP alternative would have kicked 24 million people off of heath insurance. This is in sharp contrast to what Trump told 60 Minutes in 2015. "I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not," he said, adding, "Everybody is going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now."
The GOP healthcare bill is linked by party leadership to tax reform. A repeal of Obamacare would mean a $1 trillion cut in taxes for the wealthy. Republicans would then have an easier task of finding savings in the budget to secure further tax cuts. The fate of tax reform is now uncertain.
The wall along the U.S. border with Mexico became a battle cry for Trump supporters during the campaign. And candidate Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall, which he estimated would cost $8 to $12 billion. Mexican officials have been consistently adamant that they will not pay for the wall, which Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, now estimates could "soar" to $70 billion in construction costs. And to what end, since a majority of immigrants in the U.S. illegally either overstayed their visas or came on a ship?
With much fanfare the president signed a controversial executive order in late January which suspended the U.S. Refugee Program and denied entry to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. The EO led to chaos at airports around the world, and international denunciations. A federal judge blocked the order because it unfairly targeted Muslims, as thousands of protestors jammed airports around the country to oppose the order. The EO was poorly conceived and executed, and led to internal finger pointing. A new updated EO was issued in March, but it is subject to an indefinite preliminary injunction. So much for Trump's Muslim ban.
The president campaigned passionately against the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which he has promised to renegotiate. He said it was taking away American jobs. But Trump will have great difficulty redoing this complex trade deal, and he knows it. And now the president has reversed himself on his campaign charge that China is a currency manipulator. Given the need to enlist China's support in dealing with North Korea, and following a meeting with the Chinese leader, Trump has flip-flopped. Perhaps not so coincidentally, China approved three trademarks for Ivanka Trump's company on the same day she dined with her father and the Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago.
The president has signed executive orders undoing some of President Obama's regulation, including related to the environment. He was also able successfully appoint Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with an assist from the Senate Republicans. But Trump has had the worst first 100-days of any modern era president. To exacerbate his problems, the probes continue into whether the Russians had any ties to members of the Trump campaign. Infighting between chief strategist Steve Bannon and son-in-law Jerod Kushner has broken into the open and spawned unprecedented leaks to the media. Trump continues his attacks on the "fake" media while tweeting reckless and untrue comments, like President Obama wiretapped him. And Trump has decided to keep the White House visitor logs secret, which now raises questions about transparency.
With Trump's popularity low and a rocky start of his presidency, Republicans are beginning to speak out. Senator Joni Ernst distanced herself in comments at a town hall in Iowa yesterday. "I think we have a president that has a number of flaws," she stated with unusual candor. "I support a majority of his policies, versus the actual person, but I decry any time a person is ugly towards another person, I don't think that's appropriate." She also said Trump should release his taxes.
Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress, so President Trump should have had an easy time achieving much of his agenda. But governing takes a different set of skills than campaigning. Trump's lying, personal attacks, distortion and distraction have worn thin on the very people he needs to support him. So too, thankfully, has the list of unfulfilled promises, many of which would severely impact the very people who voted for Donald Trump because they mistakenly believed he alone could fix it.