It is no surprise dissembling has been the defining feature of his first 100 days. If he admitted the truth of his shambolic presidency, it would shorten its span.
On Saturday Donald Trump will have been in the White House for a hundred days, and he has been a disaster for American democracy. His narcissism and incompetence has allowed little time for reflection and self-correction. His megalomania is such that he views himself as hounded by “enemies of the people”. In his contract with America, candidate Trump told voters that he would “restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities and honesty to our government”.
These words, like much Mr Trump has said, have proved worthless. In terms of probity, there’s the matter of the FBI investigating whether and how the Trump campaign may have colluded with Moscow’s efforts to influence the presidential election. The ethics of the presidency are constantly called into question because Mr Trump, his familyand his appointees insist upon maintaining their investments in various businesses, while at the same time conducting official US government policy.
On security Mr Trump’s cruel, stupid and bigoted travel bans, which were designed to hurt and divide, have been blocked by federal courts not once but twice. Mr Trump’s rash and self-defeating campaign promise to pull the US out of Nafta, the trade agreement he once described as a “total disaster”, was dropped after Mr Trump realised that it would decimate jobs and industry in the farm belt that voted for him. One has to wonder about how a country, let alone the world’s richest, can be governed in such a way for much longer.
First impressions count, and the first 100 days are an indicator of success or failure in a president’s crucial first year in office. Presidential debuts can be remembered for foreign policy resets. A missile strike against the sulphurous regime of Bashar al-Assad saw Mr Trump pivot back briefly to normality and gain bipartisan applause. But it also highlighted the fact that no one knows the framework the Trump administration brings to thinking about the Syrian civil war.
Lasting legislative achievements, not TV appearances or late-night tweeting, count in the history books. Mr Trump pledged to introduce 10 pieces of legislation in his first 100 days. Despite control of Capitol Hill by his own party, Mr Trump has little to show so far for his promises. The Senate did approve Neil Gorsuch for the supreme court, but only after Republicans nuked long-standing Senate rules. Mr Trump’s huge tax cuts, if passed, will favour the rich. No surprise as he assembled the wealthiest cabinet in history.
The political sham of Republican opposition was exposed by Obamacare, the policy that afforded healthcare for poor Americans. Mr Trump’s party has voted 60 times to repeal it, and he has vowed to replace it. After seven years the Republicans have not come up with anything better. This is because the reason Republicans opposed the healthcare reform was that it was the signature domestic policy of a man they demonised: Barack Obama.
Mr Obama is a useful study in contrast. He arrived in 2009 at a moment of national crisis and pushed through a $787bn stimulus to stave off a beckoning depression. Voters recognised that the young and inexperienced Mr Obama had come good in a moment of national crisis.
By the end of his first three months Mr Obama had approval ratings of 63%. By comparison Mr Trump has the lowest poll numbers of any president since Gallup began surveying in 1953, by 14 points. Yet, as our own reporting shows, President Trump’s support among his own voters remains rock solid. Dig a little deeper in the polling and it is the dissembling that stands out. For a country whose founding myth was that its first president was so virtuous he could not lie, it’s bizarre that it is now led by a serial liar.
There is a method to this. By definition, conspiracy theories are unfalsifiable: experts who contradict them demonstrate that they, too, are part of the conspiracy. It is no surprise that dissembling has been the defining feature of Mr Trump’s first 100 days. Large majorities of his voters believe the media publishes false stories. Mr Trump’s strategy of peddling falsehoods and branding critical reporting as “fake news” is working.
His voters believe the news media’s “lies” are a bigger problem than the Trump administration’s ones. Facts remain a stranger to the man whose administration blithely told reporters that a US “armada” had set sail to North Korea amid nuclear-tipped tensions when in fact it was heading in the other direction. Now he talks of a “major, major” conflict with Pyongyang’s rogue regime. As America and the world is finding out, a conspiracy theorist-in-chief is uniquely unqualified to lead.
From the Guardian newspaper