Mixed results from Donald Trump’s first 100 days
The US president has had an eventful start to his term in office, but his reaching out to his Chinese counterpart was a positive move for the economic and diplomatic relationship that now shapes the global outlook
Franklin D. Roosevelt set the gold standard for an American president’s first 100 days, and created the obsession with it, by passing 15 major pieces of legislation soon after taking office in 1933 during the Great Depression. Some remain on the books today. His successors have not thanked him for setting the bar so high. Donald Trump has dismissed the 100-day benchmark as not very meaningful and “ridiculous”. At the same time, however, he has boasted about his achievements and unleashed a flurry of policy actions ahead of his 100th day in office today, including a pledge to deliver massive corporate tax cuts with implications for international investment and capital flows. The White House has organised first-100-day functions and a website.
So is the benchmark important or not? In downplaying it perhaps Trump is implying, rightly, that the first year counts more. But the first 100 days set the tone for the first year. There is no question his first 100 days have been eventful, but this has done nothing for his approval ratings, which languish around 40 per cent. He has singled out as a success the building of relationships with foreign leaders. In that respect his reaching out to President Xi Jinping through face-to-face and telephone contacts is positive for cooperation in addressing bilateral, regional and global issues. A case in point is the risk of military conflict over North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The contact between Trump and Xi appears to have had some effect, with an important military anniversary in North Korea having passed without a nuclear or missile test, and the Trump administration telling lawmakers this week it will apply economic and diplomatic pressure , which served to tamp down talk of military action.
Domestically, Trump’s report card on high-profile promises is mixed. He has had a conservative judge confirmed on the bench of the Supreme Court, and reversed many of Barack Obama’s environmental regulations. But he has failed at the first attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare and struggled for initial funding by lawmakers of a wall on the Mexican border.
Abroad, his decision to retaliate militarily against Syria for using chemical weapons did a lot to restore American credibility after Obama failed to do so the same in 2013. Regionally, however, failure to fill senior Asia policy positions with officials with relevant experience and knowledge does nothing to dispel regional uncertainty.
Hopefully, through further good communication on issues of mutual concern, Trump and Xi can build on the sound foundations they have laid for an economic and diplomatic relationship that now shapes the global outlook.