I begin with an apology for the delay in the second part of this column. However, though the hundred day mark is more than twenty days in the past, what happened there requires comment. Other than the recent developments in the Russia Investigation and the Comey case, nothing much has changed, and there is much to be learned. Having evaluated the President’s economic and foreign policy efforts in the first 100 days in the first part, we turn to domestic issues and the President’s deportment in office.
President Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court fulfilled a key promise to conservatives. Gorsuch was on President Trump’s list of 20 justices and represents a strong pro-constitution choice for the court. He is likely to take a dim view of liberal efforts to legislate from the bench.
The president also deserves credit for reversing President Obama’s effort to become President of every school board in America by countermanding Obama’s attempt to dictate transgender policy to every school in America.
Trump signed an Executive Order reinstating the Mexico City policy that bars overseas spending to groups that promote abortion. Also, Trump signed the legislation that removes Obama-era requiring states to fund Planned Parenthood. He also appointed pro-life activist Charmain Yoest as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Taken all together, this is pretty much what any Republican President would do. The amount of praise the president receives from many religious conservative leaders seems unearned. Do they not remember President Reagan writing a pro-life book or President Bush taking extraordinary action to attempt to save the life of Terri Schiavo? If you only remember the last eight years, Trump does look like a champion. Or perhaps these leaders are trying to flatter the president’s hungry ego in hopes of getting more from him and fear that honest criticism might lead to an adverse reaction. Whatever the case, this praise is beyond the measure of what he did.
One hundred days in, the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood remained tied to a Health Care reform effort with dubious chances of passing. Also, the president maintained the birth control mandate which has been such a menace to religious liberty.
Also, Ivanka Trump, who is one of her father’s top advisors, has met with the president of Planned Parenthood and other left-wing pro-abortion groups, which is troubling, to say the least. Also, Ms. Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have been instrumental in getting the president to back off of his campaign promises to protect Christians’ religious liberties.
As I wrote this column after the 100-day mark, I wondered if the president’s executive order promoting religious freedom would make this a somewhat arbitrary evaluation. But I need not. As Shane Vanderhart noted, this EO has done nothing.
The president will still talk about religious liberty, but it’s almost entirely in the context of the Johnson Amendment, which forbids churches from being involved in endorsing candidates. The reason for this is obvious, the end of the Johnson Amendment would help the president’s re-election. The truth is his focus is to create a situation where a pastor can put a Trump 2020 banner in the sanctuary rather than on protecting Christian businessmen harassed for not participating in same-sex weddings or religious groups who find themselves unable to compete for federal contracts to help provide social services without compromising their values.
Unlike most Republican DC insiders, I’m not impressed and I’m not flattering this President. He has done some good things, but he’s often done less than Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz would have done had they been the president, and he’s done next to nothing to protect legitimate religious liberty rights.
Conduct of the Presidency:
In terms of positives, the president does deserve credit for distancing himself more clearly from the racist elements that supported him than he did during the campaign.
In addition, the president can read a good speech off a teleprompter, as he did during his State of the Union. However, this can be problematic. The president’s speech writers write checks that the president won’t cash. He makes grand promises, such as staying out of petty fights, but then he almost immediately breaks those promises. Many Conservatives have wanted to give this President a chance and have been encouraged by a speech only to have that promise dashed by the President’s latest immature or boorish interview comment.
Examining the negatives of Donald Trump’s first hundred days is an overwhelming task. In some ways, it feels by design. Each week we’re overloaed by headlines and it’s just easier to tune it all out. It’s important to avoid that mistake in summarizing these hundred days.
Trump’s problematic conduct can be divided into several areas, which I’ll address in order from least severe to most concerning.
First, are those moments that are embarrassing. These are not merely the misspelled tweets or little nitpicks I refer to, but rather the president’s constant egotism, pettiness and unseriousness about the job he holds such as tweeting while he’s supposed to be in a National Security briefing or picking fights with actors who disagree with him. This President doesn’t understand that “punching down” and snipping at Alex Baldwin or Snoop diminishes the office he holds. There’s moments big and small, and every week the president does or says something that’s an embarrassment to our country.
No one is perfect, but the presidents seems totally free of self-awareness in the way he conducts his office and has made no effort to act in a way that’s becoming of his office and representing our nation. His behavior suggests he is arrogant, whiny, and has a sense of entitlement that would make the most narcissistic YouTube star blush. It is something we should demand stop. If he kept up just embarrassing our country every week, that would be reason enough to withhold our support, because his behavior shows a lack of respect.
A bigger concern is the president’s attack on institutions meant to check his power. He assaulted the press as “enemies of the people.” Of course, Trump and his supporters have tried to argue he has made no attack on the media as a whole but only on “Fake News.”
However, when the president listed out who constitutes “fake news,” we get a list of every major news outlet who has disagreed with him. Even if we believe that the outlets are either dishonest or incredibly flawed due to bias, a man who has control of the might of the U.S. government shouldn’t be speaking in such a way. The term “enemies of the people,” is one used by the French Revolution and the 1918 Russian Evolution and it was applied to people who were executed or who faced state-sanctioned persecution.
A free press is critical to our country, and the president has shown a lack of respect for this. Thomas Jefferson faced more withering press coverage than almost any President in American History, and much of it was fake news in his case. Yet he declared, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
The president also showed disrespect for the judicial branch of government when he attacked a judge who ruled against his travel ban, declaring the judge a “so-called judge.” Our system of government depends on respect for the rule of law and for those who serve on government. Despite all he has done wrong, The president is not the “so-called President.” He is the president.
The president’s statements are more fitting for a leader of Venezuela than the president of the United States. I’d like to say the president’s only blowing smoke and that in his heart of hearts, he understands and respects the importance of our democratic institutions. However, I see no evidence of that. Nonetheless, he lacks the discipline, capability, and popularity to undo our nation’s institutions. The president’s admiration and praise of dictators knows no bounds, but imitating them would end poorly for him.
Thus, the prime concern for the present is that the president’s rhetoric and behavior may normalize rhetoric and behavior that could be used in the future by someone far more cunning and skillful to truly bring ruin on our Republic.
There is more to be said about the president’s conduct, but this is already a long column, so I will conclude with that evaluation in tomorrow’s column.